John Steigerwald Column

Marlins’ fire sale just smart business

Marlins’ fire sale was

simply smart business

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How about the nerve of that Jeffrey Loria?


As owner of the Miami Marlins, he gets the politicians in South Florida to approve public funding for a $634 million ballpark even though the taxpayers – in huge numbers – were opposed to paying for it. Then he goes out and signs a bunch of expensive free agents and raises his payroll to a ridiculous $118 million. He spends all that money because he thinks he owes it to the taxpayers to be competitive and because he’s sure that the new ballpark will mean 3 million fans.


The teams stinks and draws 2.2 million.


Then he looks at his books and sees that, because the team stunk and because Miami is one of the worst sports towns in America, he’s going to draw fewer than 2.2 million fans in 2013.


So, he reduces the Marlins’ payroll and his future liabilities by tens of millions of dollars by sending three of his best players – shortstop Jose Reyes and pitchers Mark Buhrle and Josh Johnson – to Toronto for a bunch of highly regarded prospects.


The baseball world is apoplectic, calling it a salary dump and calling Loria the worst owner in baseball.


Looks like a pretty smart businessman to me.


He didn’t do anything that Dan Rooney, Kevin McClatchy, Mario Lemieux and hundreds of other team owners hadn’t done before him. He got the politicians to go against the will of taxpayers and build him a nice place to play.


He overspent on his team, and his team let him down. The fans didn’t respond to all the high-priced talent by showing up at the ballpark.


It’s too bad that the sports journalists didn’t show one-tenth the rage over the corrupt methods that politicians in Miami used to ramrod the stadium through that they showed over Loria’s irreverence toward the stupidity of Major League Baseball.


The commissioner, Baghdad Bud Selig, is reviewing the trade, and the conventional wisdom seems to be that the deal will be allowed to stand.


Read the columns about Loria’s salary dump and see how many of them show any outrage over the politicians who gave Loria his ballpark. See how many references are made to the absurdity of Major League Baseball’s economics or the fact Loria was only doing his best to survive in the system that Selig created and perpetuates. Don’t expect to find too many.


And, of course, Major League Baseball economics provided a sucker … I mean buyer … for Loria. The Toronto Blue Jays play in the same division as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays have decided they must spend ridiculous amounts of money to compete with those teams, and there was a smaller-market team holding a fire sale.


n The Steelers’ chances of beating the Ravens got a lot better when Rashard Mendenhall was announced as the starting running back. The Ravens are terrible against the run. Mendenhall’s not a great back, but he’s a good one, and the two guys behind him, Ike Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, are average at best. None is as good as the Ravens’ starter, Ray Rice.


n Byron Leftwich is no Ben Roethlisberger, but he should be able to manage the Steelers’ offense adequately until Roethlisberger recovers from his shoulder and rib injuries. Under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the quarterback isn’t asked to do much. The offense is not all that complicated and, while Roethlisberger has been putting up some of the best individual numbers of his career, the bar isn’t all that high for Leftwich when it comes to scoring points. The Steelers are in the middle of the pack in that department. Sixteen teams are averaging more than the Steelers’ 23 points per game.


n Publicly, the NHL players are saying they’re 100 percent behind their union leader, Donald Fehr. I’m guessing that at least half of the players go to sleep at night hoping that they’ll hear that a settlement has been reached when they wake up and they don’t care about the details.


The deal that is on the table will eventually raise the average NHL player’s salary to $3.4 million per year. Come on, guys. It’s hockey. You don’t think the owners look at nondescript defensemen making $5 million a year and realize that something’s out of whack?


n Let me see if I have this right. Players on the New York Jets are saying – anonymously, of course – that Tim Tebow is terrible and should not be their quarterback. What are they saying about their starter Mark Sanchez, who has the lowest completion percentage (52) in the NFL and a passer rating of 70.4? The Jets are 11-14 since the start of the 2011 season. What are they going to do with Tebow at quarterback? Stink?


n Four starting NFL quarterbacks were knocked out of games with injuries last week. Chicago’s Jay Cutler, Philadelphia’s Mike Vick and and San Francisco’s Alex Smith each went out with concussions, and you know what happened to Roethlisberger. What would happen to these guys if there weren’t so many rules to protect quarterbacks?


John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.


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