Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria broke his long silence on Sunday, penning a letter to Marlins fans that ran as ads in the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Sun-Sentinel, and Palm Beach Post. The letter was Loria's first public statement since a few days after the team completed a massive trade with the Toronto Blue Jays in November that sent five starters (four of whom are former All-Stars) to Canada for a package of prospects.
Loria defended the trade, citing the Marlins 69-93 record in 2012 and the improvement to the team's minor league pipeline it brought. He also took a hard swing at the media, writing "many of the things being said about us are simply not true."
For an owner trying to win back the trust of his team's fanbase, Loria was very combative in his letter. Besides decrying the "vicious cycle of negativity" that surrounded the team after the Toronto trade, Loria brought up the Marlins' 2003 World Series run as proof that he and his management team can build a winner.
"We know how to build a winning team, and have every intention of doing so again," Loria wrote. What he did not mention was that a majority of the starters on that team were acquired by former general manager Dave Dombrowski under prior owners John Henry and Wayne Huizenga.
"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 added. Of course, the same front office who devised this plan was convinced last year's team of free agent acquisitions was playoff-caliber, so Marlins fans likely won't be willing to give Loria the benefit of the doubt on this point.
Left unsaid was the status of Giancarlo Stanton, one of the best young hitters in baseball who was understandably upset when half his teammates were shipped out of Miami last fall. Stanton will not become another free agent for four more seasons, but Marlins fans are already giving up hope that he will accept a contract extension if the club offers him one in the coming years.
More unnerving to Marlins fans are Loria's comments about the team's finances. He shot down the notion that the Marlins new stadium in Little Havana was a mistake that cost taxpayers money. He first said the public money used to partially finance stadium construction came from hotel taxes, "the burden of which is incurred by tourists who are visiting our city, NOT the resident taxpayers."
This is true, but ignores the fact that the money could have also been used for any number of projects that did not involve helping a rich sports owner build a stadium for a team few people in South Florida support any more.
He also points out that the team "agreed to contribute $161.2 million toward the ballpark," but neglects to mention the local governments' share of financing, which far exceeds $161.2 billion (it's actually over $500 million, not including the steep financing costs of the bonds issued to raise funds).
"The fact is," Loria writes "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."
Loria defended the fire sale once more, saying it is not "sound business sense to witness an expensive roster with a terrible record and sit idly by doing nothing." He also promised the team would be more communicative moving forward, writing, "we will keep you abreast of our plan, rationale and motivations."
But the fact that Loria mentions that he is committed to winning three separate times in the letter underscores Marlins fans' distrust of him. It will take more than an apology letter (one that does not even include the words "I'm sorry") to win back the fans.