Jeff Passan: Marlins Running Con Job

In my last literary effort, I wondered if Marlins fans, already failing to fill their new ballpark with any frequency, will stick around for yet another rebuilding effort.

Well, Jeff Passan seems to figure that line of questioning is beyond the point. It's not about the fans. It's about the two men who run the franchise, owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson. According to Passan, Loria and Samson have been running a con:

It's little things. Telling people this team will be relevant toward the end of the season and setting it aflame in July. Spending years talking about how the season-ticket base was 5,000 when it was only 2,000. Lies. Small lies that build up into a mountain of distrust, anger and resentment.

Like Samson's assertion to reporters that one of the reasons for their disappointing attendance at Marlins Park was because of the Miami Heat's playoff run. It's a classic Samson trick: Say something that sounds like it makes sense, let the public believe it and skate by with an excuse that's better explained by, you know, the fact that fans may well be nauseated by owners whose idea of a great ballpark attraction is a $3 million acid trip of a home-run feature in center field.

You should read the whole thing, if only because fewer writers are more entertaining when worked up than Jeff Passan when he's worked up. Let's just say Jeff's probably not going to be on Loria's Christmas-card list this year.

The thing is, I can't say that he's wrong. I just don't know if Loria's so much worse than half the other owners out there. Most of them con their way into new (or renovated) ballparks, or at least try. Most of them espouse the wonders of naked capitalism, except when it comes to their own businesses. Most of them buy their teams because they ran out of other things to buy.

Loria, I think, is just more obvious about all these things. Which is problematic, because when you're so obviously trying to con the locals, eventually they'll get disgusted and stop showing up. It happened to Charlie Finley, first in Kansas City and later in Oakland. It happened to Frank and Jamie McCourt. And it's going to happen to Jeffrey Loria.

The good news is that Loria won't own the team forever. Eventually, someone will buy the Marlins, rip out that monstrosity beyond center field, say the right things in public, and the club might have a fighting chance for a nice run.

In 1997, the Marlins spent a lot of money, and they won the World Series. In the process, they drew more than 2.7 million paying customers, fifth most in the National League. The fans are there. They just need to be sweet-talked a little. And Jeffrey Loria probably isn't the man for that job. Not any more.

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