Many Marlins fans are jumping for joy for the first time since the 2003 World Series and with good reason. News broke that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had reached a “handshake agreement” with a New York businessman (thought at this time to be Joshua Kushner) to sell the franchise for around $1.6 Billion. For a moment at least, let’s attempt to ignore the fact that Jeffrey Loria purchased the team for a little over $158 million and let’s pretend that a rich, greedy man isn’t about to become exponentially richer because above all, his reign of terror over the Marlins is nearing it’s completion and you can't put a price tag on that.
When Loria purchased the Marlins in 2002, the franchise was only nine years old, but only five years removed from it’s first World Series title, seemingly a great place to be for an expansion team. Indeed, almost immediately, the Marlins won their second title, with a young, inexperienced and most importantly, cheap team. But as players exceeded expectations in the Marlins title run, many were due for a pay raise, and Loria wasn't having any of that, resulting in the first of several infamous Loria fire sales. That 2003 off-season marked the beginning of Loria’s tyranny and the first of many despicable, money making moves.
Loria would continue to out-do himself as his tenure as the Marlins owner continued. Because tormenting a fan base was not enough for Loria, he convinced Miami-Dade County to fund a majority of the $600 million Marlins Park project, claiming the franchise was going under. Loria refused to open up his financials which would of course reveal that in the two seasons before Miami-Dade approved the stadium, the franchise actually brought in $50 million in profits. Miami-Dade county would end up paying for roughly 70% of the stadium, taking out $409 million in loans to pay for it, which will inflate to $2.4 billion, all to be paid by Miami tax payers. Loria is only obligated to pay $2.3 million annually in rent making it the sweetest stadium deal in sports for undoubtedly the most sour owner.
The Marlins had not even called Marlins Park home for a full year before Loria cleaned house again, shipping out most of the team’s best players. The Marlins would go into 2013 with a $39 million dollar payroll, the second lowest in sports. The eccentric $2.5 million dollar home run sculpture in center field ended up being more expensive than 32 out of 35 players on the Marlins roster, which I can guarantee you did not help them win games.
I’m sure by now you get the idea; Loria is a terrible owner, but the inexcusable moves don't end there. Not only did Loria manipulate fans and tax payers through questionable financial practices, he also slowly destroyed the franchise from the inside out. Notorious for meddling in personnel decisions and even daily line-ups, Loria created a toxic atmosphere that nobody wanted to work in. The Marlins manager in 2006, Joe Girardi, was one of those people. Girardi constantly clashed with the Marlins owner demanding his space; Loria responded by firing him, months removed from winning the Manager of the Year award, making Girardi the first manager to be fired the same year of achieving the award.
Girardi wouldn't be the only coach who got the boot from Loria as four managers after have had their jobs terminated after short tenures. Perhaps the only less desirable job in the Marlins organization than manager is general manager. While Loria does not oust GMs at the same rate in which he terminates coaches, GMs had no breathing room under Loria. Jeffrey Loria, the art dealer, constantly meddled in personnel decisions, most of which were terrible, and did not allow management to make it’s own decisions.
Jeffrey Loria ran the Marlins franchise into the ground and now he's jumping ship. He stripped their farm system in an effort to acquire rental players every year the team found themselves in contention, made Miami an undesirable free agent location, which would seem a really hard thing to do, and in the process alienated a fan base that might otherwise really loves it’s team, given the chance.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the sale is the sense of optimism that Marlins fans are showing, something that hasn't been seen from Marlins fans in years. Will the Marlins finally make a play for a big time free agent? Can the Marlins finally re-gain the trust of players enough to land a big time free agent, can Marlins fans finally go into a season with hope, and most importantly, can Marlins fans trust their owner? The answer to all those questions remains to be seen, but one can't help but look forward to the possibility of better days.