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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fishy Financing (and other bad Marlins puns) 12.07.11

Jeffrey Loria is a man, considered by many (at least these 60) to be slime.  The owner of the (now Miami) Marlins, he has a reputation across baseball, and most fans who have an opinion at all have a general distaste for the man.  Players & owners could not be reached for comment to confirm or deny general disgust within the game's inner circles, though there's no shortage of 'unofficial' or 'unconfirmed' reports.  None of that matters, though, honestly.  Some have come to dislike Dan Lozano in recent days.  Many loathe Scott Boras, and for the most part, you can't throw a dead cat in most major metropolitan cities without hitting at least half a dozen Steinbrenner haters.  I'm not a big fan of Loria, dating back to his days with the Expos, but that's neither here nor there.

Loria is a pursuer of fine art, and that's where his wealth stems from.  I imagine his home being filled with paintings by artists I've never heard of--the kind that the guys in Ocean's Eleven would stage some elaborate heist to steal.  Laser security systems and all that.  He now pursues the great living legend, Albert Pujols.

This comes on the heels of signing the biggest closer on the free agent market (arguably, that is.  The Phillies already sank $50MM into Papelbon.  Wow, Ruben, really?), Heath Bell for $27MM.  Then he signed former Mets shortstop, and young star, Jose Reyes to a 6 year, $106MM deal.  The Marlins' offer to Pujols is said to be 10 years, somewhere north of $200MM.  And there's little sign that Pujols would be the last deal of the Marlins off-season, if they net this year's free agent big fish.

According to Cot's, the Marlins Opening Day payroll has never exceeded $60.4MM, and that was in 2005.  Since then, it's been:

2006 - less than $15MM
2007 - $30.5MM
2008 - $21.8MM
2009 - $36.8MM
2010 - $47.4MM
2011 - $57.7MM
2012 - $A hundred eleventy ba-jillion dollars (projected)

I have a background in business, which includes economics as well as finance.  I understand that economic downturns have very little impact on the wealthy, so it stands to reason that the fine art industry is healthy and thriving.  But, I'm having a hard time understanding where all this money is coming from, and I've got some questions about the legitimacy of its source.

I get that new stadiums generate revenue.  Check that.  Fans coming to new stadiums and buying fancy-schmancy seats in luxury boxes generate revenue.  Revenue is maintained and becomes profit when instead of paying for your new stadium, local municipalities and taxpayers bear the financial burden.  But, the fans still have to buy tickets to generate revenue--there is no getting around that.  ...for the most part, anyway.

The last time the Marlins didn't rank dead last in the National League in attendance was 2005, six years ago.  They've ranked 13th or worse every year since 1997 (5th), including 1998, the year after they brought home the franchise's first-ever World Series!  'course, Loria held a fire sale, and dismantled the team before the champagne was even warm, so there was little to draw the fans to come back the next year.  Only twice in Marlin's history have they ever drawn more than 2 million, 1993, their inaugural season, and 1997.  It's been 15 years since the Marlins have drawn 2 million fans, including 1992, when attendance barely finished about 813,000.  Where in the WORLD is all this money coming from?!?  In my house, the kids save their allowance every week (and they've been saving for a long time) to have enough money for that one Wii game they really want. I don't think anyone would be surprised to learn that Loria has been stashing revenue sharing money, particularly in light of some leaked documents from a little while ago.  Maybe he's been saving up for those free agents that he really wants.  Who knows?  Maybe he figured that the grand opening of the new ballpark is the perfect time to unleash the funds from the past several years.

But I simply can't see how it's sustainable.

I get that the new fish tank has a roof.  No rainouts, hurricanes, unbearable south Florida heat and all that, sure.  But if you don't have butts in seats, you're going to have to sell  your Picasso collection to make up for it.  I believe that some fans would come out to see Jose Reyes, and more would come out to see Albert Pujols.  In 2012.  And maybe even 2013 and 2014.  But, I can't help but wonder about the long-term sustainability of Loria's "go after everyone and spend whatever it takes" mentality--it's irresponsible at best.

Perhaps this is why the Marlins, their executives, and their finances are currently under Federal Investigation.  The Securities & Exchange Commission is checking into the Marlins financing, and while no one has been convicted by a jury of peers or anything, rarely does the SEC open an investigation without good reason.

This might sound crazy, but I'm not convinced that most of this money is even really there.  (see: Madoff, Bernard)  Loria might just be trying to make a huge splash, and trying to win big in the "now"...and do so before Federal charges come his way.  "Win now, fire sale later" has never been a problem for him, which I suspect is why he is so stingy with no-trade clauses for player contracts--he wants to be able to dump salary once he decides it's time.  He may consider what he's doing a Robin Hood-like act, in that he believes he is inspiring baseball fans in south Florida, even if by questionable or illegal means.  After all, MLB stepped in and loaned the Dodgers money back in June, when it became apparent that Frank McCourt's dumb ass wasn't even going to be able to make payroll.  Perhaps Loria figures it's all worth it, even if it all comes crashing down in a couple years.

Could Loria just be setting up one last hurrah?  The 2012 Marlins are bringing some great things to the table: a big new revenue stream, beautiful new stadium, good-looking new roster, uniforms that...well...did I mention the beautiful new stadium?

More links about the Marlins' fishy financing:  (likely updates are available since the original posts below)




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New GMGAGN contest: Win the 2011 World Series DVD------>

CONTEST EXTENDED UNTIL AT LEAST MONDAY (12.05), possibly until mid-week.  Get your entry in now for your chance to win--before it's too late!!

As an incredibly famous baseball blogger, throngs of major media outlets are constantly beating down my door for a few precious minutes of my time.  When the folks at the A&E network asked if I'd review their DVD (a MLB Production) of the 2011 World Series, I decided to have Jessica (my head personal assistant) rearrange my schedule to accommodate their request.  I rejected the first four productions, and they nearly scrapped the entire project, based solely on my disgust for the way Tony LaRussa was portrayed.

Ok, nothing in that paragraph is true.

Except that I was actually asked to review the official 2011 World Series DVD film, and write my review of it here.  The good news for you is that I'm also running a contest to win a free copy of said DVD, which includes an exclusive bonus disc of game 5 of the NLDS (the historic Carpenter/Halladay game).

In typical 'MLB Productions' fashion, the film is very well done and captivated my attention from the very beginning.  It opens with some of the most famous highlights and calls in World Series history.

"A long drive...if it stays fair..."

"Behind the bag!  It gets through Buckner!!"

"Touch 'em all, Joe!  You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!"

"I don't believe what I just saw!"

The first fifteen minutes or so take us from Spring Training, and the Pujols contract/Wainwright injury drama through the ups & downs of the season, and into the postseason.  From there, the DVD really dives into the playoff run, and takes a real focus on the World Series.  There's such good insight provided by the mini interviews with players, managers...etc.

Whether you've got love or hatred (few fall in between) for Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, or other broadcasters (for me, it's TBS--I find it REALLY hard to listen to those guys call the games in the Division Series games), you'll be happy with the way this DVD turned out.  A fantastic mix of the calls from the TV guys, local radio guys, national radio guys...they really did a great job bringing in the voices behind the microphones to life throughout the film--it really enhances some of the more exciting moments!

One particular thing that jumped out at me, that the DVD showed, was a little glimpse into just how smart of a baseball player Albert Pujols is.  He talks about his expectations in an at-bat against Mike Gonzalez in Game 3.  Albert talks about how he remembered the way Gonzalez pitched him during his days in the National League, and expected heat.  Which he got.  And promptly deposited that pitch into the seats.  He also talks about knowing he was going to see a cutter later in a sequence in another at-bat.  Very insightful stuff!!

Trust me, if you're a fan of the game of baseball, you will love this DVD, for the historical reasons and all the significance surrounding what unfolded from August 25th through the end of October.  Unless you're a die hard Texas Rangers fan, and trust me, there's a part of me that (even as a Cardinals fan) agonizes with that fan base, you'll enjoy watching this over and over again.  This DVD needs to be in your collection!

And it can be.  You can click the banner and buy a copy (well worth every cent), you can click here, or you can enter the GMGAGN contest, and win a free copy!

So, you wanna win?  Of course you do.  Here's what you're gonna need to do:

Put on your hindsight goggles, and tell me what you'd be willing to do if you could go back in time, and attend game 6 of the 2011 World Series.  Arguably the most exciting World Series game ever played, what would you be willing to do if you could've been there?  Let's hear it.

Contest will run all week.  I'll shut it down Sunday evening sometime (12.04.11).  Honestly, I'm not going to put a hard & fast time as the deadline to have your submission in.  If you've waited until Sunday evening to submit it, it's safe to assume you're cutting it close.  Believe me, though, I'm not out to hose ya--I wish I had dozens of copies to give away--it's THAT good!

One entry per household, must be 18 or older and a resident of the United States, no takes-y backs-y, and I'm rubber, you're glue.

Ok, let's hear what ya got!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contest Winner Announced

Ya know, I thought about writing a new blog, and dropping several kilograms of knowledge on you, by sharing my opinions about the upcoming trade deadline.  (Can you tell I think Toronto might be involved?)  But, then I realized that you probably aren't coming here for my thoughts and ideas about baseball.  You only care about whether or not you won the free Cardinals tickets.

*sniff, sniff*

At the very least, I'm going to make you scroll through some of the finalists before you learn whether or not it's you who will be taking a guest & sweating your [insert your choice of anatomy here] off at Busch Stadium next week.  Obviously, I can't post all of the submissions here, there's simply not enough time & space for them.  Some were actually quite clever, funny...etc, but had to be disqualified, as they didn't prove to be "valid & available".

So, in no particular order, here are a few of the submissions I thought you might enjoy:

One of my favorites, and the runner-up:

But, the one that I just HAD to go with, and award the figurative blue ribbon (and literal pair of Cardinals tickets) goes to this lovely gem:

Dude.  Seriously.  How can I not pick that one?

There's no way you had as much fun with this as I did, but I hope you at least got some enjoyment out of it.  I also hope you'll consider coming back from time to time, and check out my ramblings on the greatest game of all time.  I also write a weekly column over on i70baseball.com, so check out my work over there too, if you're so inclined.  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CONTEST: Win Cardinals Tickets

So, here’s the deal.  I’m a Cardinals fan, and like many of us, I happen live in Illinois.  Nevermind the fact that Busch Stadium is 25 minutes from my kitchen, it’s still Illinois.  Therefore I’m unable to show my passionate fanhood by having specialized Cardinals license plates.  So, I can’t have Cardinals plates that read things like “10 x Champs”, “Ten rings”, “STL > CHC”...etc on my vehicle.

I figure the next best thing would be to order specialized cubs tags, with something derogatory towards them pressed into the metal plate. (A plate likely to have been hammered out personally by one of my former Governors)

My license plates will soon be due for renewal, and I'd like to replace my current ones with some specialty cubs plates that are sure to make Cards fans grin, smile, or even laugh out loud (or make a cubs fan cry) when they see them in traffic. There are certain limitations as to what you can request, and there are certain letter/number combinations that are disallowed as well. I wanted "1908 LOL", for example, but it's not a valid combination. I'd hate to choose something only to chat with someone a week later and have them say "OH! You should've gotten ______", and live with regretting my choice. That's where you come in.

Here's the contest: Choose my next license plate. Come up with the best submission, and a pair of tickets to an upcoming Cardinals home game is yours, on me.

You'll need to go to the IL Secretary of State's pick-a-plate website, and highlight the SUV icon on the left side. Then choose "specialty", then "cubs", and you're off to the races. There's a difference between "vanity" & "personalized", so pay close attention.

Best submission (determined solely by me) wins. Enter as many times as you like-just know that in the event of duplicate submissions, I will be forced to come up with some ridiculous tiebreaker that will mostly serve the purpose of self-amusement.

Ok, here's what you need to do:

  • Go to the website & make sure the plate you want to submit is both valid & available.
  • Take a screenshot of your plate with confirmation that it's both valid & available. (If you're unsure how to take a screenshot, check these out.)
  • Save the screenshot(s) as a picture(s), and email it to: Dathan@SportsVacationGuys.com
  • Wait.

The contest will end at the conclusion of the MLB All-Star game on July 12. The winner will be notified via email shortly thereafter, and announced on this blog within a few days. If there are enough entries, I may also toss in a runner-up prize as consolation.

What are you waiting for? Get started now!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leagues, Divisions, Schedules, Teams, Interleague...etc

I've read a blog or two in recent weeks, and this morning a discussion sparked up on twitter that I am particularly fond of discussing.  Not because I think I have all the right answers, or even have a couple of the right answers--I think the topic is an awful lot of fun to discuss.  So, I'm hopeful that we can engage in a fuller, more-than-140-at-a-time, fun, educated, informed (...etc) discussion about...

My friend Tom at @CardinalsGM tweeted the following, which summarizes greatly what I'm hopeful we can discuss here via comments, "Both leagues and divisions should have equal number of teams. This is a no-brainer, and foundational to fairness." & also said he'd "cut 2 teams, return to 2 division in each league, & free a team to relocate to NYC". 

I came across a blog over at redbirdrants.com (if you're not familiar, you should definitely check it out!) that had this particular thread going.

So, leave your comments below.  Link to other articles on this topic, or just let your opinions fly...this should be a really good time!  I'll start by addressing this morning's tweets, and the redbirdrants blog fits in nicely along the way.

My comments this morning on twitter were pretty much along the lines of:

You'd have to add 2 teams in the AL for it to happen, as taking 2 from the NL would never fly with MLB owners.  Another tough sell would be eliminating a playoff round (as @CardsChic mentions), MLB is currently talking about adding a round (ka-ching), so it seems the ship has already sailed...in the opposite direction.  While certainly not perfect, there are plenty of things to be said about unbalanced leagues & divisions.

What say you?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

UCB Progressive Game Blog: MIL @ STL 05.07.11 - bot 8

This blog was written as part of a United Cardinals Bloggers project, the "Progressive Game Blog".  My responsibility was to write about the Cardinals half (bottom) of the 8th inning of the game on Saturday, May 7 vs. MIL.

Double.  D.

What else really can be said about the bottom of the 8th?  Thanks to a base hit up the middle by Daniel Descalso, Yovani Gallardo was unable to extend what, up to that point, had been 7 innings of no-hit baseball.  Descalso's single would prove to be the only hit the Cardinals could come up with in Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Brewers.  I suppose the take-away today is that "at least we weren't no-hit".

Insanely, Jamie Garcia came close to throwing a perfect game against this Milwaukee ballclub the night before, and while Gallardo was carrying a no-no into the 8th against the Cardinals today, Justin Verlander did the same, only finished his no-hit bid, against the Toronto Bluejays.  Outstanding performances all the way around!  Crazy how good the pitching has been the last two nights in St. Louis on both sides--Kyle Lohse takes a REALLY tough loss today, after a phenomenal performance, giving up only one run in 8 innings.  Mama said there'd be days like this.

The Cardinals scored six runs on Friday night, but went hitless after the 4th inning of that contest.  The drought extended through the first 7 on Saturday, making for eleven consecutive innings without a hit--hardly a recipe for winning under any circumstances.  Though, I suppose the silver lining is that those eleven innings were spread out over two games.  (Not exactly the same thing as a Jimmy Rollins hitting streak, but I'll take it)

So, in a nutshell, here's what the bottom of the 8th looked like...

Descalso singled on the 3rd pitch he saw, breaking up Yovani Gallardo's no-hitter.  Then, Tyler Greene stepped in, and in between a couple of pickoff attempts, worked the count to 3-0 before bunting foul to strikeout.  Gotta execute there.  Given that Greene couldn't move the runner over, TLR decided to pinch hit John Jay for Lohse (who, at 107 pitches was likely done for the day anyway, given what the Cardinals lineup had done up to that point in the day).  Jay grounded the ball to Rickie Weeks at 2B (and broke his bat doing so, if I recall), who took the fielder's choice, and got the lead runner, Descalso, out at 2B.  So, with two outs & Jay on 1B, Nick Punto dug into the box.  He took a ball, then swung at the next pitch he saw, flying out to LF, Ryan Braun to end the 8th.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A look ahead at the 2011 American League

This article was written as part of a project for the United Cardinal Bloggers.  Check out more great articles, including other AL predictions at www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com.

I'll refrain from a lot of detail, but as I look ahead at the 2011 American League, I've formed some opinions.  What's that you say, you'd like to read them?  Well, be my guest...

AL East:

BOS wins the ALE, because they're just stacked with offense, in the most offensively-driven division (league) in baseball...not to mention very good pitching, and a solid manager in Terry Francona.  I really think they are the class of the East this year, and I expect them to win without a whole lot of exciting games (race-wise) in September.  NYY doesn't have the pitching in my opinion, to keep themselves in the race, and unless they pull off a big deal, I don't see them making a run.  TB has something like 12 of the first 87 draft picks this summer, so while this year may not be great (I think they can compete, but doubtful they make the postseason--having Manny around a bunch of young players on a team that's not in first place gives me pause), the next year or two is when TB is much better positioned to make another run at the title.   TOR's situation intrigues me.  Cito is gone, which is a huge loss to the club, and Anthopolous moved Wells and his big contract.  But, right after that, he inked Bautista to a big contract.  First year under new management, aside from the obvious challenges of playing in the ALE...they're not in the conversation for winning this division.  BAL?  Now these guys are gonna be exciting to watch!  Just look at their depth chart and you might find a few surprises.  More familiar names than you've seen in Baltimore in quite some time--you may have forgotten they acquired that player, or perhaps didn't realize they signed that guy.  Add it all up, and let Buck Showalter call the shots in his first full season at the helm, and these guys should really start to draw the crowds again.  Obviously, I don't expect them to be a contender, but it's a step in the right direction, getting some sticks to protect Markakis, Wieters, and some of the other kids that had been exposed in that lineup to this point.  Vladdy, D. Lee, Reynolds now in the mix...it looks like this great historical franchise is once again headed in the right direction.  PIT & KC could learn something from them.

AL West:

LAA is my call here, as I expect them to score a lot of runs.  I'm looking forward to checking back on this post in October to see how badly they outscored the rest of the division--I'm NOT expecting it to be close.  Morales is back & now Vernon Wells has been added to the mix, this has the potential to be a dangerous lineup.  With Weaver, who is quote possibly the most overlooked, underrated pitcher in the game today, leading that rotation, they're going to be in just about every game.  I don't get too high on prospects until they show me what they can do at the big league level, but Trout appears to be the real deal, many baseball people saying they'd choose him over Harper, given the choice.  Oh yeah, then on top of it all, you've the brilliant Mike Scioscia running the ballclub.  With money to spend in July if need be, I'm of the opinion that defending AL Champion Rangers or not, the Angels are the team to beat in the West this year.  I say that because SEA sucks, and everybody knows it.  Other than King Felix putting on a clinic every 5th day, and a possible "Ken Griffey Jr. Day" sometime in July, there's not much to get excited about if you're a Mariners fan.  OAK won't win because of low run production.  Their pitching could be absolutely sick, though--possibly the best staff in the ALW, and with the good news on Bailey's arm, they might even be able to close out games if they find themselves with a late lead.  TEX?  I don't know WHAT to make of what's going on down there!  I'm trying to keep everything in perspective by reminding myself that they just bought that team in August.  But, as much as I want to believe that having Nolan Ryan in charge can only be good for a ballclub, I can't help but wonder.  Greenberg's departure earlier this month, they missed out on Lee, and then they spent that [Cliff Lee] money doing two things at once: Acquiring Beltre & pissing off the franchise player.  There just seems to be an awful lot of internal turmoil down there, and sooner or later that stuff ALWAYS finds its way onto the field.  Or maybe it's just that they're still getting things set up the way they want down there, and in this age of internet access, blogs, satellite radio...etc, we just hear more about it than we have in the past.  Either way, "CJ Wilson is your Opening Day starter" last week has turned into "Colby Lewis is your Opening Day starter", and now back to Wilson...either way, that just doesn't quite do it for me.

AL Central:

The ALC could be the best division to watch for a race all year long.  I'm talking every...single...day could have more than one team sharing first place!  MIN could win it--their staff and lineup, should it include a healthy Morneau (which I'm skeptical about), could certainly be a legitimate contender.  These guys are right there every year, and are starting to build some postseason experience, even if most of it has been being swept by NYY.  DET could also win--they're young enough, they have Miggy & VMart to help lead the offense, and that's formidable.  Their rotation isn't as deep as they'd probably like (whose is?), but if Scherzer emerges as a legit #2 guy, things could work out.   CWS could win too--these guys have pitching.  Even if Peavy, who had looked good until the recent shoulder setback, doesn't return to his old self, they're not in bad shape.  Remember the pitching the 2005 World Series?  Konerko is back, and the Big Donkey is gonna mash in that park--NO reason why he doesn't hit 40 bombs & drive in 125 this year, the Sox are legit.  CLE & KC aren't in the discussion yet again this year--just keepin' it real.   I expect a very close race in the ALC this year, and would not be the least bit surprised to see game #163 played in that division again this year.  As much as I like DET & MIN, I have to pick CWS as the team that ends the season on top in the Central, though it's a tough call to make.