The Florida Marlins Are Driving Me Nuts

December 7, 2007 at 3:54 pm 1 comment

(Note: Today’s entry is link-heavy.)

It is really hard to be a fan of the Florida Marlins.

They have a lot of likable players – Hanley Ramierez, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Willington, Dan Uggla, Scott Olsen, and Josh Johnson, to name a few. Their players play hard and respect the game. They put up great numbers and all seem to have the tools for the beginnings of what could be long and productive careers.

For an expansion team, they don’t go crazy with the uniforms. With the recent proclivity for new and “excitinguniform changes, the Marlins have a fairly traditional presentation. Even their alternate jersey is tolerable. (That is, for everyone not playing baseball in a black shirt in the Miami sun…)

They’ve won more World Series championships in the new millennium than the Cubs, Yankees, Reds, Giants, Dodgers, and Cardinals combined!

What makes it hard to be a fan is that after every World Series victory (or sign of rising salaries), ownership decides to start over. After the 1997 and 2003 victories, star players were traded away for promising, but inexperienced players, looking to keep costs down while still giving hope for the future. With that said, they were always able to keep a star or two around, and keep the present relevant.

On December 12, 2007, the Marlins traded away their best player, everyday third baseman Miguel Cabrera, and their best pitcher, Dontrelle Willis. In return, they received six minor leaguers, two of which are”can’t miss” prospects. (For more on “can’t miss” prospects, please see “Brien Taylor.”)

Why would the ownership do this? Why continually tear apart teams that are proven winners?

It all has to do with the Marlins demand that the city of Miami finance a new stadium.

If you’re not 100% caught up on the Marlins’ current stadium situation, the team is playing in Dolphins Stadium, a converted football facility. They barely sell any seats, and when they do, it is usually because the Chicago Cubs or New York Yankees are in town. Needless to say, things could be better.

Florida Marlins General Manager, Larry Beinfest:

“Our ability to carry those two players [Cabrera and Willis] through arbitration and into free agency is prohibitive in our current revenue structure,” Beinfest said. “We had a major meeting with ownership and it was not a fun meeting. … The reality is that we need a new venue and changes in our revenue structure.” (SportsBusinessDaily.com, member-protected area so no link)

Herein lies the reason why it is near impossible to root for the Marlins (a hint for management – a possible reason why no one is showing up to the games): The owners want to build a stadium with public money. Since they have not gotten the money, they declare that the city is not supportive of the team. In doing so, they are calling out the residents of the city to fund a project that will cost over $500 million. (In a way, they have created their own truth. The city may not financially support the franchise, but saying it over and over again compounds the issue. The government is an extension of the people, and verbal abuse towards the government seems petty and juvenile.)

The biggest problem I see in this issue is that the Marlins (and, let’s face it, most professional sports franchises) are asking that taxpayers foot the bill for something that many of those same taxpayers will never use. Even the team’s arguments for additional financial gains in the real estate and the economy are trending towards short-term and not long-term gains.

It is not the city’s fault if a team cannot finance its own stadium.

I understand that a stadium is expensive but there are owners who have financed their own stadiums with sound investments and reasonable payment plans. They are the franchises that have earned the trust of their customers by maintaining a product over the long-haul.

It sounds simple, but in order to compete, you must compete. That is, in order to establish yourself as a franchise (or buisiness, or lemonade stand) that belongs in the elite, ownership must dedicate itself to making the product as good it can be and earning its place.

The Florida Marlins have embraced a plan that consists of transition, uncertainty, and high-risk, without a viable exit strategy. Ownership must accept the fact that businesses have to spend money in order to make money. Success is earned, not bestowed.

(Modern example: The UFC. Read their league’s history on Entrepaneur.com, USA Today 2005 feature on how they’ve managed to begin making money, and a 2006 PPV revenue announcement.)

(Update: On December 14, 2007, the city of Miami approved a new stadium, but that doesn’t change anything. I still stand by everything written above. An organization is ultimately responsible for its own successes and failures. All this raises another issue – why did the Marlins go to Miami in the first place? The team was formed in 1993 and only now is getting a stadium. Something is amiss here…)

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jorge Costales  |  April 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I’m a Marlins fan and a critic of their management for a different reason. In trying to get a stadium built with public monies – they finally have appeared to succeed – they are like many other owners across various sports. So it’s hard to criticize them for attempting a strategy which is not illegal and repeatedly employed.

    Where they are abusive is in pocketing Revenue Sharing dollars and claiming that they are not profitable. I decided to document it – hope you find it useful.

    Reply

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