Jeffrey Loria

The Marlins are not a baseball team. They’re a kleptocracy

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Perhaps it’s possible to defend last night’s mega Blue Jays-Marlins trade on purely baseball merits. To say that the Marlins weren’t going to contend with Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson and the rest and that they needed to blow things up. To say that the return they’re realizing from Toronto was actually pretty good and can form the basis of the Next Contending Marlins Team if Miami plays its cards right.  Indeed, I’m sure a cogent argument to such effect could be made if it hasn’t been made already.

Such a position, however, requires that one give the Marlins’ brain trust the benefit of the doubt and to assume that they have any interest at all in creating the Next Contending Marlins Team.  Because absolutely nothing in owner Jeff Loria’s history suggests that he gives a tinker’s damn about winning baseball games, making fans happy and developing Miami as a vibrant market for Major League Baseball.

Quite the opposite, actually. Here are some random Jeff Loria and Marlins facts which, taken together, aren’t terribly random:

  • After purchasing the Montreal Expos in the 1990s, he immediately claimed that, without a new stadium, the team that was much beloved and supported by its fans and once was near the top of the National League in annual attendance could not compete without a new stadium. When public officials balked, he cut payroll and denigrated the City of Montreal as a baseball market.
  • In 2000, unsatisfied with rights fees offered by English-speaking TV and radio broadcasters in Montreal, Loria allowed the Expos to play with no television or English radio broadcasts, preventing thousands of Expos fans from actually seeing or hearing Expos games.
  • In selling the Expos, he received a sweetheart deal and no-interest loans from Major League Baseball which allowed him to buy the Marlins put the Expos into league receivership. When he left Montreal, he moved the Expos’ entire front office staff, on-field staff, office equipment and computer equipment to Florida, leaving new Expos general manager Omar Minaya with virtually no resources with which to field a competitive team.
  • The atrophied remains of the Expos then served as an easy target for contraction threats by Major League Baseball designed to create leverage in labor negotiations with the MLBPA and had the effect of alienating all but the most die-hard Montreal baseball fans. As a result of both Loria’s acts as Expos manager and his complicity in the league’s use of the Expos as an example and bargaining chip, Montreal was utterly destroyed as a viable baseball market.
  • Loria took over the Marlins in 2002.  Between 2002 and 2010, the Marlins got around $300 million in revenue sharing and banked at least $154 million of it in pure profit.
  • Two years ago, the Marlins were forced into an agreement with Major League Baseball and the player’s union to stop violating Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) of the Basic Agreement which requires revenue sharing money to be used to improve your team instead of lining ownership’s pockets.
  • In addition to team profits and the substantial appreciation of the franchise since he purchased it, Jeffrey Loria pays himself around $10 million a year in “administration fees.” As a result of last night’s trade, he is now paid nearly twice the salary of the Marlins’ highest-paid player.
  • The ballpark which the Marlins convinced Miami to build them was paid for by the public against its will, was shady all around, led to public outrage which cost politicians their jobs and wound up costing far moredrawing far fewer fans than the team promised taxpayers it would and has led to virtually zero development of the surrounding area, contrary to the promises of Loria and his friends.
  • A year ago Friday, David Samson talked big about the Marlins “rising payroll, higher revenues” and the team’s new way of doing things, a plan that lasted until roughly July.
  • David Samson last March to a group of Miami business leaders:  “I don’t have to hold back now that the stadium is built – not that I ever have …” He called people who run for office “not the cream of the intellectual crop,” adding about the entire population, “That’s not to say we’re not the smartest people in Miami. My guess is, if you’re in this room, we’re immediately in the top 1%.”

The Marlins are not a baseball team. They’re a kleptocracy. Jeff Loria and his cohorts are cynical liars who care nothing about baseball beyond the cash it allows them to extract from gullible fans, corrupt politicians, unwitting taxpayers and a complicit league office, all of which they have either explicitly called stupid or clearly assume to be based on their actions.

They may continue to play baseball games in Miami, but baseball is merely the MacGuffin which drives the plot for the shysters in this ownership group and they will lie to anyone about anything in order to further it.  In so doing, they are well on their way to destroying yet another market which should, by all rights, be fantastic for baseball.

At this point, they should be allowed to do so. People should stop showing up. Marlins fans, no matter how much they love their team, should shift their allegiances to one which does not hold them in contempt.  Jeff Loria and Major League Baseball should be forced to sleep in the bed they made for themselves and suffer the consequences of their greed and cynicism. The new ballpark may make allowing Miami go the way of Montreal a tall order, but perhaps the franchise can at least wither on the vine long enough to make it more appealing for Loria to get out of the baseball business and find some other investment with which he can fleece the unsuspecting.

In the meantime, anyone who decides to stick with the Marlins while this crowd is in charge deserves whatever they get from this abusive, exploitative relationship.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.