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Wieber: Miami Marlins' con of fans could've happened in Portland



About a year ago, the Florida Marlins rebranded themselves. They moved into a brand new $640 million ball park in Miami, changed their name to the Miami Marlins, designed a new logo and spent $190 million in free agency.

The ballpark was funded by taxpayer money, and in order to get taxpayers to agree to bankroll this lavish park that includes massive aquariums and a retractable roof, owner Jeffery Loria promised to transform the Marlins into the “Yankees of the South.”

Spending $190 million in one offseason does seem Yankee-esque, but when the team inevitably ended up in last place in the NL East, Marlins front office began to shed payroll which climaxed earlier this week when the Marlins held a fire sale. The trade with the Blue Jays included a total of ten players, one of which being star shortstop Jose Reyes, with Miami receiving mostly prospects. None of the players Miami received are even close to guaranteed stars.

Since July they have dropped $242 million in payroll, making them $52 million under the mark they were at when they aggressively went after every major free agent in their attempt to be competitive.

That seems to be the opposite of a Yankee-like approach, and much more like a façade used to get taxpayers to finance a park worth over half a billion dollars.

When asked about the trade, Loria told cbssports.com, “We finished in last place. Figure it out.”

Making offseason moves when finishing in last place seems obvious, but swapping star players for prospects is far from savvy.

The entire situation comes off as a con on the fans, or as Bob Nightengale of USA Today puts it, a Ponzi scheme.

When news of the trade broke out, I couldn’t help but think back to 2006 when the Marlins were looking to relocate, and Portland was a viable option. The only snag was that Loria and president David Samson clamed to be near broke and wanted taxpayers to pay to construct a new park. Then mayor Tom Potter had absolutely no interest this.

Last year, Deadspin.com uncovered financial documents showing that the Marlins had received about $10 million in revenue sharing but still had the leagues lowest payroll at $43 million during the 2008-09 season.

The bottom line is that the Marlins are taking advantage of their fans and using their tax dollars for their own personal gain. What Loria and Samson are getting away with is inexcusable. This coming season the Marlins will again be awful, probably worse than last year. Their attendance will be near the bottom of the league but to them it won’t matter because they aren’t on the hook for the ridiculous new park that houses them. They get a free ride courtesy of hard working taxpayers all because of promises they never intended to keep.

Being a Portland native and an avid baseball fan, I have always hoped for an ailing franchise to set sites on Oregon. Every time I hear rumors, like the ones in 2006, I get excited. In this situation, Portlanders dodged a bullet.

My heart goes out to the Marlins fans because, as Nightengale pointed out in his article, what Loria and Samson did is no different than the Ponzi scheme Bernie Madoff tried to pull off. The only difference is that as Loria and Samson kick back in their luxurious offices in Miami, Madoff is rotting away in a jail cell serving a 150-year sentence.


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