Loria vows better communication with fans
Marlins' owner details intention to share 'plan, rationale and motivations' in letter
VIERA, Fla. -- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, in an open letter to Miami baseball fans, addressed a wide range of topics that the organization has faced since overhauling the high-priced roster it put together a year ago.
The letter was published in full-page advertisements that appeared on Sunday in the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post.
The Marlins have been under intense scrutiny for months after trading away many of their high-profile players. Criticism escalated after the team completed a 12-player trade with the Blue Jays in November. In the deal, Miami sent established regulars Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to Toronto for seven players, including Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis and four touted prospects.
In the letter, titled "Letter to our fans," Loria explained the team's motives for rebuilding the roster, and he clarified reports about the financing of Marlins Park, the team's retractable-roof ballpark that opened in 2012.
In closing, Loria also said from this point forward, the organization will do a better job communicating with its fans.
"It's no secret that last season was not our best -- actually it was one of our worst," the letter began. "In large part, our performance on the field stunk and something needed to be done. As a result of some bold moves, many grabbed hold of our tough yet necessary decision only to unleash a vicious cycle of negativity."
Loria noted that the "buck stops with me."
"I take my share of the blame where it's due," the owner said. "However, many of the things being said about us are simply not true. I've sat by quietly and allowed this to continue. Now it's time for me to respond to our most important constituents, the fans who love the game of baseball."
Loria has not spoken with the South Florida media since the end of last season. This week, he is scheduled to meet twice with the local media. On Monday night, a select group of reporters will speak with Loria at Marlins Park.
On Tuesday, the owner is planning on talking to all media at the team's Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla.
A year ago, the Marlins had a franchise-record $101,628,000 million Opening Day payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, and the team finished 69-93. In the middle of the season, Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez, Gaby Sanchez, Randy Choate and Edward Mujica were traded.
After the season, manager Ozzie Guillen was dismissed, and Heath Bell was dealt to the D-backs. The trade with Toronto prompted the biggest backlash, largely because Buehrle and Reyes were dealt one year after signing multiyear deals.
While Buehrle and Reyes didn't have no-trade clauses, both have since publicly stated that they were led to believe they would not be moved.
In his letter, Loria discussed the motive for the mega-trade.
"The controversial trade we made with the Toronto Blue Jays was approved by Commissioner Bud Selig and has been almost universally celebrated by baseball experts outside of Miami for its value," Loria said. "We hope, with an open mind, our community can reflect on the fact that we had one of the worst records in baseball.
"Acquiring high-profile players just didn't work, and nearly everyone on our team underperformed as compared to their career numbers."
In moving forward, the Marlins are planning to build around homegrown talent.
"Our plan for the year ahead is to leverage our young talent and create a homegrown roster of long-term players who can win," Loria said. "In fact, objective experts have credited us with going from the 28th ranked Minor League system in baseball to the 5th best during this period. Of the Top 100 Minor Leaguers rated by MLB Network, we have six -- tied for the most of any team in the league. We'll evaluate this roster and possibly bring in additional talent based on our assessment of what we need. The very same naysayers who are currently skeptical once attacked us for bringing Pudge Rodriguez to the Marlins in 2003. More than any other, that move contributed to our World Series Championship."
The funding of Marlins Park was also summed up in the letter.
"The ballpark issue has been repeatedly reported incorrectly and there are some very negative accusations being thrown around," the owner said. "It ain't true, folks. Those who have attacked us are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."
Loria states that the majority of the public funding for the building comes from hotel taxes, and not Miami-Dade County resident taxpayers.
"The majority of public funding came from hotel taxes, the burden of which is incurred by tourists who are visiting our city, NOT the resident taxpayers.
"The Marlins organization also agreed to contribute $161.2 million toward the ballpark, plus the cost of the garage complex," Loria said. "In addition, the Marlins receive no operating subsidy from local government funding. The ballpark required that all debt service is paid by existing revenue.
"Furthermore, many are attacking the County's method of financing for its contribution, but the Marlins had nothing at all to do with that. The fact is, with your help, we built Marlins Park, a crown jewel in our beautiful Miami skyline, which has won over twenty design and architecture awards and will help make us a premiere ballclub moving forward."
The new ballpark has increased team revenue, but Loria said in the letter that the team doesn't have "unlimited funds."
"Nor does any baseball team or business," Loria stated in the letter. "Fans didn't turn out last season as much as we'd like, even with the high-profile players the columnists decry us having traded.
"The main ingredient to a successful ball club is putting together a winning team, including a necessary core of young talent. Are we fiscally capable and responsible enough to fill the roster with talented players, invest in the daily demands of running a world-class organization and bring a World Series back to Miami? Absolutely!"
Loria added that he will invest in building a winner.
"But last season wasn't sustainable and we needed to start from scratch quickly to build this team from the ground up," the owner noted.
In moving forward, Loria stressed the importance of communicating with the community.
"An organization is only as good as its connection with the community," Loria said. "We know we can do a better job communicating with our fans. That starts now. From this point forward we can ensure fans and the entire community that we will keep you abreast of our plan, rationale and motivations."