The Miami Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria ran a full-page advertisement in the major south Florida newspapers yesterday, addressing it as a 'letter to our fans" and asking them to grant the team a fresh start. My reaction was that the letter addressed very little of the real concerns about the Marlins in future seasons. The problems of the team having no long-term direction or either neglecting spending or having a difficult time spending when they do choose to do so are still present and quite real to the franchise.
But as Marlins fans, what can we do to help the team? Well, I suggested a boycott when the Marlins made the initial fire sale trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, and the idea has a lot of backing among fans who are simply disgusted with the ownership. But as reader Jigokusabre has mentioned more than a few times in the past, a boycott, from a business perspective, would not do anything to Loria.
Boycotting doesn't work.
Fans have not been showing up to game has not dissuaded Loria before, and they will not dissuade him now. Loria makes money just by virtue of revenue sharing. He’s already been paid for the TV rights whether you watch them or not. He gets a piece of merchandising from all the teams, just like everyone else gets a piece of all that Marlins merch money.
And he's right. From a business and financial standpoint, keeping ourselves from the stadium does nothing. With the payroll cuts that Loria has made, he is seems all but assured a profit following revenue redistribution under Major League Baseball's central fund and revenue sharing policies. Loria gets a cut from merchandising centrally as well. Before any of us enter the stadium in 2013, Loria is likely to get more than the money he will be spending on payroll alone. Of course, that does not consider his still-significant investment into the team's stadium, but considering the Marlins made money with similar attendance and a worse stadium situation years ago, it is not far-fetched to believe that the team should be able to do so again, whether it is this year or next year.
So keeping Loria off of more money is just a way to drive down his profits a small tad. If that is the case, how can Marlins fans help support their team if their eventual goal is to field a contender? Staying away from the stadium, theoretically, should create the opposite effect: it would encourage Loria not to spend money as he has in the past, seeing that the fans of the team are not willing to invest in the product. That would be counter-intuitive to getting the roster back in shape, as it would convince Loria that paying into the product is not likely to yield results at the gates.
This perpetuates a dangerous cycle for fans of the team. We do not show up, and thus Loria does not give. Loria does not give, and we do not show up. Rinse, lather, repeat.
The problem then is a dilemma of conscience for fans: in order to make our team better, we have to pay into Loria's scheme and put our faith in him that he can deliver a winning product eventually, as he promised in the letter. But after the offseason's extreme moves, how can Marlins fans put their trust in Loria ever again? Do Fish fans even have a choice?
The answer may lie in something long-time reader d.o.g.o.b.g.y.n. in response to the boycott piece.
A boycotting may not DIRECTLY be a threat to Loria
but I strongly believe that if the rest of the MLB takes notice of all the empty seats, there’s a chance that the powers that be FINALLY take notice and do what they can to give Loria the Frank McCourt treatment.
The Marlins may not be hurt financially, but soiling an already sordid public relations situation may be the impetus Major League Baseball needs to consider ousting Loria. He has already staunchly mentioned that he has no interest in selling the team. Considering his enjoyment of the game (or of being an owner of a team) and his ability to at least turn small profits from the team, there is no reason for him to do so anyway. The only way for the Marlins and Loria to part is for Major League Baseball and the covenant of other owners to interfere in the matter.
It took four seasons of depressed payrolls for the Major League Baseball Player's Association to interfere with the Marlins' spending habits, so that starting salvo did not even begin with the league or the owners. You can suspect that inertia should keep those parties from rocking the boat for more than four years if a similar situation were to happen here again. But you have to suspect at some point the league should look into just what the Marlins are doing if payrolls continue to stay low for reasons not explained by the team's performance, especially if this occurs years down the line once payments for the stadium should begin to peter out for Loria.
Ultimately, the question then becomes a difficult choice for Marlins fans. Which do you think is more likely to occur in our favor: the action of Major League Baseball and the group of owners against Loria or Loria's own ability to invest in the Marlins if the team sees support? It is a question I too have a difficult time answering, though I would lean towards the former, as we have seen more acceptable proof of that in the past.
What do you Fish Stripes readers think? Do you put your trust into Loria's ability to invest in the team (and, perhaps the more difficult task, do it wisely) or the owners' collective ability to break through inertia and oust Loria if he becomes more of an issue?