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Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, having broken his long silence with a public letter to fans on Sunday, spoke to Marlins beat reporters at Marlins Park on Monday, making many of the same points he did in his letter.
As part of a three-day public relations blitz, Loria met with the team's beat reporters and local bloggers, trying to put a positive spin on the team's offseason decisions.
Loria stridently pushed back against the characterization of Miami's massive salary-dumping trade with the Toronto Blue Jays last November as a fire sale. "It's not a fire sale," he said. "It's called hit the restart button because it didn't damn work."
"We didn't break up the 1927 Yankees," he added. "We broke up a losing ballclub that was going nowhere."
The Marlins finished 69-93 in 2012, but some of the players gone from last year's squad were some of the better performers, including shortstop Jose Reyes and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. The deal freed the Marlins from over $150 million in future salary obligations, netting a package of prospects in return.
"We had to turn back the clock for the moment and push the restart button," Loria said of the team's new look, "and get these young players in here and get them together and look where we are in another year or so."
The team has been the target of harsh criticism since then, especially in light of last year's opening of Marlins Park, a brand new baseball-only facility financed in large part by public funds. Making moves that almost guarantee another losing season, something which seemed unthinkable when the team opened Marlins Park to much fanfare and a bevy of pricey free agent acquisitions a year ago.
Loria admitted to hearing criticism in the wake of the trade, but characterized it as simply "a few silly phone calls." He must not spend much time on the internet, as criticism of Loria and the Marlins' front office was not hard to find last fall (and still isn't).
Loria was asked about star power hitter Giancarlo Stanton, who was among those upset by the trade. Marlins fans are already worrying that Stanton's days in Miami are numbered, but Loria said he'd like to sign Stanton to a long-term deal, only not this season.
"We're absolutely hoping that moment will come," Loria said. "We will cross that bridge at the appropriate moment, absolutely."
In case anyone thought the Marlins would spend $100 million on player salaries again anytime soon, well, don't hold your breath. "We're never going to get to $100 million," Loria said. "We don't have the TV contract to do that." The Marlins' current local TV runs until 2020, and Loria said it the team's TV revenue is among the lowest in Major League Baseball.
Loria shot down two other ideas. He denied ever telling Reyes to buy a house in South Florida, contrary to Reyes' own memory. "What you were told is inaccurate," Loria said. "I haven't told him to buy a house."
He also said he has no plans on selling the team, saying "I'm interested in making this successful." Marlins fans' dreams of a new owner riding to the rescue will have to wait.