By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
November 16, 2012
If you want a case study on how to alienate your fan base, look no further than the Miami Marlins. A year after opening their new $635 million ballpark, 80% of which was publicly funded, and promising to spend money on players, the Marlins held one of the most egregious fire sales in baseball history, trading five players and more than $160 million in salary to the Toronto Blue Jays for a handful of prospects. It’s the third time in franchise history that the Marlins have blatantly sold off their highest-paid players, and the second time it’s occurred under the Jeffrey Loria-David Samson regime.
On the local level, the trade is sure to decimate the Marlins’ attendance, which last season was the lowest for the first year in new MLB stadium since 1982. As for fans demanding Loria sell the team, the stadium deal with Miami-Dade County forces him to pay a fine that could be more than $20 million if he does before 2018. But for all of the vitriol in Miami, the trades could have ramifications nationally, too. The Marlins clearly backtracked on their pledge to field a competitive team in the new ballpark, which was a major selling point in convincing the city and county to use taxpayer funds to build the stadium. Warranted or not, what happened in Miami could be used as a cautionary tale in other communities about the downside of using public money to build sports facilities.