I know it’s cynical and not fully explicable, but I’ve got this theory that we touched on briefly in this week’s podcast (available for download later today): the Miami Marlins aren’t nearly as interested in signing the free agents that they’re meeting with as they are in the publicity that comes from meeting with the free agents.
Earlier this week, team officials met with both Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, and the latest rumours have them setting up a meet and greet with the very talented and likely equally expensive Albert Pujols. Also occurring this week, team President David Samson suggested that the team will average between 30,000 and 35,000 fans at the Marlins new stadium in 2012.
According to Samson:
We’re starting over. The issues that plagued the franchise – low attendance, bad weather, low payroll, winning and losing, which we’ve had in extremes – we’re out to solve every one of those issues.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that the organization would love to acquire these players and complete the rebranding of their team. I’m just not so sure that this is their entire motivation for meeting with them. After all, the appearance of pursuing free agents doesn’t cost as much as actually signing them, but it does create a positive buzz about the team at a vital time for the organization.
Again, I know it’s a cynical assumption, but if you’re going to be cynical about any team’s motivation, I think the rebranded Miami Marlins are a good place to start.
A little more than a year ago, the Marlins’ financial information was leaked online. The papers revealed baseball’s and Florida tax payers’ worst suspicion: Owner Jeffrey Loria takes a large chunk of the money that’s redistributed by MLB to compensate smaller market teams and keeps it for profit.
Despite these profits, Loria and Samson used constant claims of poverty to convince local governments to build the team their new stadium which is estimated to cost tax payers $2.4 billion.
Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, writing at the time of the leak, has more of the details:
Somehow a team that listed its operating income as a healthy $37.8 million in 2008 alone swung a deal in which it would pay only $155 million of the $634 million stadium complex. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County agreed – without the consent of taxpayers – to take $409 million in loans loaded with balloon payments and long grace periods. By 2049, when the debt is due, the county will have paid billions.
Most harrowing is the takeaway that baseball’s biggest welfare case could have funded a much greater portion of the ballpark. In 2009, when the Marlins started spending some of their profits on their portion of the stadium, they still had an operating income of $11.1 million. The team fought to conceal the $48.9 million in profits over the last two years because the revelation would have prompted county commissioners to insist the team provide more funding. Loria, an art dealer with a net worth of hundreds of millions, wouldn’t stand for that. He wanted as much public funding as possible – money that could’ve gone toward education or to save some of the 1,200 jobs the county is cutting this year.
While Loria’s history of consistently using the teams he owns for profit over anything else suggests to me that these meetings with top shelf free agents might be little else other than a smoke and mirrors show meant once again to fool the public into believing his false intentions, even if the team is able to sign a big name this winter, they’ll ultimately be doing it with blood money.
A scenario that sees Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle or even Albert Pujols signing in Miami would only be set up with the money saved at local fans’ expense.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure which scenario is worse: 1) Baiting and tricking the fan base once again; or 2) Using the proceeds from lying to them in the past to further increase the team’s marketability.
And The Rest
More details have emerged in the Wilson Ramos abduction case. [HardBall Talk]
Baseball in Taiwan is under mob rule. [Taiwan News]
Rod Barajas signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates that will pay him $4 million next season, with a team option of $3.5 million for 2013. [CBC Sports]
Michael Lewis writes about baseball economics among other things. [Vanity Fair]
Manny Ramirez worked out for a Japanese team. [Roto World]
With recent events at Penn St. coming to light, let’s not forget a similar scandal from the world of baseball. [Yahoo! Sports]
Pat Burrell believes that his career is likely over. [ESPN]
Pete Rose is an unofficial advisor. No, seriously. [The Tennessean]
Derek Lowe is looking forward to pitching in Cleveland this coming summer. [Ohio.com]
Finally, our friend Jack Moore, happily informs us that there will be a Medieval Times in close proximity to the winter meetings this year. Phew. [NotGraphs]