Special guest David Gavant served as executive producer of “The Franchise: A Season with the Miami Marlins” in 2012. Ely Sussman, Isaac Azout and Daniel Rodriguez ask him why the Marlins were picked as the subject of the series for that season, what made The Franchise unique from other storytelling projects, why the series seemingly ended early and didn’t continue into future years with different teams, and what juicy stories got left on the cutting room floor.
Enjoy Episode 147!
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Gavant joined MLB Productions in 1998. He conceived of The Franchise as the all-access baseball equivalent to the NFL’s Hard Knocks on HBO. The series debuted in 2011, covering the San Francisco Giants, who were reigning World Series champions at the time.
Although the first season of The Franchise on Showtime was well-received, Gavant says his staff struggled to find a willing participant for 2012. Unlike the NFL, they did not have the authority to strong-arm any teams into doing it. But just in time for spring training, the Marlins agreed, excited by the opportunity to show off brand-new Marlins Park and their upgraded roster.
Gavant still relishes all of the incredible material that came from manager Ozzie Guillén in what was his first (and only) season with the Fish. Hanley Ramírez, José Reyes, Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, Heath Bell, team president David Samson and owner Jeffrey Loria also received considerable camera time.
As you all know, the 2012 Marlins season was a trainwreck in every aspect. They finished in last place in the National League East division with a 69-93 record, getting hot in May but performing way below the .500 mark in each of the other months. Guillén turned much of the South Florida community against him with ignorant comments about Fidel Castro. Far removed from the postseason race at the July trade deadline, Ramírez and several other key veterans were shipped away. Attendance cratered.
The Franchise memorably ended a week earlier than originally scheduled, stopping at seven full-length episodes instead of eight. Gavant says they made that decision because seven episodes was enough to encapsulate the full story arch of the season, rather than as a response to poor ratings/lack of interest.
Why didn’t The Franchise return in 2013 with a different team? From Gavant:
“I think a lot of players and a lot of teams, no matter how many meetings we took the following year, they just felt all this pressure to perform, to deliver what the Giants and the Marlins had delivered over the previous two years. They didn’t feel comfortable that they were gonna be able to do it.
“No matter how much we told them, ‘Hey listen, we’re filming so much. We’re just taking the best of the best and that’s why it looks so good. We’re not expecting every time we turn the camera on, there’s gonna be this compelling moment.’ I think that was really the big hurdle: we just couldn’t get other teams comfortable.”
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