Miami Marlins fans are very used to the ownership of Jeffrey Loria, who has done more to garner the team success (new stadium, one World Series) and failure (multiple fire sales) than any owner in team history. As of late, the cycle of success has not rolled around, and the Marlins are mired in failure, as they are in a rebuilding effort just two years after the open of their brand new, mostly publicly-funded stadium.
So when news about any other owner being interested in the Marlins comes out, Fish fans perk up. Especially when the news of interest comes from the most respected and successful owner in south Florida sports, Miami Heat owner Micky Arison. From the Miami Herald:
Going back to last year, Heat owner Micky Arison has expressed interest in buying the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, according to a Major League Baseball official close to the situation.
But Loria isn’t interested in selling to Arison, Jeb Bush or anyone else who has inquired.
Arison has informed the Marlins of his interest on more than one occasion but did not make a formal offer because he was specifically told that Loria would not consider it.
Arison is well-known as the guy who was willing to pay for the Big Three of Lebron James, Dwyayne Wade, and Chris Bosh to come to south Florida to achieve championship aspirations. The Heat have been to three straight NBA Finals and won two straight, and Arison has willingly paid the heavy penalty of the luxury tax in all three years. Next year, the Heat will be paying a heftier fine for the luxury tax if they go over again, but you have to figure Arison will pay for it if it gets the Big Three to stay in Miami after considering free agency.
That sort of free-spending, intelligent work is exactly what Marlins fans want for their team. On the surface, it would appear to be nothing short of a victory if someone like Arison took over the Marlins. After all, anything is better than the cheapskate ways of Loria, right?
Yes and no.
Sure, Arison will be more than willing to spend, likely in a way Loria has never considered. Loria tried in one season in 2012 and it backfired and he sold it away at a moment's notice. But it is worth mentioning that Arison would probably not be so liberal with his money if running the Fish as he was with the Heat. The two organizations simply are not the same. The Miami Heat have a history of success, an established marketable star from their last title in Wade, and, of course, the best player on the planet in James right now. There is no surprise that the team is making money as it wins games and titles, even if Arison pays more under the luxury tax.
The Marlins have hardly ever drawn attendance figures and viewership during the Loria years, even when they figured to be contenders. The team could not muster past 20,000 consistently at the tail end of their inaugural season in Marlins Park, and their attendance was still in the bottom third in 2004 and 2005 when the Fish were post-World Series contenders. The Marlins have a unique issue with drawing fans that goes beyond the ballpark or competitiveness. Those things have helped, but the team has yet to find the magical final piece to draw crowds like the Heat do when they are competitive.
And the presence of Arison does not guarantee success on the field. He has owned the Heat for 19 seasons, not all of which were great campaigns. Many of them were aided by extra money available to the franchise, but the common connection for the majority of the Heat's competitive eras is Pat Riley. Riley has been the team's architect for as long as Arison has owned it. It is easy to conflate Arison's positive impact as an owner with Riley's amazing work as a coach and executive on the team. Without him, the Heat never build the rosters that have made them multi-time champions.
The Marlins, right now, probably do not have a Riley on their side. Michael Hill has worked hard and earned an opportunity as head executive, as has Dan Jennings. But neither is the elite talent that Riley is. While both would benefit from the increase in payroll flexibility and the lack of meddling that Arison would bring, the Marlins would still be behind the Heat in terms of having a visionary front office member.
So Arison is no guarantee for success, and his buying the team would not be a panacea that cured all the Marlins' ills. But he would still probably be a better owner than Loria, who has cried poor a lot as outside sources continue to claim otherwise. Loria would not sell until his stadium deal allows him to take all the profits from the sale and not relinquish anything to the city of Miami, and he appears to be very happy to be a baseball team owner. Still, if the Fish could be sold to Arison, Marlins fans should consider it a major success. Just do not expect the victories to flow immediately after, because the Marlins do not have the infrastructure or finances that support the Heat so well.