Let’s take a trip back to November and December of last year. The Miami Marlins were making moves left and right.
They went after Albert Pujols.
They signed Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell to enormous contracts.
They even plucked Ozzie Guillen from the Chicago White Sox to manage their new-look, star-studded roster.
Now though, barely more than half a season later, the Marlins are in full-fledged fire sale mode.
They’ve already traded key pieces like Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. Even one-time face of the franchise Hanley Ramirez was dealt.
And word is that they are looking to deal Opening Day starter and former All Star Josh Johnson before the July 31st trade deadline.
How did this all change so quickly?
Back in the off-season, the Marlins looked to have their eyes on the prize. With a new stadium, a new look, and a new name (from “Florida” to “Miami”), the Marlins put all their poker chips on the table and sent the message loud and clear that this was their time.
However, this rapid transformation into sellers seemed bound to happen.
Miami’s owner, Jeffrey Loria, may have made a big splash in the eyes of fans, but he made a very simple business mistake: he spent money that he wasn’t sure was going to ever exist.
It was a large gamble.
Yes, owners and business men everywhere take risks like this all of the time that do work out. However, Loria and the Marlins needed to do some more research and thinking before deciding that revenue from a new stadium would automatically support commitments of over $100 million made to new players this off-season.
There’s no mystery that the Marlins organization has never been able to put fans in the stands on a consistent basis. For the most part, they have been exceptionally bad at it.
Since 2001, the Marlins have never finished in the top half of the league in attendance, and the only year they were even close was the year after they won the World Series.
Even this year, the Marlins are just 15th in attendance, which is very low for a team in their first year of a brand new ballpark.
This isn’t surprising when you take a look at the other major professional sports teams in the state.
It’s well documented that the state’s other baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays, never have had good attendance.
Florida’s three NFL teams – the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – regularly finish in the bottom third of the league in terms of filling their stadiums to capacity, resulting in perpetual threats of blackouts.
In the NBA, it took a new stadium for the Orlando Magic to start regularly selling out games, and Miami Heat fans are notorious for showing up to games late on purpose.
Just by looking at all the evidence, it’s quite obvious that, for whatever reason, Floridians do not care that much about their sports teams.
Considering that, was it really wise for Jeffery Loria to shell out large sums of money with the hopes that this fan base would start showing up?
Why did he think that this fan base, which draws worse than any professional team in the state (in a state that doesn’t draw to begin with), would provide him with the cash flow to pay these guys?
Even with a brand spankin’ new stadium, that doesn’t sound like a wise investment.
Combine that with the fact that the team is underachieving on the field and Loria and the Marlins have no choice but to sell off pieces as an unwise business decision has gone awry much faster than anyone expected.