MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s been a rocky road for Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria over the past several years.
By agreeing to pay Giancarlo Stanton $325 million over the next 13 years, Loria gets to keep one of baseball’s premier sluggers in the Marlins lineup.
Whether that deal comes with some goodwill remains to be seen.
Widely vilified for many of his decisions and rarely if ever outwardly bothered by the disdain so many openly direct his way, the Marlins’ owner went from penny-pincher to historic spender with one stroke of the pen this week. Stanton’s contract is the largest in U.S. pro sport history, though in Miami the deal seems to have drawn both celebration and skepticism.
“This is for the city of Miami,” Stanton said. “This is for newfound confidence and trust.”
Trust is a word Stanton used repeatedly Wednesday, the day he and Loria signed the megadeal.
It’s long been in short supply in Miami when talking about the Marlins, and the art dealer who owns the club.
Loria took the Expos out of Montreal before buying the Marlins, which is still a sore subject for baseball fans in Quebec. With the Marlins, he traded away Miguel Cabrera, squabbled with and then fired Joe Girardi in a season where he won manager of the year, plus was revealed to have been making big profits while the team made do with baseball’s smallest payroll in 2008 and 2009.
Then came the stadium deal, which is still a hot-button topic in Miami. Loria and the Marlins got city officials to back a plan where tax money would pay for the bulk of constructing Marlins Park but the team would reap virtually all revenue generated in the building, then went on a free-agent spending spree before the new stadium opened in 2012 — only to trade away most of those players quickly.
“I pushed the reset button,” Loria said. “It wasn’t popular. And I didn’t care.”
And those are just the highlights. Or lowlights.
“As I’ve mentioned over the past two years, our goal was to start fresh with this team,” Loria said. “What we had to do a couple years ago was necessary. It wasn’t popular but we had to do it.”
Loria, who turned 74 Thursday, has never tried to win popularity contests.
As such, he’s never appeared to let public outcry affect his choices. He’s defended them, repeatedly and staunchly, even when he took out newspaper ads before the 2013 season as an open letter to South Florida residents to “humbly ask that we start fresh.”
“When you’re in a position of leadership, you can’t think about anything other than doing what you think is right,” Marlins President David Samson said. “No decision is ever going to be liked by everyone except the wrong decision, and that will only be liked by everyone after the fact. So when you’re a leader, by definition, you can’t do it right. You just have to be expected to lead and make decisions. We’re not going to be right all the time. Nobody in power is right all the time.”
With Loria, decisions are rarely boring.
He owned the team when the Marlins won their second World Series title in 2003 and has insisted since that he’s committed to getting back to that point, even though critics have long insisted maximizing profit is his lone concern.
“We’ve had some bumps in the road,” Stanton said. “And that’s baseball. It takes time and patience. We’re in the right direction.”
Samson said the team expected to have about 30 people at a recent select-a-seat event for the coming season. After the basic parameters of the Stanton deal became known, 240 people showed up instead.
For a team that has ranked near the very bottom of baseball’s attendance list for more than a decade, maybe signing Stanton is a step toward that fresh start Loria has wanted.
“Winning translates into attendance,” Samson said. “Winning translates into TV ratings and that translates into revenue. He gives us the best chance to win over the next 13 years. That’s how you get more revenues, by winning.”
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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