Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Swindling Marlins Owners

I wouldn't normally write 2 articles in back-to-back days, but this floored me. A leaked Florida Marlins financial report from Deadspin shows that the Florida Marlins used MLB money for profit. Not for other things, like payroll, staff, and oh by the way, THEIR NEW STADIUM, profit. When this country is still slowly recovering from a financial recession, and the Marlins being 28th in MLB in attendance figures, the greedy owners of the Marlins used revenue-sharing and other league money for profit. This equals wall street corporate fraud, and it will cause financial strain to generations of Miami-Dade county tax payers $2.4 billion for years and years to come. Just wow.

Now, most of the MLB distributed money is from revenue-sharing, which helps teams like the Pirates (who by the way have had something similar revealed a few days ago), Orioles, and others. This money should help with payrolls to keep good players instead of having fire-sales (which the Fish have done twice), keep up the minor-league systems, and enable a good product to be placed on the field so the team isn't irrelevant. The Marlins have won two World Series, and yet they couldn't keep their great players up to now due to money problems. That is where revenue-sharing money should go, not into Jeff Loria's pocket.

But worst of all is the stadium. This is horrifying. The Marlins have been asking for a stadium for their own for at least 10 years before they finally got it. Moves to San Antonio and other places came pretty close for a team that won 2 world series. Their new stadium cost $634 million, and the Marlins paid $155 million of that.
That's about 25% of the value of the stadium. Annual payments for the stadium run until 2049, which Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes that Hanley Ramirez will be of social-security age by that time. He also notes that Loria wanted as much public funding as possible, while 1200 jobs were cut by Dade County this year. And Loria has commissioned an aquarium behind the backstop and artwork to be used when the Marlins hit home runs. Yes, it may have been enough to save a team that is a clear 3rd in its market in terms of fans, but not enough to save money in a county where they need to desperately, while the team basks in its revenue-sharing money. Bernie Madoff couldn't conjure up something this crazy.

This will go up with the Nationals stadium deal and others in terms of stadium deals that were quite egregious. Yankee Stadium and New Meadowlands cost more than $1 billion, yet this never happened in the same way. The Marlins hid the truth which should have been made public in the first place, and it shows what swindlers Jeff Loria and David Samson are. The Marlins are fond believers in the "If you build it, they will come" philosophy. Tell that to Pittsburgh, Washington and Cincinnati. The Reds are 19th in attendance, while they are 1st in the NL central, the Nats are 22nd, and the Pirates are 27th. Dade County will pay $1.2 billion to pay off $91 million. Where did the other $1.109 billion dollars go? To the owners pockets again?

Some of the Marlins great former players, like Miguel Cabrera, could still be a Marlin if the owners used the millions and millions of MLB dollars properly. The MLB telling off of the team to up its paltry payroll by, actually spending money, would never happen. Knowing what I know now, I'd much rather the team be in North Jersey, Portland, or San Antonio, where they were very close to going to, then knocking down a legendary stadium, to build a stadium that cost so much to the county of Dade. Can the Miami tourist tax overcome the money losses by October? I hope so. The Marlins weren't the team bleeding red ink, and because of it, Dade county now will be. Neil deMause, who wrote the book "Field of Schemes", said that, "(The teams), don't need new stadiums, they just need new revenues. It's just like a bailout." And America has already dealt with bailouts. Paul Beeston, the former MLB president who now runs the Jays, famously said, "Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me.” Yep, swindling at its finest, summed up in one quote.

Just shameless. And so sad.

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