Where's Rod Tidwell when you need him?
I didn't figure there'd be this much hot stove activity already. And I didn't think so much of it would involve the Marlins. I figured we'd be digging for things to talk about (and I was ready, with stuff like this: the past four World Series champs (White Sox, Red Sox, Marlins, and Angels) have worn only one game hat. This is, of course, opposed to teams like the Mets (home, road, and alternate) and Tigers (home and road) which wear multiple hats. You can almost count the teams that wear only one hat (not counting BP hats) on one hand. So I'm picking one of them to win the World Series next season. I just have to wait for the firesale to be over to pick my favorite).
It's not even Thanksgiving and we've already seen two key contributors to the 2003 World Series run find homes elsewhere (Lowell and Beckett). We've even seen the first star who replaced a star from the 2003 team traded away (Delgado).
I have a lot of thoughts on the issues that the Marlins are facing right now. But I haven't had a chance to think them all through or develop them. So I'll give you some half baked thoughts:
- Show me the money: apparently all of the threats of moving, needing to shave payroll and the like stem from the "fact" that the team is losing money. To Mr. Samson and Mr. Loria, I say, "prove it." Forbes and economists like Andrew Zimbalist think it's unlikely that the Marlins are losing hard cash. Samson has offered to show wire transfer receipts of Mr. Loria's. While those would indicate how much money Mr. Loria is putting into his business, it would tell us nothing about what he is taking out of it. Until someone independent of the team, and qualified to interpret their financials, unequivocally states that the team has lost, and is losing money, I refuse to believe it. The Marlins losses are likely paper (i.e. depreciation and the like) losses. Those are great for tax purposes, but don't actually cost you any money.
- Dan LeBatard has gone from saying that Miamians are the worst fans in baseball and don't deserve the team they have to saying that the lack of a new stadium is really what doomed the franchise. Which is it? Yes, those two things are related. But what sense is there in building a new, expensive ballpark in South Florida if the horrible fans aren't going to buy tickets to watch games in it? Spending money for something that no one is going to support is only going to make the situation worse.
- What was the business plan that the Samson and Loria team were working under here? What level of attendance did they need to have to make money? Between the first year of their ownership (2002) and last season (2005), attendance is up nearly 13,000 people per game. Since the 2003 World Series win, attendance is up over 6,000 folks. Take 6,000 or 13,000 extra people per game x 81 x ticket revenue + concession revenue + parking revenue and you have a lot more money coming in. If you conservatively (due to the bad lease and other arrangements) assume that each of those fans is worth $10 each (ticket, parking, concessions, etc.) to the Marlins, that's an extra $4.9 million to $10.5 million that the Marlins were generating over year one. Apparently it wasn't enough though. What did they need? How realistic was it to expect to get to whatever numbers they needed? Sure, the lease agreement that the team has with Mr. Huizenga's stadium is unfavorable. But would the Marlins be in this same position if they were drawing 30,000 or 40,000 fans per game?
- The necessity of trading Delgado because the stadium plan isn't in place is a joke. The mainstream media are presenting the issue as that the team can't afford Delgado in 2006 because his salary escalates and that the team was depending on the revenue streams from the new stadium to pay Delgado. Newsflash: even if a stadium deal had been reached, the new revenue streams wouldn't have been supporting the team in 2006.
- Newsflash two: even if a stadium deal was in place, many of the new revenue streams were already pledged to pay off the team's debt. Per Miami's City Manager, personal seat licenses, stadium signage, broadcasting rights fees and other substantial revenue streams would have been obligated to the city/county to help offset their investment in the new ballpark. Think about that! Pledging that kind of money means that there wasn't going to be much left to invest in the payroll. Samson and Loria said as much. With the new stadium, the Marlins hoped to be able to maintain a $50-$60 million payroll. The Marlins weren't going to become the Yankees, or even the Giants, with a new ballpark. If you want to know what their financial situation would have looked like, check out Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. Both teams have sparkling new ballparks and exciting young players, but that's about it. We have that now in Miami -- just without the sparkling new ballpark part. It's cheaper this way.
- Why are Loria and Samson getting a free pass on the destruction they caused in Montreal? All the talk is about how these are good guys with good intentions who did their best to build a winner. The blame is being placed on the fans in Florida and various government agencies (which couldn't scape up enough millions to appease the millionaires). Loria and Samson have a track record that deserves closer inspection.
- Back to Delgado: Samson pledged as recently as September that fans shouldn't worry about Delgado being traded as Delgado's 2006 salary was slated to escalate at the same time that Mike Hampton's salary came off the books. What changed, Mr. Samson?