The Major League Baseball season begins this Sunday, and nowhere is the idea of going out to the ol’ ball park being met with less enthusiasm than Miami. The Marlins owner, Jeffrey Loria, traded away its top talent. The move saved him some money, but made Loria a local Grinch.
According to the team’s management, only around 5,000 season tickets have been sold for the new stadium this year.
Danny Zuccari used to buy season tickets for the Marlins. But this year?
“No. Absolutely not,” says Zuccari. “There is no way in the world that I’m going to be a season ticket holder this year.”
Zuccari believed Jeffrey Loria, the owner, would bankroll a competitive team if Miami tax-payers helped pay for a new stadium.
“They built the team up last year, and they spent a lot of money. And I give them credit for that,” says Zuccari. “But then they turn around, after one year, and they dump everybody. I mean, everybody of significance that is a 'name player'. Whether it was Josh Johnson, or Mark Buehrle or Jose Reyes.”
“The fans understandably felt like it was a bit of a bait-and-switch,” says Neil deMause, who co-authored the book Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. “It’s like, ‘Okay, fine. We had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build this new stadium, but at least we’re supposed to get a good team. Right?’ Well, apparently not.”
Even a bad team can make money for owner Jeffrey Loria.
“He’s been running a team where he’s basically content to not win a whole lot of ballgames, and just sit back and collect revenue-sharing checks from the league,” says deMause.
But Loria has paid for it with his popularity.
“Loria certainly does have a claim to being possibly the worst owner in baseball," says deMause.
We tried to reach Jeffrey Loria. Instead, questions were fielded by the Marlins president, David Samson.
“Jeffrey Loria is not a bad owner at all,” says Samson. “He’s won a World Series, which is more than most have done. And he put so much of his own money, when others wouldn’t, to build a new ballpark.”
Samson understands fans are upset. But baseball is also a business.
“We had to cut payroll because things didn’t work out on the business side, or the baseball side,” says Samson.
He says Miami would be worse off without the stadium and Jeffrey Loria.
“Unless there had been a new ballpark and an owner like Jeffrey Loria willing to put in $160 Million of his own money into that ballpark, then the Marlins unfortunately wouldn’t be in Miami,” says Samson. “And now baseball will be here for decades and generations to come.”
Another thing that will endure is the backlash.
The repercussions are being felt by other sports teams in the area. A recent survey shows most Miami residents disapprove of another plan being floated to use taxpayer money to remodel a football stadium for the Miami Dolphins.