Re: Trade for Hanley Ramirez!
posted at 12/8/2011 3:58 AM EST
It helps that the Marlins barely paid a dime for it. Nearly 80 percent of the $634 million spent comes from taxpayer money — a deal that went down without a public vote and still has Miami residents shaking their heads. About all the Marlins have to do is buy enough players to field a team and hire enough accountants to tally up the cash they hope comes flowing in.
It's a time-honored strategy in baseball. Fleece the community once to get it built, then make them dig deeper to get in.
It works. For a time.
The new ballpark surely will draw sellout crowds at first, with fans packing in to watch the fish and feed the fish. But once the new smell wears off, the future is less certain. It's a lesson the Mets and Nationals have painfully learned, and it could be even worse in a town where the Marlins couldn't even draw fans when they were winning the World Series.
"There's no guarantee fans will financially support the Marlins for years to come," said Wayne McDonnell, a business of baseball professor at New York University. "You'll have a nice honeymoon the first year, but I don't think it's sustainable in the long run."
If it's not, the back-loaded contract signed by Reyes is even more perplexing. Three years from now, the former Mets shortstop with a history of injuries will be making $22 million — more than the entire payroll of the Marlins just five years ago in the wake of one of Loria's salary dumps.
"What happens when you're consistently getting 15-to-20,000 in a ballpark when you need 35,000 to make payroll?" McDonnell said during a telephone interview from Dallas. "The running joke around here at the winter meetings is that two years from now, when the meetings are in Orlando, is where Loria will have his fire sale."
For Loria, it seems to be all about making a splash and making people forget how awful it's been for Marlins fans over the years. He has a new manager in the colorful Ozzie Guillen, some very colorful new uniforms and even a new name — the Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins.
Maybe he figures it will make fans forget about long afternoons sitting in the rain at Sun Life Stadium, where the Marlins sold 19,000 tickets a game last season, though not nearly that many people showed up to claim their seats. Indeed, a writer at an August doubleheader counted a grand total of 347 fans when the opening pitch was made.
One thing fans likely won't forget is the controversy over stadium financing, which has already cost the former mayor of the county his job in a recall vote. It doesn't help that there's an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the nearly $500 million in bond sales to build the place. The SEC didn't announce what it was looking for, but asked for voluminous records on the financing as well as records of campaign contributions from the Marlins to area politicians.