Monday, November 19, 2012

Marlins betray South Florida again

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has screwed his fans over once again.

Loria and his minions have orchestrated yet another trade to rid themselves of their remaining high-priced superstars: Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Make no mistake about it, while the Marlins may have gotten some good, young talent from the Toronto Blue Jays, this trade was all about shedding most of the payroll that Loria agreed to take on only a year ago.

Not that many South Floridians are surprised by the salary purge. It has happened to them before twice with the Marlins gutting their team after World Series winning campaigns, most recently in 2003 against the New York Yankees (that one hurt after the thrilling Game 7 defeat of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series). I suppose the most surprising thing about the move was that Loria didn’t even wait for the team to win a championship before dismantling it.

What probably hurts Marlins fans the most is that they will be paying for this beautiful new ballpark for years, with the costs potentially ballooning to as much as $2.4 billion, due to a deal that was considered both controversial and possibly illegal. And despite the sweetheart deal that gives the Marlins the bulk of the money from their new digs, the city and Major League Baseball do not have much leverage to force the Marlins to spend their cash on their payroll, especially with so many empty seats in the place.  

Marlins fans do share some of the responsibility as attendance was rather underwhelming in the first year of their brand-new ballpark when interest should be the highest, particularly after last off-season’s spending frenzy that bought Reyes and other superstars to Miami. I do give a small pass to Marlins fans in the sense that getting to and from that stadium is a transportation nightmare. Perhaps I’m spoiled by being a Yankees fan with three train lines that run to Yankee Stadium, but not having reliable public transportation to and from the ballpark and major South Florida hot spots seems to be a glaring blunder.

But, as the Tampa Bay Rays have seen for years, Floridians are just not as supportive as they should be even when their baseball teams are highly competitive. It’s probably past time for the Rays, a talented young ballclub, to find a home somewhere else. But with this brand-new ballpark, the Marlins and their fans are stuck with each other. Not exactly a match made in heaven.



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