Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Marlins fans, the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and all of the taxpayers who will pay for the $2.4 billion Marlins Park share the same feeling Wednesday morning: that they’ve been duped.
Seeing the massive salary dump that took place Tuesday night brought back memories from the past of an organization that may have pulled off the greatest con in major sports history to get a new baseball stadium publicly funded.
The Marlins convinced everyone that it was no longer business as usual for the team and that what happened in the past would stay there and the entire franchise turned over a new leaf of spending and pursuit of greatness.
The stadium was built, some money was initially spent, then just like twice before in the past, the franchise decided to blow up the team and leave fans wondering when will the pain of having Jeffrey Loria own the team ever end?
Many teams often have to go through major roster overhauls at one point or another. Typically, this happens much more often in leagues with a salary cap, which baseball doesn’t have. Nevertheless, this is the third time since 1997 the Marlins have essentially blown up the team to save money.
“It means a lot of disappointment,” said AM 790 host Marc Hochman. “It means a feeling of betrayal among a lot of Marlins fans.”
It started in 1997 when then-owner Wayne Huizenga won the World Series and decided that any high-priced player had to go immediately. The Marlins traded away: Charles Johnson, Jeff Conine, Bobby Bonilla, Edgar Renteria, Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield, Al Leiter, and Robb Nen over the 1997-98 offseason.
The hurt the Marlins for several years and even when new management came in 2002, the Marlins were still recovering. The team quickly pushed to the 2003 World Series championship, but before the parades could even get started, the Marlins were planning on destroying the roster.
Marlins president David Samson at the time called the 2004-2005 fire sale a “market correction” to reduce the team’s payroll. The Marlins traded away Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell and also traded Carlos Delgado, Juan Pierre, and Luis Castillo in separate deals.
The Marlins would go on to also trade Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers.
Then, the Marlins began to once again target a completely new item, a state-of-the-art ballpark. The team repeatedly threatened to move if Miami didn’t provide them with their own stadium and eventually the city and county finally relented.
In the offseason of 2011, the Marlins promised to be big spenders in free agency and said they were ready to compete at the highest levels in baseball. That meant a serious investment of money from owner Jeffrey Loria, which he had been loath to do before.
But, Loria ponied up the cash and put together a team that on paper looked like it could compete. The Fish even brought in World Series winning manager Ozzie Guillen to man the ship.
“We were told going into last season, this is a brand new Marlins ball club,” Hochman said. “New logo, new team, new methodology, new ballpark, new manager and lots of free agents.”
Yet roughly a year later, all of the free agent signings are gone via trades to Toronto and Arizona. The Marlins payroll dropped by tens of millions of dollars to just $16 million on the books as of November 14.
“As a fan, you’re disappointed,” said Marlins season ticket holder Alex Martinez. “It’s a level of disappointed. You feel abused and used. You paid for that beautiful stadium and where are we now?”
The Marlins got their new stadium, the majority of which is being financed by the city and county of Miami. In return, the Marlins blew up their team and guaranteed the squad won’t be a contender any time soon.
Miami knew the dangers of trusting an organization that had a history like the Marlins, but like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football while Lucy holds it; they went for it anyway.
No major business development around the stadium has started; the stadium didn’t have the proper parking for a big crowd; and now, the team looks to be so bad that season ticket and even single-game ticket sales are likely going to suffer greatly heading into the 2013 season.
If Marlins fans feel like they’ve seen all this before, it’s because they have. The only question this time is will Marlins fans make the team pay for what it did to them.
“They’re horrendous. They made every bad decision possible and they deserve what’s coming,” said season ticket holder Matt Troccoli. “They deserve that place [Marlins Park] to be empty.”