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Marlins just can't win in S. Florida


PBMarlin
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It's nice to see Dan step up and show support for the Marlins FO....

 

Marlins just can't win in S. Florida

 

DAN LE BATARD

 

dlebatard@herald.com

 

David Samson, president of the Marlins, was asked Tuesday if he expects his franchise to be in South Florida in a few years.

 

''No,'' he said.

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the single most crushing syllable in the history of South Florida sports.

 

This isn't bully blustering. It isn't an empty threat. Nor is it holding a community hostage.

 

It is merely the simple truth, cold and awful.

 

If we don't build this champion franchise a stadium soon, we will lose this champion franchise to a community that will.

 

And, rest assured, cities throughout America will happily form Hurricane Wilma gas lines for the right to build these rich men a stadium we haven't produced.

 

You are allowed to be cynical, and you are allowed to oppose millionaires asking for taxpayer dollars, and you are allowed to distrust owners with their hands out. You are also allowed to be dismayed by our indifferent and dysfunctional sports town and depressed by the fact there is no precedent for a major American city rejecting winners the way we've rejected these Marlins.

 

But let's at least agree on this:

 

Baseball has zero future here the way it is.

 

That is not an opinion. It is a fact. And we didn't need a third ownership group to remind us of it after the first two did. Wayne Huizenga had everything the new owners don't -- an excess of money, a fan base, a stadium he owned -- and he still had to sell off all his parts before the confetti hit the floor on the 1997 championship parade. Nobody believed Huizenga because rich men lie and file it under either ''business'' or ''creative accounting.'' But history has proven him, per usual, ahead of the game. If Huizenga, one of the world's wealthiest men, can't make baseball's finances work without public-money help, no one can.

 

Again, unlike these owners, Huizenga owned the stadium. Unlike these owners, he obviously didn't have an unfavorable lease. Unlike these owners, he had three million fans coming to his games. And, unlike these owners, he could afford to bleed losses. And he had to dismantle a champion, too.

 

A SIMPLE CHOICE

 

So, knives to our throat, we either build a stadium or let the Marlins leave.

 

The choice is that simple, and that complicated.

 

And cities from Portland to Las Vegas to Charlotte are salivating at the prospect of getting Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.

 

They'll pay millions upon millions to have our discards.

 

Thirty million. That's what Samson said was the gulf between Marlins ownership and the city of Miami when the stadium deal was closest to getting done. That is staggering, unthinkable and on the cusp of incompetent. Thirty million dollars is toll-booth change in sports. Thirty million won't buy you half of Chan Ho Park. And its going to make us go from major to minor league? Huzienga has $30 million on his SunPass.

 

Samson sounded broken Tuesday. Asked if next year's Marlins were going to be Willis, Cabrera and a bunch of nobodies, he said that was possible. So, in coming weeks of depression, all or most of the Marlins' millionaires likely will be sent away. Carlos Delgado has a right to feel betrayed by that, as does new manager Joe Girardi. But owner Jeff Loria and Samson have a right to run their business in a more intelligent and profitable manner than they have until now while optimistically waiting as South Florida failed them.

 

IT'S ONLY BUSINESS

 

You say this is a business and that Loria knew the risks? OK, fine. But what if he had treated it like a business, had a $20 million payroll and simply squeezed profit out of a last-place team? You would have been OK with that? Loria's mistake was trusting that South Florida would be like every other market in the history of sports and support a winner.

 

But South Florida has spoken. We don't care enough. That much couldn't be clearer. We love to make excuses, saying things like, ''But there's so much to do in South Florida.'' As if, in the words of 790 The Ticket's Boog Sciambi, all of us are out wind-surfing all night. But, rain or sweat, expensive parking or football stadium, baseball people who care overcome obstacles for winners in every other North American city. What an awful way for South Florida to be unique.

 

No team in our brief sports history has deserved more support and gotten less.

 

If you care about sports in this city, there haven't been a lot of days more depressing than this one.

 

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