Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spoke with members of the media, yours truly included, in a media relations session at Marlins Park on Monday evening, addressing various aspects of the team's situation following the fire sale trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Team president David Samson also was available at the meeting and spoke with media, addressing concerns regarding attendance, revenue streams, and contention for a future Marlins team.
The major thing that he mentioned regarding the team was the problems with attendance and revenue. "So here's how we do attendance. In baseball, it's announced attendance, which is how many people bought tickets, but it doesn't tell you the price for those tickets, it doesn't tell you what the average ticket price is. And then what your real revenue is based on is turnstile. And turnstile is never announced. Our turnstile last year was 1.4 million, and we expected 2.4 million. We were a million people short."
When asked about the worst case scenario at the turnstiles, Samson reported two million as the team's projection.
He also reported that the Marlins were struggling to meet expectations even before the trades at midseason. "Even before the trades, our metrics down, and they were down another 10 percent after the trade."
Samson reported that the Marlins sold 12,000 season tickets last season, but their numbers are down to 5,000 this year and were projected internally at under 6,000 even before the November trade.
Samson could not pinpoint one particular thing that caused the Marlins to struggle to draw crowds last season. "I think anything is possible. I know what's certain is that we misread last season on and off the field."
Samson mentioned the specific concerns about attendance when discussing the problems the Marlins had selling out particular target games. "We were very worried when the Red Sox games didn't sell out, very worried. Because when the schedule came out, we thought those would be automatic sell-outs on day one or day two. And we were worried, and we were like 'What's going on? Why is that not happening?'"
According to Samson, the team was expecting to announce sell-outs for Opening Night, the home opener against the Houston Astros (the first official home series for the team) and the three Boston Red Sox games in June the second individual ticket sales were released, but the games did not sell out with the exception of Opening Night.
Samson mentioned that the team was "all-in" last season, but they did not get the support that they expected even after the moves they made. "We did not have the bump [in season ticket sales] post-winter meetings, and that got us worried. Not panicked, but worried." When asked about the "all-in" mentality, it sounded as though Samson decided that the plan was to go "all-in" for just one year and re-evaluate from there. "Oh this 'all-in' was one year."
With regards to Stanton and his potential re-signing, Samson sees no harm in this offseason's moves in re-upping with the slugger. "I don't believe our chances are any greater or less, because of this offseason of re-signing Giancarlo, I want to make sure you understand what I'm saying. This offseason has not changed our chances of signing Giancarlo, not even one percent."
Samson also views attracting free agents to Miami differently. "I have different view on that as well. Players have a window for them to make money. If you offer the most money, they'll play."
On assessing blame regarding the whole fiasco from last season, Samson avoided pointing out Beinfest and company for their role. "It's very convenient, right, to assess blame. And it really is easy to do when you're on top. I don't know how to assign that. Do you assign 50 percent to the GM and 25 percent to the area scouts, and then 10 percent to your head of marketing, who spent money on a billboard on I-95 that didn't generate something? That's a tough thing to do. I think that's an easy way out. And some would say that firing managers is an easy way out, and I get that. I've seen teams do really well with the same manager for a long time, I've seen teams not do well with the same manager a long time. I've seen teams change managers a lot. I've seen the Yankees change GM's a lot, back before Cashman. Who knows what the real answer is?"
When asked about Loria's "letter to our fans," Samson discussed Loria's desire to build the team up. "I think when you put your heart and soul into a community, and I don't mean going to charity events and doing things like that, and when you spend a decade trying to save baseball, and the pain of building something and having a project come in on budget, and you try to put a team together that you think is perfect, with Ozzie and the players, and you think you nailed it, and you were wrong on at least one, and possibly three, counts. And then on top of that, it's a constant, sometimes personal, pounding, it's hard for anyone. And on top of that, you're writing checks. It's hard."
On why Samson thought Loria chose to speak now rather than before, he mentioned that the organization has more than discussed the issue in the past. "I think Jeffrey wanted to talk the fans, it's good. I think there's a time to speak to media, there's a time to speak to fans... We spoke and his baseball people spoke right after the November trade, I was on radio talking about it that day. And Jeffrey normally would talk around this time in spring training. I think it was a different type of his desire for him to talk to you guys. It's spring training, he's going to spring training tomorrow, and it's a new season."
On the subject of May of 2012, it sounded like the Marlins' brass had similar opinions as I did regarding the unsustainable nature of the winningest month in Marlins history. "May was not, internally, May was not what it was to our fans. We had our best month ever in May, and our baseball people said to us everyday 'Don't drink the Kool-Aid. We're winning in ways that are not sustainable. Look at our schedule, look at who we've been playing, and beware of June.' And then June came, and it happened."
Finally, on the desire to be more open with the lines of communication, Samson clarified the interest in removing the "veil of secrecy" over the team. "I think what Jeffrey was meaning when he wrote that was that he wants people to think that the 'veil of secrecy' surrounding the Marlins is lifted. So that when there's questions people are asking, and I answers e-mails, we answer e-mails, and callers, just telling people what's happening."
"I think about this everyday. Should we have come out, before last season started, and started preparing people for what could have happen, the team not winning and the fact that more people weren't coming... Is that a mistake we made? I don't know."
You can hear the full audio over at the Miami Herald's website.