The Miami Herald Greg Cote column [The Miami Herald]
(Miami Herald (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 25--Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria recently hired a new public-relations firm, a hopeful sign of awareness that his image has fallen to squalid disrepair and that he has dragged the team's brand down with him. I pity the PR firm's Herculean challenge. Perhaps not since Attila the Hun plundered the Balkans in the Fifth Century has a man needed a public makeover more.
I can only hope the planned re-imaging of Loria did not mean to commence with that "Letter To Our Fans" that appeared Sunday in The Miami Herald and other media outlets -- a letter that begged a tone of conciliation but was combative instead. It was a spectacularly misguided shirking of responsibility that only left Marlins fans shaking heads at this man who evidently either just doesn't get it or just doesn't give a [bleep].
Here is an open letter back to Loria, and I'll keep mine brief. Three paragraphs:
Dear Mr. Loria:
You do not suffer from unfair media coverage or fan misconceptions; you suffer from your own actions. Get that straight. You have been a meddling, impatient, erratic, under-spending owner whose stunning personal unpopularity has ruined much of the goodwill of the new ballpark and gutted support for the team.
You said and in all ways implied the new park would mean significantly bigger, competitive player payrolls. It was on that fundamental assurance and de facto promise that political and public support for the stadium was generated. Now, after one season of living up to your word, you have betrayed the public trust by reverting to your penurious ways. You call it an imperative for homegrown talent; that's code for young guys on the cheap. It's as if you played us all for fools. You come off like a plain liar.
The roster moves you called "bold" in fact devastated and infuriated so many fans who want to support the team but cannot bring themselves to support you personally. The failed mea culpa of that full-page ad would not have been necessary had you kept your word by keeping the players worth having (think Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson) and added, not subtracted, other talent. Your actions -- your latest massacre of the payroll, and whether you are even willing to spend what it takes to keep Giancarlo Stanton -- always speak for you, and of you, far more accurately than your own words.
STANTON'S MARLINS FUTURE IN DOUBT
I found it interesting the faces of no Marlins players were seen in the photos that framed Loria's full-page advertisement. That could be because Loria's latest purge has rendered the club all but faceless. The only face-of-the-franchise caliber player who remains is the outfielder and slugger Stanton, but his long-term future here is in great doubt largely because of the owner.
The perception is that Stanton will bolt for saner baseball pastures the moment his contract hits free agency. Only a windfall offer he couldn't refuse might keep Stanton, but Loria's willingness to spend like that -- to do something to win back the favor of fans -- is beyond doubtful.
I'm not sure that Loria has any idea (or maybe just no concern) over how unpopular he is with locals. You'd think a poll in which he barely beat out Fidel Castro might have been a clue. More evidence comes in my latest blog poll. I asked readers (you may still vote online) if they wished Loria would sell the Marlins -- yes or no. "Yes" was running at 98.1 percent when last I checked.
Do you know how difficult it is to get that kind of consensus on anything in an Internet poll I could ask readers if they preferred happiness or sadness and not get that kind of landslide.
A BIG FENCE TO MEND
Loria has so alienated this franchise's fan base the damage is broad and deep, and the mending won't start with a "Letter To Our Fans."
The mending must start with an extraordinary effort to re-sign Stanton long-term. It must start with Loria returning the payroll to credible major-league standards and keeping it there. It must start with this owner keeping the promises on which all that public money built him his new palace.
If not, then the only thing guaranteed to be lower than the Marlins player payroll and attendance will continue to be the public regard in which Jeffrey Loria is held.
This man might be blind to how hated he is by the very people he would call "fans," or maybe he just doesn't care.
In either case, baseball in Miami suffers along with beleaguered, pushed-around fans while the owner from hell tends his profit margin.
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
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