Tuesday, November 13, 2012

If It Ain't Broke... Don't Pay for It

There's an art to rebuilding in sports, which takes the edge off the fans who have to sit through it. You can call it "re-tooling", a thinly veiled euphemism for rapid re-construction of a roster while not addressing every part of it. Also, there is the grind it out type of rebuild, which takes time and patience from everyone involved, but often turns out better results than "re-tooling". No name given by anyone, i.e. "The Plan", "The Blueprint", "The Process", makes rebuilding any more fun to sit through. Alas, there are two words that fans in every sport loathe to hear. The buzzwords of doom: "Fire Sale". One team makes that an art form in of itself. The Florida (Miami) Marlins. Reminding their fans of 1998 and 2004 is not my plan, but what might be happening now blows the other 2 out of the water. And this one might be the straw that breaks everyone's back, which is in order after years and years of frustration.

In short, the Marlins may be trading everyone on their roster that makes any semblance of a salary to the Toronto Blue Jays for every type of prospect known to baseball people. On the face of the deal, this is a jump-start for the Blue Jays organization in every way, and this is the Marlins getting "bad" contracts off the books in an attempt to get younger (cheaper). Sorry Blue Jays fans, but this is not a piece about Canada's only MLB team. This is about the other team, which has a sorry connection to Canadian baseball history with the Expos, but maybe a new sorry piece of baseball history in their own, unique right.

Last year, the Marlins opened a $634 million  palace to modern art and everything Miami (baseball is in there somewhere) on the site of the old Orange Bowl, and the great citizens of Miami-Dade county and the city of Miami paid about 80% of the construction costs of the stadium, and bonds that cost $2.4 billion that lasts 40 years, long after the owner of the Marlins is dead. I can't go into more detail, since I'm writing about sports, and not finance, but simply put, the Marlins themselves paid for almost none of the costs of building this palace. I never expect the team to front all the money for a stadium, but 20% altogether with the debt burden all on the shoulders of taxpayers? That is unacceptable.

The narrative has been written time and time again that the Marlins bleed money, and look to their ridiculously low payroll for evidence of that. Studies have shown the contrary though, that the Marlins make a healthy profit every year, mainly due to frugality, and MLB revenue sharing. Yet, Jeff Loria and David Samson can cry poor all the time, since MLB does not make teams publish their financial books. Remember all the money they spent on Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buerhle, and almost on Albert Pujols? If you want to now, you'll have to look for it, since now every penny of that money and more is now spread about in LA, Toronto, and other cities across the MLB landscape. Yet the Marlins cried poor and were able to spend all the money anyway, so one has to assume they didn't have in the first place, and now it's all gone with a fiery explosion. How is this fair to a market that was promised another fire sale wouldn't happen again if they built Mr. Loria his modern art castle?

If you thought Bernie Madoff was a criminal, Jeff Loria might be a bigger one, just his crimes are thinly veiled under the guise of "cost-effectiveness" for his sports franchise. This team makes money every year according to studies of their finances, but can cry poor with fire sales and admitting they can't pay for the exorbitant salaries of the day. That one year holiday of thinking the Marlins turned over a new leaf when they moved from Miami Gardens to Little Havana has now ended, with the ship crashing into a barge of reality. The people in Miami knew this from the start, yet signed the check regardless. The fleecing of the taxpayers of Dade County and the city of Miami was bad enough, but now a $118 million dollar opening day payroll last year has been bombed down in a new and unimaginable fashion, to where the Marlins now have the lowest payroll in baseball. It's a magic trick, from Loria, Samson, and Beinfest, in the guise of progress and change, everyone just sees more of the same.

Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins lone star now, is understandably mad. Many Marlins fans, like Stanton, have thrown their hands in the air, while people around baseball snicker at the roadside dumpster fire outside Marlins Park that was the contracts to Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle and others. Fans already had little reason to go to Marlins games when they were bad at SunLife Stadium. What reason do they have to go to this monument to empty promises and lying, when this fire sale was the most criminal of them all? Why put money in the pocket of a man who would rather build a monstrosity of a sculpture in center than field a competitive team?

Jeffrey Loria got his stadium at no cost, while he and his cronies quietly cull a large profit and cry about being poor in public with fire sales every time there is hope. And, Loria can shoot his mouth off in public when talking about the city leaders who know they got fleeced and have the balls to speak up about it. Loria called them, "naysayers", and later said, "There'll always be activists in a community who don't know what they're talking about, who have their own agendas." Like possibly feeding their family and paying off their mortgage in a recession, when that money is paying off the debt for a stadium Loria could have chipped in more to build.

The SEC is investigating the building of the stadium, while Loria and his cronies count their money knowing they robbed taxpayers blind anyway. Marlins fans could show their displeasure by not showing up, but they already do that well. There is nothing to root for, no hope in a town that was so enthralled with their new favorite son a year ago. If any fan jumps ship because they were outright lied to again, and can't take it any more, I can't call you out, because I would do the same thing. These fans deserve better, and the taxpayers who are paying for this stadium instead of vital necessities do too. Which brings me back to the title of this piece...

If it ain't broke... don't pay for it. Jeff Loria couldn't be any better at that.

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