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Marlins President David Samson: “We Think We’re in a Position to Win More Games.”

On Tuesday, the Miami Marlins traded essentially all of their name players to the Toronto Blue Jays, the culmination of six months of salary dumps:

Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson headlined a blockbuster barter with the Blue Jays that was awaiting final approval Wednesday, adding to the tally of departing flights that has included Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Heath Bell and Ed Mujica, to name only the most prominent moving parts. All with an Ozzie Guillen booting, to boot.

The response has, understandably, been overwhelmingly negative after the Marlins sought and received a massive amount of public funding for their new stadium, which opened last season. More on that later.

Yesterday, Marlins president David Samson (who is also owner Jeffrey Loria’s stepson) went onto the Dan LeBatard Show and defended the trade with a straight face. Around the two-hour mark of the 11-14 episode:

On when the decision was made:

We sat down after the season and talked about the team and said, “We cannot keep finishing in last place. It does not make sense.” We lost 93 games, and we entrusted all of our scouts and development people and upper level baseball people and said, “What can we do to possibly start to turn this around? What needs to happen? How can it work?” All sorts of different plans were possible, and it just so happens that we found a way to possibly, in one fell swoop, get a whole lot better.

On whether he is embarrassed

When you lose 93 games, it’s the most embarrassing thing. It’s far more embarrassing than this. Before 2012, we expected to win, and the fact that they didn’t, that was the most embarrassing. I think that when we made the managerial decision, when we made the player decisions we made last year, we could not have dreamt that our season would have ended that way.

On whether people should feel betrayed

I think that people should feel betrayed by the fact that we were losing so much, and I would think that they wouldn’t want us to stand pat, and to keep losing…We’ve already gone 10 years without making the playoffs, and that’s too much.

Why should people trust you?

If [Aníbal Sánchez, Mark Buerhle, and Josh Johnson] pitched the way we thought they would pitch, then I don’t think we’re losing 93 games. That’s my exact point. So, you might not know the name Jacob Turner, or you may not know the name Henderson Alvarez, but the fact of the matter is we think we’re in better position to win more games.

Obviously, Samson is lying. This was the plan all along. The Marlins back-loaded the contracts of Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and recently traded closer Heath Bell.

And the players they’ve gotten back? Jonah Keri writes:

Still, this isn’t an ideal exchange of talent from an on-field perspective. Nicolino is a polished pitching prospect … who’s probably a mid-rotation starter in The Show if everything breaks perfectly. Marisnick is a great natural talent … who might struggle to hit .240 in the big leagues. DeSclafani wields a mid-90s fastball … but has no secondary stuff, and is likely nothing more than a relief prospect. Hechavarria is an excellent glove man … and will be lucky to hit like Rey Ordonez.

In the same way that Subway does not actually attempt to make the best possible sandwiches for its customers, the Marlins’ primary purpose is not to win. The franchise is a for-profit business. Product quality is ancillary.

Other writers have made the point far better than I can.

Jeff Passan comes out swinging:

And yet all this time, throughout the lies, the SEC investigation, the embarrassing payrolls, the pocketing of revenue-sharing dollars, the cries from the players’ union and the gem of a stadium with all those empty seats, not a word from the commissioner. Not a lamentation that by the time the balloon payments on the stadium hit, Miami taxpayers will owe more than $2.4 billion. Not a sign that he intends to protect the sport from the cretins within. And not a chance, unless public outrage on the matter changes his thinking, that he’ll use his best-interests-of-baseball clause to keep Jeffrey Loria and David Samson from murdering another baseball market.

This is not some Roswell, black-helicopter, second-shooter conspiracy. This is very real. This is three rich, powerful men getting together and using their influence and business acumen to affect dealings that hurt the sport and help their bank balances. This is an insult to those who care about baseball. And we know this all because this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

This story of con artistry and corporate crime is evil enough. The problem with Loria is that he’s a repeat offender. Before South Florida knew his name, Loria bought and then destroyed the Montreal Expos. People forget today that Montreal was once a jewel of a baseball town, where Jackie Robinson first broke the color line as a minor leaguer. It was also the team of Hall of Fame–caliber players like Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Gary Carter. Loria bought the team in 1999 and his first act was to say that he would rebuild the franchise and bring a championship to Montreal. His second act was to say that the city needed to build a new stadium or “we cannot stay here.” After enraging the locals, Loria proceeded to gut the team of talent until fans bitterly turned away from the dispirited, cellar-dwelling franchise. Then in one of the most bizarre ownership shell games in history, Loria sold the Expos to Major League Baseball (a trust of the other twenty-nine owners); he was also given a $38.5 million interest-free loan by the league, and in return bought the Florida Marlins. This cleared a path for Marlins owner John Henry to then purchase the Boston Red Sox.

The Marlins, playing in a publicly funded playground for less than one year, just shipped away almost all of their stars in what feels like an act of betrayal, figuring there are cheaper ways to finish in last place. They run their business with little regard for customers or public relations or decency. The players/employees are cattle. The customers are suckers. And the checks keep cashing, now more than ever.

That might be the most galling thing about this transaction. Buffoon owner Jeffrey Loria profitsfrom being meddlesome, greedy, incompetent and despicable. He is being rewarded once you get past all the angry noise, with an ATM we helped him build in Little Havana. Loria, who is George Steinbrenner without the money, has never been worth more than he is worth today … because tax dollars and that new ballpark increased the value of his team so much, a team that now doesn’t have that many expenses.

Jonah Keri crunches the numbers:

While the Marlins waited for their $2.4 billion gift to arrive, they kept reminding us that they were losing money, that only the windfall associated with a new park could save them. This was, of course, not true. Baseball’s profits were growing, and with them shared revenue; a team like the Marlins could expect to rake in about $70 million to $80 million before it ever sold a single ticket, thanks to pooled national revenue as well as revenue sharing, in which richer teams subsidize poorer teams forced to toil in tiny metro areas like Miami. Those numbers are about to surge, with a new national TV deal ready to funnel an extra $25 million to every MLB team starting in 2014.

Of course, now that the Marlins have dispensed with the pretense of fielding a competitive major league team for next year, we’re supposed to believe that Loria’s reckoning is coming. If fans have no faith in what you’re trying to do, they’ll surely stay away in droves. For all the snark over a lack of fan base, the Marlins did draw 2.2 million to their new park this year. If attendance drops something like 30 or 40 percent, that could cost the team about $30 million in 2013. That sounds terrible. Until you remember that the Marlins spent $118 million in payroll this past season. They’ll probably spend less than half of that next year. Do the math. They’re going to come out way ahead.

In the end, Loria and Samson will get what they deserve. There will be a precipitous downfall for them at some point. The only thing greater will be the schadenfreude.

UPDATE: 

 


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