The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Monday, April 03, 2006

Baseball In SA

So this came out sometime before the primary and I haven't gotten around to talking about it just yet. There's a whole slew of Express-News articles on the possibility of the Florida Marlins moving to San Antonio. As a sports fan I'm very much in favor of this, but alot of the talk going around the city doesn't really seem to jive right now- the cost of the stadium (which does not include a retractable roof or the cost of the land) and this brand new economic study to name a couple. I'll be writing about both of these question marks and some others as this week goes along, but there's one question that I have that seems to have not been raised yet.

Do we really want a team that Jeffrey Loria owns? Jeffrey Loria, former owner of the Montreal Expos who, alongside Bud Selig, basically sold that team down the river so he could trade it for another MLB team. Just taking a quick glance at the man's wiki-page is enough to make my stomach retch:

During the 1990s he attempted to purchase several Major League teams, notably the Baltimore Orioles. He finally succeeded by purchasing 24% of the Montreal Expos in 1999 and became their Managing Partner. Loria orchestrated a series of controversial cash calls that diluted the share of the other owners and increased his own to 94%.

Then, in an orchestrated move with Bud Selig and John Henry (owner of the Florida Marlins at the time), Henry bid for the Boston Red Sox, sold the Florida Marlins to Loria, who promptly sold the Expos to MLB. This transaction prompted a RICO lawsuit by minority shareholders of the Expos. The suit accused Loria and his staff of conduct "that effectively destroyed the economic viability of baseball in Montreal (that) included removing the Expos from local television, subverting well-developed plans for a new baseball stadium in downtown Montreal, purposefully alienating Expos' sponsors and investors, abandoning agreed-upon financial plans for the franchise, and undermining a planned recapitalization of the franchise that would have added new Canadian partners."

I understand that sports franchises are businesses and therefore are there to make a profit, but there's two ways to run a franchise. We'll call them the Peter Holt way and the Donald Sterling way. One (Peter Holt), believes that by putting together a quality product the value of your franchise will rise alongside your revenue. The other (Donald Sterling) believes that the value of your franchise will rise naturally because of the insulated sports market and keeping your costs low will always guarantee a profit. Loria is much closer to Sterling than he is to Holt.

Sterling isn't wrong, with the amount of revenue sharing that goes on now, the only franchises that really lose money are those that spend a whole heck of a lot and have zero success. But that doesn't mean I have to buy tickets or support the franchise in any way possible.

Then again that's the inherent problem with going after sports team looking to relocate- you're not exactly picking from the cream of the crop.

Which is why I'm confused by this latest statement by a senior Marlins official:

"When baseball examines this deal at the end of the day, it is my opinion they would not allow us to move anywhere for the same deal," Samson said. "They would want us to be in a better position."

That's where TV comes into play, Samson said.

FSN Florida, an affiliate of Fox Sports Net, recently received exclusive rights to televise Marlins games in South Florida beginning this season. Samson declined to reveal the amount Fox is paying the Marlins to broadcast as many as 150 of their 162 games.

"The biggest issue we are having right now as we go through the numbers in San Antonio is trying to figure out where we fit in the broadcast market," Samson said.

"It's the No. 1 factor we can't firmly come to grips with, and it's a huge area of competition between Major League Baseball teams and a huge factor in revenue sharing."

I have no doubt that Fox Sports Southwest and possibly one of the local network affiliates will put together a good TV contract. But it seems to me that the biggest problem hampering the Marlins from being in a better position is their owner. There does seem to be a requirement that the Marlins have some local ownership if/when they move. One can only hope that the likes of Red McCombs and other San Antonians do more than buy a token stake of the Marlins if/when they come here.