The relationship between a professional sports team and its fans is a special one. I come from a city where the fans take their sports extremely seriously, and ownership is held responsible for every decision, no matter how minor. Even in other, less fanatical cities, though, the people who own sports teams have a responsibility to give an honest attempt to field a winning team. I know it’s a business, and ultimately an owner only really needs to try to make money, but I feel that there is an implied contract with the fans that takes it well beyond that. In a league like Major League Baseball, there is no salary cap and also no minimum payroll. There are numerous teams in the league who spend a small fraction of what the big spenders lay out for their rosters. It’s fun to write about those high-payroll teams that fail and the penny-pinchers who succeed, but if you look at the big picture, there is a clear correlation between the amount of money spent and the relative success of the team. One owner who clearly cares nothing for that contract with the fans is Jeffrey Loria, the owner of the Miami Marlins. What he is doing to his team right now is shameful and the whole league should be embarrassed to have him be a part of it. On Tuesday, the Marlins made a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that involved most of the team’s big-money players. They got very little in return.
The Marlins have had a good amount of success in South Florida over the team’s short history, but it has never managed to (or even tried to) sustain that success. After each of its two World Series titles, one in 1997 and one in 2003, the team dumped much of its salary base in trades for younger, cheaper players. A championship buys you a certain amount of goodwill and leeway, though, so even if the fans were upset about the breakup of the team, at least they had recently experienced the ultimate success. After the second title, those fans had to realize that maybe the people running the show knew what they were doing, and they should be patient with the decisions being made. Fans were pretty scarce down there, though, even during the good times. The team played in an awful stadium which was ill-suited for baseball, and the average attendance at home games was pitiful. Still, owner Jeffrey Loria managed to swindle the local government into funding 80% of the cost of a brand new stadium, saying that would allow the team to be competitive in today’s market. Things started well, as the Marlins spent a lot of money to acquire a bunch of good players to open the new stadium back in April. With the cash from the new building, the team would have the ability to become one of the haves in the league, and a decent level of success on the field would allow them to sustain that. Unfortunately, there was very little of that success this season. The Marlins finished in last place in the National League East, nearly 30 games out of first place. What happened next, though, was certainly unexpected. The salary dump that happened this week is far more inexcusable than the earlier ones. There was no title to lean on this time, and there is the little matter of the hundreds of millions of dollars that the taxpayers essentially gave Loria to build his stadium. Fielding a team with a tiny payroll in your fancy new stadium is ridiculous. There is no way the fans will come out and support this team next year, which means the team heads back into the same downward spiral it was in before the new park. The difference is that Loria is a lot richer now.
The worst part about this is that it is not the first time that Loria has scammed baseball fans and the league. He used to be the owner of the woeful Montreal Expos, and he enriched himself at the expense of the league and the fans that time too. It is absolutely outrageous that the same man has been given a chance to do this again. The league has responsibility to put a stop to this. I hope league commissioner Bud Selig find some backbone and gets involved here, but I am not optimistic, as it sure looks like he was complicit in what Loria did with the Expos back in 2002. For the sake of the league’s integrity, I hope he comes up bigger this time.
Bad sports, continued:
2) Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, married Jerramy Stevens, a former NFL tight end on Tuesday. The story is a weird one, however, as Stevens was arrested on Monday night, just before the wedding, on charges of domestic violence against Solo. For her sake, I hope the reporting of the story is inaccurate.
3) The Baylor women’s basketball team saw its 42-game winning streak come to an end on Friday in a loss to number four Stanford. Brittney Griner, the dominant center for the Bears, missed a shot at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
4) Last week, Tony Corrente, an NFL referee, forgot that his microphone was still on when he let some colorful language fly during the Indianapolis-Miami game he was officiating. On Friday, the league fined him a full game check. That seems like a pretty big penalty for a couple of words.
5) NFL Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka, who also coached the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory in 1985, suffered a stroke on Friday. His prognosis for a full recovery is good.
6) Stephanie McCaffrey, a soccer player for Boston College, was suspended this week after she tweeted a bunch of comments and tasteless jokes about the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Her team was about to play Penn State, and I guess that was her idea of comedy.
7) A fan of the Buffalo Bills was kicked out of the team’s Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins for being drunk. David Gerken was later found dead in a small creek near the stadium.
8) In a move that is certain to help out the NHL’s labor situation, Ian White, a defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, referred to league commissioner Gary Bettman as “an idiot.” Perfect.
1) Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace made one of the craziest, most amazing catches I have ever seen on Monday Night Football against the Chiefs this week. Check out the video. Ridiculous.
2) Derrick Henry, a high school football running back from Florida who is committed to play college ball at Alabama, broke the all-time career rushing record for a high school player on Friday, as his silly 482-yard performance put him at 11,610 career yards. Ken Hall held the previous record for the past 60 years.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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