Jeffrey Loria destroyed baseball in Montreal, and, a decade later, is back up to his old tricks. The dismantling of the Florida Marlins continued earlier today, as the Marlins sent shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Rays for prospect Derek Dietrich, just two weeks after acquiring Escobar in the trade that sent Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Jose Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, the two remaining bigger names on the Marlins, Ricky Nolasco and Giancarlo Stanton, have demanded to be traded, as they have stated that they have no desire to be part of a ballclub that has no intention of competing.
These trades come only one short year after a new ballpark was constructed for the Marlins, which was considered mandatory for the team to compete. More than 80% of the cost of the stadium was paid for with public funds, using bonds to raise the money. When these bonds mature, the expected amount the county will need to pay back may end up being over $2.4Billion. The Marlins signed free agents to usher in the new ballpark, and appeared to make good on their promise to field a competitive team. But in the end, Loria’s greed seems to have won out, as the Marlins have now been strip mined.
While the acquisition of Escobar helps the Rays on the field, and in the lineup, the continued dismantling of the Marlins can only have an adverse affect on the Rays. The Rays have needed a new stadium practically since their inception, and have been struggling to receive permission to have a new ballpark built. They already had one obstacle in place as their lease runs through 2027, and the St. Petersburg city attorney has threatened a lawsuit against any city that engaged the Rays in talks about a new stadium. Now, the Rays must contend with the backlash caused by the actions of the Marlins, which may cause their chances of receiving a much needed ballpark in the area to dwindle further.
Even though the Rays have a decidedly different organizational philosophy, specifically a desire to compete and win, that may not be enough. Those who are not fans of the Rays, nor baseball in general, may look at the lower payroll and just assume that both clubs are the same. That the Rays will get their mostly publicly funded stadium, then sell off any expensive players and pocket the profits. Since Loria has dismantled both the Expos and the Marlins in an attempt to rake in as much profit as possible, this reaction would be entirely expected.
Loria previously ruined baseball in Montreal, forcing the Expos to be taken over by the MLB and eventually relocated to Washington DC. Now, his actions could potentially provide the same result, this time for the state of Florida. And this time, the Tampa Bay Rays would be collateral damage, a team that the rest of the state does not trust due to one person having a greater interest in his checking account balance than in building a winning baseball franchise. As such, the Rays may be forced to relocate, not because they would want to, but because there may be no other viable option for them to get the infrastructure needed to retain their players.
Major League Baseball has what is known as the ‘Best Interests of Baseball’ clause, allowing the commissioner to make unilateral decisions based on what would be good for the sport of baseball. It is time that Bud Selig utilizes this ability to force Jeffrey Loria to sell the Marlins. He has already murdered baseball in one market; and Selig should stop Loria from doing so a second time.