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Ozzie’s Comments Make Long Odds of Miami Baseball Even Longer

By Mike Silva ~ April 11th, 2012. Filed under: MLB News.

Ozzie Guillen makes stupid and inappropriate statements. I don’t think there is any way to sugarcoat his behavior over the course of his managerial career. He’s publically supported Cuban dictator Fidel Castro before his recent comments. In addition, he’s used homophobic slurs against a Chicago reporter, spoken out against Arizona’s immigration laws, and spurned a visit to the White House in exchange for being honored by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Many of those actions are personal political beliefs that he has a right to express. None of it has been positive for the public perception of his previous employer, the Chicago White Sox. His latest fiasco offended a great deal of Cuban-Americans, and might be disastrous for his current team – the Miami Marlins- who are trying to build a new image in the South Florida community.

Despite the offseason spending spree, the Marlins are not going to be able to sustain star players and big payrolls even in the best case scenario. Forbes ranked them 21st in their recent valuation of all 30 MLB teams. The $450 million estimation is a 25% bump, but still puts them in the bottom third of the league. They go from the payroll slums to living in the same neighborhood as Milwaukee, Arizona and Cincinnati; all teams that can’t afford to make mistakes or invest in multiple franchise-type players. Those types of teams know its bad business to overpay complementary stars such as Jose Reyes Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, perhaps the worst signing this offseason.

In 1999, despite coming off a playoff appearance and sporting the best player in baseball, the San Francisco Giants drew a little over 2 million fans to Candlestick Park, an average of 25,679 per game. Their payroll that season was in the middle-of-the-pack at $46 million. The following year they moved into Pac Bell Park (now called AT&T), drew 3.3 million fans, and their payroll was a mere $8 million more at $53 million. Since their move into the new ballpark, the Giants have gone from an endangered species in San Francisco to one of the healthiest attendance draws in the league. They have been in the top 10 in attendance every year except one (2008). They also have been as high as number two outdrawing the Mets and Yankees in the process. Despite that, it took a World Series and nightly sellouts for the Giants to exceed $100 million dollars in payroll- and that just happened last season.

The Marlins drew 3 million fans one time in their history, which was in their inaugural season of 1993. They have consistently sported payrolls below $20 million, and historically struggle to draw a shade over a million fans. In 2011, they had a payroll of $58 million, their highest since they were at $60 million after signing Carlos Delgado in 2005. This season their payroll is $101 million with Reyes, Buehrle and Bell comprising about a quarter of that total. In the next three seasons, each of those players’ salaries will balloon to the point that Reyes and Buerhle will be making $20 million+ dollars each when stars such as Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison are arbitration eligible, and Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson hit free agency.

So what is the Marlins payroll threshold? Darren Rovell of CNBC’s Sportsbiz tweeted during the Winter Meetings ”if the Marlins payroll goes north of $105 million,” he’s pretty confident “they will lose money.” If that figure is accurate, the spending spree of this past offseason will result in them losing many or all of their core stars.

If the Giants are a best case scenario for the Marlins, look at their payroll growth since the opening of AT&T Park:

2011: $118,198,333
2010: $ 96,277,833
2009: $ 82,616,450
2008: $ 76,594,500
2007: $ 90,219,056
2006: $ 90,056,419
2005: $ 90,199,500
2004: $ 82,019,166
2003: $ 82,852,167
2002: $ 78,299,835
2001: $ 63,280,167
2000: $ 53,541,000

Is there reason to be hopeful for a baseball revival in South Beach? The new stadium is downtown in Little Havana. In talking to individuals from the area it’s about an hour or so from a surrounding area like Boca Raton. It’s also not been described as the safest neighborhood, either. The capacity of the new park is 37,442 (third smallest in baseball), so for them to reach the 3 million mark in attendance they would need to sell out every ballgame. We all know that isn’t going to happen.

That’s where Ozzie Guillen comes in. If you owned a club with such little margin for error, how would you feel when your manager offended a huge portion of your constituents? Forgot first amendment rights or the hypocrisy of MLB, who supported an exhibition game between the Orioles and Castro’s national team a decade ago. How are you going to engage a fan base that has a sour taste in its mouth just five minutes after a new era of baseball began?

Reality is such that Miami will be living in the same middle-market payroll that teams like St. Louis, San Francisco, and Atlanta. That is in best case scenario if they have a competitive team and draw consistently each night. Jeffrey Loria has proven to be unwilling to invest profits back into the team by his behavior over the past decade. Don’t be fooled by the recent splurge, the Marlins spent money on attainable B-level free agents that didn’t have the luxury of any big market whale to leverage against them. If the team fails, then the stands might look just as empty as it was in that old football stadium they use to call home. It just might be prettier thanks to the art deco surroundings.

Those empty seats means Johnson, Stanton and Ramirez probably fly the coop. It could mean another one of the Marlins infamous fire sales. They have been good at that throughout their history. Their nearly 20 years in MLB resemble more of a tech stock pump and dump, then a baseball team.

When that scenario happens how will that hiring of the bombastic Guillen look then?

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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13 Responses to Ozzie’s Comments Make Long Odds of Miami Baseball Even Longer

  1. Daler

    Ur biases kill u Mike

  2. Mike Silva

    Where in the facts that I stated is there bias?

  3. Chuck

    Do you honestly believe a Latino manager would help the Marlins at the box office?

    You’re worried about making money, you build a 50,000 seat stadium in an area where the crime rate isn’t the highest in a city which already has a high crime rate and whose residents can actually afford to go.

    Or, WANT to go.

    Whether or not you agree/like what Guillen said, the bottom line is it won’t have anything to do with Mike Stanton signing an extension or losing the latino fan base.

  4. Brien Jackson

    This has been a truly surreal controversy, as one of the only things I care less about than the most recent stupid thing Ozzie said is what the heirs of supporters of the Batista regime think about Cuban politics.

  5. Chuck

    Yeah, stick to writing about Rafael Soriano’s fingernails.

  6. kjs

    Just some extra food for thought (because I’m so tired of everything in sports being right-wing pabulum):


  7. Stu B

    Good reference, kjs, although I’m not certain that being against Castro is a right-wing position.

  8. tnt

    if only castro could have thrown a curve ball…

  9. Ed Torres

    Move the team to Brooklyn, change the name to the “Atlantics” and lets start another Golden Age of Baseball!

  10. Stu B

    That could never happen, Ed.

  11. Ed Torres

    Why not Stu? Why not? Brooklyn is a city of 2.5 million people, with plenty of access to public transportation, and a richer history of baseball than just about any City in the world.

  12. Stu B

    Simple. The Mets have territorial rights and would never allow it.

  13. Ed Torres

    Is that because of baseball’s exemption to anti-trust laws?

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