jonnylons Posted September 28, 2003 Share Posted September 28, 2003 Here is the article in the Herald about Loria. It portrays him in a favorable light. The question I have is, why was this only done just recently? Why did the Herald wait until now to give a positive story about the 'new' Marlins' owner? Hats off to hands-on boss Florida Marlins owner rubs elbows and chats with his players, who praise his avid interest, approachability and generosity. BY CLARK SPENCER [email protected] AP PHOTO PROUD MOMENT: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, right, hugs Jeff Conine after Florida beat the New York Mets 4-3 on Friday night to clinch a wild-card berth. 'It's a great feeling,' Loria said. 'We're all getting excited together.' He's got the best seat in the house, a front-row box adjacent to the Marlins dugout. His choice location offers him a close-up view of the baseball action on the diamond while, with a right swivel of his head, enabling him to keep apprised of what's happening on the bench. From time to time, though, Jeffrey Loria stands and turns and gazes around at the stands inside cavernous Pro Player Stadium. He's accustomed to seeing the big glob of empty orange seats that prevailed during his first season-and-a-half as owner of the club. But in the past few months -- as the Marlins surged toward the franchise's first postseason berth in six years, renewing interest in the team that was rumored for contraction as recently as two years ago -- he's discovered something new: people. ''The biggest thrill that I get -- and it happened a couple of days ago and it's been happening for a while -- is when I stand and look around and see the faces of the kids,'' Loria said. ``It's a great feeling. We're all getting excited together, and I get a big thrill out of that.'' Loria -- the franchise's third owner -- is far more visible than either of his two predecessors and more hands-on than either Wayne Huizenga or John Henry, as well. He's taken every one of the team's road trips since July, and frequents the clubhouse to rub elbows and chat with his players. ''He wants to know the game,'' said Marlins utility infielder Andy Fox. ``He wants to learn the game. And most of all, he wants to win.'' Said pitcher Josh Beckett: ``He's in the clubhouse, he hangs out, and he's approachable.'' And, players say, he's generous. Even though the Marlins' $50 million payroll is one of the lowest in baseball, a direct derivative of the team's small season-ticket base, Loria has reached into his pockets when players have least expected it, like when he took the entire team out to dinner at Morton's in San Francisco and again on that same trip when he stood up on the team's charter and told players he planned to make a quick stopover on their way to Pittsburgh: in Las Vegas. ''I think the one thing that stunned us was in the middle of that tough trip and we stop off in Vegas,'' Fox said. 'We got on that plane, and here we were 1-6 on the trip, and he gets up and says, `I know it's been a rough road trip, but we're going to stop in Vegas and have some fun.' When you have someone that does stuff like that, you try to repay him and you try to win and make the effort.'' IMAGE DIFFICULTY And, yet, the public image of Loria hasn't always been favorable, especially when he first gained control of the team in 2001 and skeptics abounded. He remains scorned in Montreal, where he owned the Expos for two seasons before selling off the struggling franchise to Major League Baseball, then using the proceeds from that sale to buy the Marlins from John Henry. (Henry, in turn, bought the Boston Red Sox.) Loria was regarded as tight-fisted, a perception that seemed to gather evidence almost from the moment he took over the Marlins. The franchise cut corners, eliminating the use of a radar gun to register pitches on road trips, and firing the original Billy the Marlin mascot for a lower-paid version who does other work for the team besides wear the familiar costume. One of the first trades made by the Marlins under Loria's new regime was the deal that sent high-priced pitchers Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca to the Cubs for Julian Tavarez and a handful of minor-league prospects. One of those turned out to be pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who has emerged into a star and a Rookie of the Year candidate. Loria said the early criticisms didn't come as any surprise to him, in large part because he knew the troubled club he was buying had turned off a community angered by the dismantling of the 1997 World Series team and numbed from the constant pleas for public financing to help build a new ballpark. Loria was attacked by sports pundits on air and in print before he hardly set foot in the door. He said he ignored it all. ''I can either spend my time listening to all of that, or get everyone together and motivate this organization to work toward what we wanted to do, which was to guarantee the long-term success of this franchise,'' he said. ``I think the new kid on the block always has to prove himself. I'm sure the fans had an unpleasant situation, disenchanted with what had gone on here. We had nothing to do with that, but we knew we had a job to do.'' BUILDING A WINNER Loria said his goal was to build a winner, knowing that would bring back fans. Attendance dropped to an all-time franchise low last season but has increased more than 40 percent this year. Even though the Marlins have drawn more than 1.2 million fans this season, they will still finish the season ahead of only the orphaned Expos and cross-state Tampa Bay Devil Rays. ''We're fine with these numbers,'' Loria said, noting the improvement over last season. ``We are where we are until the horizon presents a new vista for us.'' But Loria refuses to discuss any plans to seek public financing support for a new stadium. Nor does he address next season's player payroll, which would range around $90 million -- up from this season's $50 million -- simply to keep the current team intact. He says only that he's committed to ensuring the team's future in South Florida and trying to field winning teams. ''I don't really want to talk about payroll,'' he said. ``We don't know what we're going to do. We haven't discussed it. What we are focused on is getting to California [to face the Giants in the playoffs]. That's our first step. I never like to have my focus interrupted, because otherwise it takes away from the fun.'' APPROVING KEY DEALS Loria approved the money to sign free agent Ivan Rodriguez in the offseason, gave the go-ahead to trade for reliever Ugueth Urbina and didn't hesitate one second to go after Jeff Conine when All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell went down with an injury. He even approved the firing of Jeff Torborg in May even though the former manager was his personal friend. ''We're still friends,'' said Loria, adding he remains in regular contact with Torborg. ``He's excited for the team. It [the firing] was difficult, but it was necessary because I had to put the organization, the team and the franchise above my personal friendship. The community deserves to see this team do better, and they have. [New manager Jack McKeon] has done a spectacular job of motivating everyone, and that's one of the ingredients we felt was missing early on when we made the change.'' Loria said he's confident South Florida can support Major League Baseball. ''I'm here because I want to be here,'' Loria said. ``We're trying to make a major-league franchise here something special. Why should it not have a major-league team?'' Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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