MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Miami Marlins rolled out their great new hope under the and gaze and glare of too many TV cameras and lights to count Wednesday. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton has been signed to a 13 year, $325 million deal that guarantees he will be with the team for a minimum six years.
But the serial homerun hitter has been knocking balls into largely empty stands. Marlins fans have stayed away in droves after years of maddening moves by team owner Jeffrey Loria.
In his first full season after acquiring the team, Loria’s Marlins won the 2003 World Series.
But Loria had no sooner hoisted the championship trophy in the victory parade down Biscayne Boulevard, than he sold off our championship team. Fans were furious, felt betrayed.
While Stanton has the biggest deal in baseball now, he doesn’t have the biggest annual pay. That honor belongs to Miguel Cabrera. The former Marlins star is hitting home runs for Detroit now after being let go by Loria.
And then there was Marlins Park, built with a half-billion taxpayer dollars, outraging taxpayers who removed former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez in a recall election, so angry were they over the stadium giveaway.
Loria would further anger the faithful when, not even a full season in the park the people built, he laid off the bulk of his star lineup. His explanation was that they were not performing up to par. They were replaced with a group of nobodies who have lagged MLB in performance and attendance.
On Wednesday, CBS4’s Gary Nelson was blunt in questioning Loria.
“Your organization and you are, quite frankly, much despised among many in this community,” noted Nelson, as Loria glared. Nelson asked how much goodwill Loria might regain from the Stanton signing, given such fan displeasure and cynicism.
Nelson asked, “Can a deal like this wash that much bad blood away?”
Loria did not respond. His former stepson, team President David Samson jumped in.
“We’re not trying to do anything but win games,” Sampson said. Without offering specifics, the team said it would recruit other talented players to help Stanton turn the Marlins around.
Sun-Sentinel sports columnist Dave Hyde told CBS4 that Loria will need to follow through if he expects to regain the affection of Miami and South Florida.
“This is a step, but it’s only a step,” Hyde said of the Stanton deal. “He’s got miles to go.”
Civic activist Norman Braman who led the fight against the stadium deal wished the Marlins well Wednesday.
“I have no problem with the Marlins,” Braman said, adding that he hopes they develop a winning program.
Braman’s beef remains with the public officials who made the stadium deal with Loria. The team was crying poverty during negotiations over the ballpark. It was later revealed the Marlins had much more revenue and profit than they had revealed. In fact, they never opened their books to the public.
In depositions during a suit trying to block the stadium deal from going through, former Mayor Alvarez and County Manager George Burgess admitted they never asked the team to provide an accounting of its finances.
Braman credits the Marlins with having pulled off a shrewd deal.
“It’s not the sports owners who are responsible for it. It’s the damn politicians that allow it to happen,” exclaimed Braman.
Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz supported the stadium deal, and was among those who gathered on the field Wednesday at Marlins Park to celebrate Stanton’s big contract signing.
When asked about the controversial stadium deal, Diaz replied “I don’t want to talk about it.” He declined to answer when asked why he wouldn’t talk about it. It has been widely speculated that Diaz has aspirations to run again for political office. If true, the less talk about a deal that outraged voters, the better.
The Marlins have staked their hopes of civic redemption on the back of their bonus baby, Stanton, and have promised more help is on the way to develop a winning team.
Fans, so often disappointed and angered by the team’s owner and management, can only wait to see how the latest promise plays out.