Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stanton signs, now stop complaining and go to the ballpark

The news is out. The Marlins have signed Giancarlo Stanton to a heavily backloaded 13-year, $325 million contract. Now I have always tried to take a contrarian view when it comes to the Marlins and their owner Jeffrey Loria. While most fans hate him, believing he's getting rich while keep the team talent poor I have a different take. I believe Jeffrey Loria is a relatively poor man in a rich man's sport. I believe he wants to win and would love to have excess cash to throw around but everything in history within the game has shown that he's literally had to beg, borrow and steal to get the franchise where it is today.

Let us remember that the fans demanded a better ballpark that kept them cool and dry in the hot rainy summer months and somehow he managed to pull it off. Can you pick some nits about the superficial details of the ballpark? Of course, but there's no denying it's a comfortable park with all the amenities a fan could ever want.

Now back to Stanton and this contract. Let me declare unequivocally that I believe the chances that Stanton will with be this club beyond 6 or 7 years is next to nil. And let me also state unequivocally that I'm fine with that.

It is clear that the modus operandi of this franchise is to build the team up every 4-5 years and attempt to make a run at the postseason. That means tearing it apart every 4-5 years. There is simply no other way that the Marlins can compete within the current financial scheme of Major League Baseball. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't match up to fan expectations, which are basically old fashioned. They see Derek Jeter retiring as a Yankee and they think that's the way it should be here. But Jeter is the exception, not the rule.

Jeffrey Loria's last attempt to build the club up culminated with some free agent signings that didn't work out. I think Loria wanted to strike while the iron was hot with the new ballpark and his previous gambles like signing Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez to a 1-year, $10 million contract (paid over 3 years, by the way) paid off, perhaps giving him a sense of invincibility. But let's be clear about the last bit of unloading of talent, the dealing of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle among others was NOT a fire sale. A fire sale is what happened in the offseason before 1998. The 2012 Marlins were an abomination.

To me the big question now is how the fans will respond. With Stanton signed and Jose Fernandez still under club control for a few years the Marlins have possibly the most exciting hitter and starting pitcher in the National League, if not all of baseball. This is no guarantee that that they'll make the playoffs or that injuries and other factors won't negatively influence the team but it's time for baseball fans in South Florida to put up or shut up. Stop complaining and go to the ballpark.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Reality ranch

After I posted on Facebook, about last night's opening night win, that hopefully the Marlins would not be as embroiled in negativity a friend asked: "But Henry, isn't it frustrating to know that Jose Fernandez will most likely not be in a Marlins uniform in 2 years? You can look past that and enjoy today?"
My Answer is that even if the Marlins had never had a "fire sale" in their history and even if we had a deep-pocketed owner there's no guarantee that Fernandez would be in a Marlin uniform in two years.
The Dodgers just signed a 25-year - $8 billion contract for their TV rights. As Dan Lebatard noted, before the Dodgers have sold a single ticket or hot dog they start the year with $320 million dollars. Teams like the Marlins can't compete with that. That's reality.
You can choose to live in a past where players spent their entire careers with one team or you can wake up to that reality and realize that teams have to be smart with their money. The Marlins can't spend big money on players like Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes if they aren't producing. Few teams can. 
In the last 10 years the Yankees have won exactly the same number of World Series championships as the Marlins. The Tigers who just re-signed Miguel Cabrera (a former Marlin) to largest deal in history haven't won a World Series since 1984.
The Dodgers themselves haven't won since 1988. How about the Mets, the Cubs?
The point is spending does not equal winning and nobody has a guarantee of keeping their players anymore. One can joust windmills or one can enjoy the ride.
So I answer his question with a question of my own: What if the Marlins are this year's Pirates? Are you going to stay home pouting about what might happen in two years?

I'll be in the stands cheering.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Six Reasons to go to Marlins Park in 2013

It's easy to get swept up in the anger that's being directed toward Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and conduct a personal boycott of the Miami Marlins. But I've lived my life as a contrarian. For example, I don't call what Loria did in trading away several big name players a fire sale. That diminishes the expression "fire sale." To me a fire sale is what H. Wayne Huizenga did when he broke up a World Champion ball club. Loria broke up a mistake. But that's not what I'm here to write about today. I want to tell you the reasons why I won't be boycotting the Marlins and why I'll probably be going to more games this year than last.

1. It's baseball and this is my hometown. My favorite sport is college football and pro baseball is very, very close second. Since my Gators play in Gainesville I don't get many chances to go up for a game. And when I do it requires major planning and expense not to mention the investment of an entire weekend. For decades Miami had no Major League Baseball team. Now we do and I enjoy the sport, period.

2. The ballpark. You can say that Marlins Park is gaudy and that you don't like certain elements of it but you can't deny that it's a HUGE improvement over the previous digs. The temperature is controlled, you shouldn't get wet (malfunctions of the roof notwithstanding), the sight lines are great, the food is actually pretty good. Besides, as many angry fans have said, it's our ballpark, we built it (with tourist taxes, but we built it). Why shouldn't we enjoy it?

3. The players. Lost in all the controversy about the organization is the fact that there will be 25 guys in uniform on opening day. Some are known commodities like Giancarlo Stanton, others are works in progress like Steve Cishek and still others are complete unknowns with the ability to perhaps surprise and delight. One thing is for sure there are no overpaid overhyped hot air bags like Hanley Ramirez or Heath Bell on this squad. That alone is reason to like the 2013 Marlins more than the 2012 version.

4. The competition. Maybe the Miami Marlins aren't really your thing. Well this season's schedule serves up the usual divisional rivals who have many fans in our community like the Phillies and the Mets, other National League teams with big fan bases like the Cubs and Cardinals as well as American league teams including state rivals Tampa Bay and as little seen Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota.

5. The price. It's still probably the best bargain in professional sports. Dollar for dollar you aren't going to beat the experience of a major league baseball game, in the cheap seats, in comparison to other sports.

6. By staying away from the ballpark you perpetuate the vicious cycle we've been subjected to by lowering team revenues and thus any chance of increasing payroll to re-sign our young stars or to add help should the team catch lightning in a bottle and be surprisingly better than expected. I know a lot of people think this is all the owner's fault but over the life of this franchise there have been a lot of fans disguised as empty seats if you know what I mean, even last year in the new ballpark with all those big names. The key to future stability will be a sizable and loyal fan base that attends with regularity.

I know these reasons won't change many minds in this environment of hate and distrust. And I know people will say I'm shilling for nasty and greedy owner. It's OK, I'm a big boy. The criticisms don't change the facts that I've listed above. I have nothing to gain by defending Loria or the Marlins organization. I'm just a fan of my team and will be long after Loria and all these players are gone.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What are Loria's real motivations?

The recent fire sale of Marlins talent has many in South Florida howling. All the old insults such as "carpetbagger" have resurfaced and are being hurled at Jeffrey Loria. Now I have no reason to defend the guy but in trying to determine what his real motivations are I think it's important to remember some very relevant facts of some facts.

 1. In 1999 Loria bought 24% of the Montreal Expos for $12 Million. He managed to acquire 94% of the team when the other shareholders didn't answer margin calls. So here's a guy who becomes a major league owner (barely) with $12 million and change.

 2. In 2002 he sold the Expos to MLB for $120 million. He didn't get to pocket the gain however as he then bought the Marlins for $158.5 million. Do the math. He was $38.5 million short so MLB LENT him the money.

 3. In 2003 he signed Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez for a one year/$10 million contract that was PAID OVER THREE YEARS

 4. In 2009 the deal for the construction of the new Marlins ballpark was finalized. The Marlins agreed to contribute $125.2 million (roughly 20% of the construction cost). In order to pay this money the Marlins BORROWED $35 million from the county.

Now, all of the above instances suggest a guy who is playing in a high stakes game he can't really afford. Does this mean he doesn't want to win? I don't know. I think he wants to be a baseball owner, I think he wants to win. I think he wants the ballpark full so he can field a competitive team but let's face it, he gambled in 2012 and lost. The team underperformed on the field and at the box office.

Some have characterized this fire sale as Loria putting $100 million into his pocket but that assumes he has $100 million lying around. I'd say the reason for the fire sale is precisely because he doesn't have $100 million lying around and nothing in his history suggests that he has $100 million lying around. I believe he's trying to save his ownership stake in the team because he's leveraged to the hilt. Does it suck for us fans? Yes. Would it be better to have a deep pocketed owner? Yes. But let's look up the road at the Dolphins. They've had deep pocketed owners since Joe Robbie died and it hasn't translated into winning.

I'm not ready to make the guy into the devil because he's juggling money trying to stay in the game as long as he can. The fact is that Jeffrey Loria bought this team when nobody else wanted it. He made some wild gambles like the aforementioned signing of Pudge, won a World Series and got the ballpark built in almost impossible political environment. All from a $12 million investment. I can't say for sure what's in his heart but on a certain level I have have to admire him.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ozzie's bigger crime

His team stinks. He apologized for making bone headed statements in praise of fidel castro, when will he apologize for the fact the team is 2-5? Maybe during spring training instead of being outrageous to journalists in an effort to live up to well-cultivated image, he should have been preparing his team for the upcoming season.

Ozzie Guillen: Dumb Luck or Just Plain Dumb?

The fine folks at Pajamas Media asked me to opine about the Ozzie Guillen kerfuffle. Here it is...

There are thirty teams competing in Major League Baseball, but only one has just inaugurated a state-of-the-art, taxpayer-funded ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. There are thirty Major League managers leading those thirty teams, but only one was dumb enough to recently offer fawning praise of Fidel Castro to a Time reporter. If I told you that the man who said such things has to field a team for 81 home games in front of an audience of escapees from Fidel’s Caribbean gulag and their children, you probably wouldn’t believe anyone could possibly be that dumb. And yet it happened.

In Ball Four, his groundbreaking memoir about life in the big leagues, Jim Bouton explains what it’s like to be a thinking man in a sport that has a dearth of them. And that explains Ozzie Guillen, the Miami Marlins manager, and why he’s now public enemy number one among many Cuban Americans: he’s old school dumb.

The furor began when Time magazine quoted Guillen as claiming to “love” and “respect” Fidel Castro because of his longevity, in spite of the fact that there are many who wish him dead. The piece in Time was about Ozzie’s outlandish personality, and I’m sure that he got carried away trying to live up to his well-earned reputation, except that this time it was really, really dumb.

In the same piece, Ozzie asserts that he gets drunk after every game, win or lose. It’s probably not true and it’s kind of a dumb thing to say, but praising a brutal dictator who has repressed, imprisoned, tortured, and exiled more than a million of your neighbors breaks the dumb-o-meter.

More, after the jump.

Continue reading Ozzie Guillen: Dumb Luck or Just Plain Dumb?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The dawn of a new day is upon us

It's been 15 long years since H. Wayne Huizenga said that the building of a publicly-financed baseball-only facility was necessary to make baseball viable in south Florida over the long term. Tomorrow, that goal, sought after by three owners becomes a reality as the brand new Marlins Ballpark officially opens for the regular season. As a resident of greater Miami for the last 34 years and an ardent baseball fan I am extremely happy. As usual, there are plenty of critics and malcontents vociferating about the financing, the location, the parking, the accessibility, whatever. Over the years I wrote a lot about this ballpark, mainly defending it, though nothing recently. Today I'm not going to defend it. I am going to enjoy it. I'm headed out to the open-to-the-public batting practice. I have tickets for the April 19th game and I wouldn't be surprised if I decide to go to another game before that. It's time to celebrate. Baseball is here to stay.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congrats to the Fighin' Phillies

I was born in Philadelphia. The first sporting event I ever attended was a Phillies game. I remember the 1980 World Series like it was yesterday. The 1993 World Series is one I'd like to forget. I was at Skydome when Joe Carter hit that homer to win it for the Blue Jays. I'm not conflicted about my loyalty. I became a 100% Marlins fan when I had season tickets for the club. But if the Marlins can't win it all, the other team I'll always like to see hoisting that trophy with all those little flags on it is the Phillies.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marlins financial info leaked to media

Miami Today published a report based on pro forma financial statements that it apparently obtained from Norman Braman. The second I saw the report I contacted Jorge Costales who is, to my mind, the most knowledgeable person about Marlins finances that doesn't work for the organization or Forbe's magazine.

He has posted his interpretation of this recent development here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Judge Cohen Punts...

and Jorge Costales thinks that's a good thing.

I don't.

I think what the judge did was weak. She passed the buck. Her job is to rule based on current law as she understands it, not to wait for guidance from the Supreme Court to do it for her. What precedent does that set?

There is a time-sensitive nature to this case and now it's in limbo indefinitely for what Jorge rightly points out could be nothing more than political considerations for the judge herself.

As far as the naming rights to the ballpark go, Wayne Huizenga sold the name of Joe Robbie Stadium to the now defunct Pro Player apparel company for $20 million over 10 years back in 1996. That's $2 million a year. A nice sum, but not something to stop the Marlins deal over. It should be also be noted that the market for stadium names probably isn't as strong as back then. Huizenga finally gave up trying to sell the name and it's now Dolphin Stadium.

As far as trying to get Braman aboard, I don't think the Marlins can offer anything that will appease him. He's just being a curmudgeon and enjoying every minute of it. As fans we've been waiting for this new ballpark ever since Huizenga announced he was selling the team in 1997 and now that we're an inch from the finish line that old fart is standing in the way. And the judge is allowing him to.