Earlier today, we mentioned that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria put out a full-page ad on multiple south Florida newspapers, showing a "letter to our fans" that was supposed to persuade Marlins fans that all was not lost with the organization. Indeed, the Marlins are just trying to improve and make something out of a bad situation.
Well, having read the letter myself, I found that very little of it was actually convincing. You can read the full transcript over at The Miami Herald website, but here are some interesting parts with my responses:
As the owner of the ballclub, the buck stops with me and I take my share of the blame where it's due. However, many of the things being said about us are simply not true. I've sat by quietly and allowed this to continue. Now it's time for me to respond to our most important constituents, the fans who love the game of baseball.
It is hard to believe that the fans are such an important constituency when they seem to be the ones who suffer the most from Loria's actions as meddlesome owner of the team. And as far as blame being taken, the fans have yet to hear any sort of blame acceptance on the part of Loria, but have witnessed former manager Ozzie Guillen take a heavy hitting along with hearing rumors regarding Larry Beinfest's dismissal, not to mention the constant reprise of the team's on-field failures last season. This is truthfully the only time Loria has ever "taken blame" from anyone within the organization (understandably so, since he is everyone else's boss).
Losing is unacceptable to me. It's incumbant(sic) upon us to take swift action and make bold moves when there are glaring problems. The controversial trade we made with the Toronto Blue Jays was approved by Commissioner Bud Selig and has been almost universally celebrated by baseball experts outside of Miami for its value. We hope, with an open mind, our community can reflect on the fact that we had one of the worst records in baseball.
Loria is well-known for being someone who has a quick trigger in a losing situation. When Fredi Gonzalez missed the playoffs by a few games in 2009, he was almost tossed out as manager. When the Fish failed in the first three months of the regular season in 2012, Loria immediately instigated a series of midseason trades that only became a prelude to the eventual full fire sale.
But this sort of trigger-finger approach to management, combined with a lack of spending when necessary in the past, may very well be the reason why the Marlins have been stuck in perpetual mediocrity. Yes, the Marlins had one of the worst records in baseball last year. Does that mean that the team was hopeless and without merit? Absolutely not, and there was reason to believe that a more reasonable approach to roster building would have left them worse off. While the trade was certainly a valuable baseball move, it was also one that, in the context in which the Marlins dwell, could cripple the team's chances of making real additions to the roster in future seasons or retain the players who will be critical to the team's success.
As for the supposedly lauded move "outside of Miami," I do not see it. ESPN's Buster Olney called Loria's decision making "a complete sham." ESPN's prospect maven Keith Law pulled no punches in lambasting Loria for this move. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs said the Marlins will not be seen as a real major league organization with their current management. Those are three names I respect in the baseball industry, three names that have no ties to Miami, and three names among hundreds of others that hated the deal with all of its implications.
The ballpark issue has been repeatedly reported incorrectly and there are some very negative accustations being thrown around. It ain't true, folks. Those who have attacked us are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
The problem with the resulting paragraph addresses nothing regarding the problems Marlins fans have with the stadium. Complaining about the large amount of public financing for the deal, whether it comes from city taxpayers or not, is not relevant; many teams come up with plans akin to this one, and the Marlins will not be the last team to get a sweet deal from the county and city for a stadium. I cannot blame Loria for things that other owners do without impunity as well.
The problem is that Loria now has a mostly-publicly funded stadium, an attendance mark in 2012 that was better than any the team had posted since its inaugural season, and the rights to almost all of the stadium's revenue when it comes to attendance, concessions, and parking, and yet the Fish are back to where they stood just seven years ago in 2006. There needs to be a better explanation for why this was a necessity in 2013.
As Fish Stripes reader Jigokusabre mentioned multiple times, the Marlins fell just 21 percent shy of their supposed attendance record (and you could add to that number to a degree to reflect missed attendance and subsequent lost wages on concessions), yet cut payroll by 62 percent! The Fish are not slated to earn much in revenue sharing this year, but with the central fund handouts and shared revenue from merchandising, along with future revenue sharing payouts thanks to a low payroll, it is difficult to imagine the Marlins being unable to make money, especially when the team raked in decent profits in 2007 and 2008 under a worse stadium situation and similar attendance problems.
The simple fact is that we don't have unlimited funds, nor does any baseball team or business. Fans didn't turn out last season as much as we'd like, even with the high-profile players the columnists decry us having traded. The main ingredient to a successful ball club is putting together a winning team, including a ncecessary(sic) core of young talent. Are we fiscally capable and responsible enough to fill the roster with talented players, invest in the daily demands of running a world-class organization and bring a World Series back to Miami? Absolutely! Is it sound business sense to witness an expensive roster with a terrible record and sit idly by doing nothing? No. I can and will invest in building a winner, but last season wasn't sustainable and we needed to start from scratch quickly to build this team from the ground up.
The thought process here is that the Marlins were not good last season and needed to be torn down to the ground before being built back up. There is certainly an argument to be made in that vein. But it once again does not address the specific concerns regarding the Marlins and their context. Very few people would argue that the Marlins did not cut a lot of salary that would have otherwise been used to overpay players like Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. But without reinvesting those funds, the trade value the team earned from the moves merely dissipates, and there is no reason to believe Loria when he says the team is "fiscally capable and responsible enough" to fill out the roster when needed. The organization never did that before, and expecting it to change now after such a strong cost-cutting statement is hard to buy.
Furthermore, the moves the team made almost certainly left a permanent dent in the team's chances of even properly reinvesting that trade value. Loria has not only stunted the current roster, but also stunted the future roster's chances of being competitive by alienating potential free agents with the team's actions and not showing that they would be willing to use the money versus simply profiting from the team.
There is nothing wrong with profits, especially when Major League Baseball helps to provide them by sharing central funds. But Loria's insistence that what he did was best for the long haul of the organization fails to see every angle of the deal beyond one that simply evaluates the trade value of the assets. If the Marlins are either unwilling or unable to reinvest into the organization, then the team gained a lot less from this trade.
Rather than perpetually recycling the roster and / or undergoing fire sales cyclically, the Marlins desperately need a front office and ownership that establishes a long-term plan. Loria mentions that it is his responsibility to avoid losing by "taking swift action" and essentially changing the direction of the franchise one season into its re-remaking. This sort of inconsistency in planning and approach is irresponsible and reeks of reactionary decision-making rather than honest analysis. The team needs some entity to provide a plan for the organization and to stick to one for more than one season. Baseball teams turn things around from one year to the next even without making significant changes, simply because the plan in place remains effective. One season of losses should not convince any general manager or owner to cut bait as quickly as this group has.
Amidst the current news coverage, it an be easy to forget how far we went together not so long ago. In 2003, I helped bring a second World Series Title to South Florida. We know how to build a winning team, and have every intention of doing so again. I know you share my passion for great Marlins baseball, my love of MIami and my desire to win again. We're in this together and I humbly ask that we start fresh, watch us mature qjuickly(sic) as a ball club, and root for the home team in 2013.
It is difficult to start fresh when the organization continues to rehash old themes of the Marlins' past. The "market correction" in 2005 felt a lot like this offseason's dismantling, in that both teams came in with high expectations, fell short, and were taken apart. How can this be the team's fresh start and not the previous instance of this situation? Marlins fans have been hurt many times before, but never by the same ownership group. Loria has exhausted public trust by the fans, and asking to "start fresh" is a pipe dream now. Marlins fans will start fresh when Loria extends his end of the bargain first, and that needs to be done with proper actions and not public relations stunts.