Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria not a snake oil salesman, just a bad owner

Marc Serota

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has a reputation for being conniving and underhanded in his tactics. But if we take his words at face value, it paints him as less of an evil villain and more of a bad owner.

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is a good deal at fault for what has happened to the Marlins organization over the past decade-plus. He found himself a team that had been developing quietly into a potential contender and picked up just the right pieces to get the franchise its second World Series. Since then, he has failed Marlins fans consistently while attempting to work in one of the most difficult environments in Major League Baseball. There is no doubt that Miami is a unique market in terms of baseball and that finding success in it must be a difficult task.

Throughout his time as owner of the team, Loria has been labeled as something of a crook. He "swindled" public funding for a new stadium by crying poor, but then was revealed to be making decent profits from revenue sharing. He built a team that had high hopes for the playoffs and tore it down less than 12 months later after one disappointing year. He and his front office have made numerous questionable moves, often times in the name of money.

The opinion of Loria is captured by Armando Salguero's recent piece for the Miami Herald. In it, he tears Loria apart for is decision-making and calls him a "snake oil salesman."

Just as Miguel Cabrera and a dozen other stars were sold, just as Ricky Nolasco will be sold off in the next few months, [Giancarlo Stanton] and practically any other star who promises big numbers and demands a big salary will jettisoned and replaced with a cheaper and, of course, unproven talent.

That is what Jeffrey Loria does.

His is a vicious cycle of selling off the team’s most valuable parts while making the case that younger and less valuable parts will somehow improve the product. What sick mind concocts such propaganda?

Only a snake oil salesman.

This interpretation characterizes Loria as some scheming, evil rich guy hellbent on destroying a franchise and reaping the profits from it. It is not difficult to get that kind of impression from Loria if you are sitting in the cheap seats, that much is certain. But from everything we have heard from Loria, he is a demanding owner who supposedly wants his teams to succeed. It sounds weird given the above characterization, but there is a possibility that everything that Loria has told us about the team's financial struggles, his desires for success, and his honest effort towards making this team better is true.

If it is all true, then it paints Loria in a different light; rather than being a conniving owner, he becomes an incompetent one.

If what Loria tells us is true, then he was merely out there doing a poor job of helping to improve the team. After all, he kept most of the 2003 squad intact for two years, only trading away Derrek Lee from that team. He made an honest, if not low-ball offer to Ivan Rodriguez that was declined. He made the right decisions with those teams, and they struggled. The wrong decision was to tear the entire organization back down in 2006 and start anew, but a few of those trades were at least defensible moves at the time.

During the 2006 team's era, the Marlins were perennially a few games away from a playoff spot, but never quite got there. Loria made a mistake in meddling with the managerial position and firing Joe Girardi in favor of Fredi Gonzalez, then he made the mistake of meddling more during Gonzalez's tenure. He made the error of sticking with a group that was close rather than making an addition or two to make it better. He misjudged to be good enough as is when it was clear they were not, and the Marlins ended up wasting Hanley Ramirez's and Josh Johnson's best seasons as a result.

All the while, Loria was working to build the franchise a stadium. The public funding may have been on the high end of the spectrum, but few MLB teams, or professional teams in general, give favorable deals for stadiums to the county and city in which they reside. Almost all stadium deals are ripoffs for the local government; the Marlins just happened to be dealing with a more incompetent local government than usual.

When Loria finally got his stadium, he opened up the pocketbooks as we wanted him to. The problem is that he analyzed the team as a failure from the onset of their struggles, and rather than take a measured approach that did not tear down his long-term plans, he ripped up all of the plans and began a new one, as he has multiple times in his tenure. All the meanwhile, he underestimated the fan backlash to the moves he made once he decided to change direction after 2012. Rather than admitting fault, he threw a number of other parties under the bus and proclaimed these moves to be more necessary than anyone assumes they are.

In many of these cases, you can see an angle in which Loria meant well and was doing what he deemed best for the franchise. The problem is that what he deemed best likely was not the best move for the team, and he and the folks he hired have done this multiple times during his ownership. The Marlins could have been losing money in 2004 and 2005. They could have lost enough money last season to be worth a decrease in payroll. But the Fish under Loria continually miss other aspects and externalities that can also affect the team, and it is in these areas that he fails, and that has helped lead to the Marlins' continuing struggles.

I do not think Jeffrey Loria is some Scrooge McDuck character who swims in his own pool of golden coins. I do not think he is an evil, conniving owner out to make a buck from a helpless populace. I think he honestly wants to experience a 2003 season once again. I just believe that the way he is going about it is wrong, and that makes him more of a bad owner than an evil one.

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