Florida Marlins Attendance: Fact vs Myth

Tuesday I heard an experienced local sports writer on the radio discussing Marlins attendance. He basically said that a new stadium would not significantly affect attendance and that “we’ll look back and wonder why we built this stadium.” I’m not naming the writer because this is not meant to be a criticism, since I believe what he expressed to be the conventional wisdom. There was something missing from his opinion though, quantifying what increase in attendance would constitute ‘significantly.’ The writer went on to note that the Marlins would “never draw 30,000 in average attendance.”

Talk radio is typically a numbers-free zone and it is just made for controversial topics like the new ballpark. Typical is the call from the guy whose voice [a world-weary, former 2-pack-a-day guy] just screams Aventura, ‘they sold us out … that’s why Miami is a banana republic … etc.’

I’d like to ask everyone whose attaches the banana republic tag to Miami to explain the Big Dig to me. How could THAT have happened THERE, most of their immigrants being at least four generations into the process? My point being that corruption and mismanagement are more attributable to how government works [or doesn’t], as opposed to the ethnic composition of a particular government.

But back to attendance. Why do we have a conventional wisdom about something we can look up past numbers on and project accordingly? Here’s why I think there is an aversion to numbers. The #1 reason is that numbers can be conversation and controversy killers.

Radio Caller: So and so is a great clutch player!

Radio Host: Ugh no, he’s hitting .238 in late game pressure situations… hello?

Radio Host: Plenty of phone lines open in Miami-Dade County.

The second reason is that if you’re not a numbers person, they’re like … work. Sometimes, not always I admit, but sometimes the numbers or facts can be more interesting than uninformed opinions. I urge my fellow sports degenerates to–in the words of a future saint–be not afraid and visit web sites like Shysterball and Sabernomics.

Look at the attendance numbers in the spreadsheet below–please click on the image to enlarge and/or print out. The numbers are from an ESPN Attendance web site which provides numbers back to the 2001 season. My interpretations are optimistic, but at least they originate from facts.

Question: If the Marlins have had the worst attendance in MLB since 2006, what reason is there to believe that the reason for that is something other than a lack of a fan base in South Florida? Do the numbers indicate that attendance is impacted by non-team performance factors?

  • In took MLB attendance 12 years to recover from the Strike in 1994. During a time of significantly increasing revenue, it still took 12 years for the average attendance in 2006 to surpass the 1994 numbers.
  • In addition to the Strike, Marlins fans have dealt with 2 additional strike-like events. The salary dumps after the 1997 and 2005 seasons.
  • On top of those three significant and measurable events, the Marlins since 1998 have been under the cloud of possible relocation, something which is currently affecting the Oakland franchise.
  • Recent Marlins TV ratings [middle of the pack] have consistently been proportionately higher than their attendance [last]. Which indicates that their fan base exceeds what is reflected by their attendance figures.

Question: Even so, why didn’t the 2 World Championships have a greater impact?

  • The Marlins average attendance in 1997 was 29,190. It could have realistically been expected to increase the following season, but the sell-off of players began immediately after the 1997 season.
  • The 2003 team’s success was obviously unexpected. While the attendance increased 62% [to 16,290] during that season, the preceding season [2002] was so poor [10,038], that it loses any statistical significance. However, we can see the effect of the Championship in that the 2004 attendance increased another 35% and then another 3% in 2005.

Question: Aren’t the Marlins and Rays skewing MLB attendance figures?

  • Just like the Marlins and Rays have been having a downwards impact on the average, so do the Yankees and Mets excess of 50,000 skew the numbers at the other end.
  • However, average MLB attendance drops only by 1,400 if you exclude the NY teams and increases only by 900 if you exclude the Florida teams.
  • Attendance has been typically pretty evenly spread-out, in that the median and average attendance have both been close to 30,000.

Question: Are we going to call any improvement in attendance success? What constitutes an acceptable average attendance for a MLB team?

  • For those who claim that the Marlins could never average 30,000 in attendance, they exceeded that in their 1st and 2nd years and averaged 29,190 in their 5th season. Which obviously could have been expected to increase in their 6th season, following the Championship.
  • In fact, the Marlins exceeded the MLB average in 3 of their first 5 seasons. The post-strike season, their 3rd, was the first season they did not exceed the MLB average.
  • I believe that Marlins attendance in 2005–22,792, which represented 74% of the MLB average–is the most conservative indicator of what to expect in the new ballpark, past the first year. It also represents the percentage achieved by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 5 of their first 6 seasons following their new stadium. That would represent a 43% increase over last year’s attendance–which could obviously increase between now and then. I believe that would be significant.
  • Further, I say that 70% of the MLB average attendance is an acceptable attendance for a smaller market team. What say you? But more importantly, why do you say what you say?

The logic of Billy Preston and the Ballpark vote

I got tired of not finding an actual headcount on how the Miami-Dade County commissioners might vote tomorrow, so I’ll take a shot at it here. [Warning: I’m getting killed in my Descarga NCAA Brackets–I’ll never trust Clemson again–so please, no wagering.]

I bring no particular insight into the topic of how the commissioners might vote, given that I was unfamiliar with more than one of them before I started this post. What I can contribute as a long-time Miamian, is to say that any politician of a Hispanic background would be loathe to cast the deciding no vote on the Marlins ballpark deal. Whereas white politician’s with a non-Hispanic background, would wear that no vote like a ‘stinkin-bage‘ among their Howard Beale-sque constituencies. To say nothing of the annually replenished Norman Braman vehicles at their disposal [new ones for the first two years, then pre-owned, then … listen, just talk to Buddy Ryan] such a vote would produce. The African-American vote is more of a wild-card. This and what follows represents my shameless attempt to channel The Wire.

Publicly committed: 3 Yes votes – 3 No votes

District 4 – Sally A. Heyman – No
District 5 – Bruno A. Barreiro – Yes
District 7 – Carlos A. Gimenez – No
District 8 – Katy Sorenson – No
District 9 – Dennis C. Moss – Yes
District 12 – José “Pepe” Diaz – Yes

Publicly undecided – the Circumspect Six = 6 Yeses

All six of these commissioners voted for the stadium project in 2008.

District 1 – Barbara J. Jordan: Ms Jordan was recently appointed Chair of the Transit, Infrastructure and Roads Committee by the Commission Chairman Dennis Moss, who is a stadium supporter. No seemingly ideological agenda re public funding etc, so I assume she’s a reliable Moss ally on this issue.District 2 – Dorrin D. Rolle – Mr Rolle’s most recently sponsored legislation involved the Port of Miami tunnel. That tunnel is a key component of the mega-plan which is encompassed by the Marlins ballpark deal. Further, he is very active with inner-city youth groups. If MLB doesn’t end up sponsoring one of his activities in Liberty City, someone should get sued for political malpractice.
District 3 – Audrey Edmonson – Ms Edmonson’s district is adjacent to Little Havana neighborhood where the Marlins ballpark is to be built. Further, she co-sponsored the Port of Miami tunnel legislation with Mr Rolle. Her activities include a lot of outreach to the Hispanic community. Again, I have to assume she’s a reliable Moss ally on this issue.

Considering the four African-American commissioners as a voting-block–Moss, Jordan, Rolle and Edmonson–it is just hard to imagine one of them breaking off and sinking this project. In addition, one would assume a degree of cooperation with Michelle Spence-Jones over at the City of Miami commission, especially with respect to ensuring that their constituencies are not ignored in disbursing potential CRA funds.

District 6 – Rebeca Sosa – Ms Sosa’s district encompasses the city of Hialeah. A MLB-backed youth baseball academy was established last year in Hialeah. Non-Hialeah Cubans-Americans think Hialeah Cuban-Americans are really loud and intense baseball fans. Forget any issues here. The woman has to vote yes just to be able to enjoy meals in her district.
District 11 – Joe A. Martinez – West Dade district. Has been a commissioner since 2000 and once served as Commission Chairman. He probably is the biggest no vote potential given his experience, but I just don’t see the end game to his no vote. Again, following my perception that Hispanic commissioners would not want to be identified as killing this project, the safe play would have been to be out in front with a no vote.
District 13 – Natacha Seijas – The longest tenured commissioner, since 1993. Recently reappointed as chairperson of a Trade Consortium by Moss. Has ties to the AFL-CIO and recently commented that she is pleased that her concerns about labor unions have been addressed.

So while the ‘Circumspect Six’ may not exactly represent profiles in courage, the logic of the great Billy Preston–Nothin from nothin , leaves nothin’–will likely carry the day. The odds are high that County commissioners will have some new concession to point to–like their brethren at the City of Miami–by the time they vote. When you think about it, the undecideds are are practicing, at a gut-level, the same skill which is earning tenure at universities, game theory–an egghead description:

Game theory is the study of the ways in which strategic interactions among rational players produce outcomes with respect to the preferences (or utilities) of those players, none of which might have been intended by any of them.

See politician’s are laughing at those geeks, ‘Man, you had to go to college to learn to keep your options open?’ It’s actually pretty interesting stuff, see the Pirate puzzle example.

One publicly undecided Commissioner’s odyssey –
From Amerigo Bonasera to Alfredo Amezega

Of the undecideds, Mr Souto is the only one to have voted against the project in 2008.

District 10 – Javier D. Souto – Despite his no vote in 2008, Mr Souto’s remarks about the stadium deal merely express concern about getting a better deal for the County. Which is what politician’s do to keep their options open.

Check out what Mr Souto was doing Saturday according to the Miami Herald:

… County Mayor Alvarez [stadium supporter] spent Friday morning at the Miami International Cattle Show, admiring prized stud bulls with key swing-vote Commissioner Javier Souto. The cattle show is Souto’s pet project. Souto could not be reached for comment Friday night.

My guess is that he is for now, the pro-ballpark forces Amerigo Bonacera, a dormant asset. One text later, he will be their Alfredo Amezaga. Although Mr Souto lacks Amezaga’s distinction of having attended the great Miami Senior High, he can play one on the Commission.

OK we’re done, I’ve officially jinxed the Marlins ballpark deal. Wait, let me bury it completely; Hell, what could go wrong?

The lyrics to Billy Preston’s ‘Nothing From Nothing’ and article referenced are copied in full at end of post.

Lyrics for: Nothing From Nothing

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

I’m not tryin’ to be your hero
‘Cause that zero is too cold for me, brrr
I’m not tryin’ to be your highness
‘Cause that minus is too low to see, yeah

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
And I’m not stuffin’
Believe you me
Don’t you remember I told ya
I’m a soldier in the war on poverty, yeah
Yes, I am

[Instrumental Interlude]

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
You gotta bring me somethin’ girl
If you wanna be with me
Struggle for a Florida Marlins stadium comes down to last pitch BY JACK DOLAN AND CHARLES RABIN

Posted on Sun, Mar. 22, 2009

With a final vote on the Florida Marlins’ new stadium looming Monday, the franchise appears to be one tense afternoon away from a goal it has chased since 1994 — a South Florida ballpark to call its own.

For critics opposed to spending hundreds of millions from public coffers to build the stadium in Little Havana — and those pushing the Marlins to pick up more of the proposed $634 million tab — Monday’s vote by the Miami-Dade County Commission could be the last stand.

Momentum swung dramatically in the Marlins’ favor Thursday at Miami City Hall, where the team won a tight 3-2 vote approving the deal.

But city commissioners extracted two significant concessions: a greater share of the profits for the county and city if the team is sold after construction, and a promise that at least half of the people who will build the stadium will be hired from South Florida.

That leaves stadium skeptics on the County Commission eager to extract concessions of their own, even as some begin to admit that the stadium deal will likely pass.

”I think they have the votes now, but you can still make the deal better by changing some aspects of it,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, the most outspoken stadium critic on the county board.

Commissioner Joe Martinez made a similar point in a memo to his colleagues immediately after the city’s vote.

”In the eleventh hour, the Marlins have now conceded to changes under pressure from the City Commissioners,” Martinez wrote. “If the Marlins will agree to these changes, perhaps they will do even more.”

So the question isn’t so much whether the stadium agreement will pass, but how much the Marlins might have to give up to make the deal go through.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, the principal county advocate for building a stadium for the Marlins, argues that professional sports teams are a key feature of any world-class city, and that the stadium will create public-works jobs at a time that the economy is starved for them.

He announced Friday that he wants the commission to cast a single vote on the five contracts that constitute the deal — an effort to avoid the spectacle of the agreement being carved apart piece by piece on the dais.

That’s bold, because one measure — waiving the competitive bidding process to allow the Marlins’ chosen firm, Hunt-Moss, to build the stadium — requires a nine-vote super-majority of the 13-member board.


”We want it to go forward as one big resolution that requires nine votes, with everything in it,” Alvarez spokeswoman Victoria Mallette said Friday.

That announcement came after Alvarez spent Friday morning at the Miami International Cattle Show, admiring prized stud bulls with key swing-vote Commissioner Javier Souto. The cattle show is Souto’s pet project. Souto could not be reached for comment Friday night.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting, released late Friday, shows all five stadium contracts voted on at once. But the agenda can be changed by a simple majority.

Among those firmly behind the project are Chairman Dennis C. Moss and Vice Chair Jose ”Pepe” Diaz.

On Friday, Diaz said that if the hotel-tax money that would finance most of the stadium could be used for police or social services, he wouldn’t vote for the deal. But by law, bed taxes must be spent on tourist development, such as a stadium.

”We’re going to create jobs in making the park itself,” Diaz said. “We’re going to create jobs around the park. It will create jobs when the stadium is functional.”

Opponents have other ideas.

Gimenez has called for scrapping the existing contracts and writing new ones, with the public contribution dropping from about $480 million to about $76 million. The Marlins are committed to paying $120 million toward construction and repaying a $35 million county loan.

”A motion to start all over? That’s absolutely ludicrous at this point,” Alvarez said.


Should Gimenez fail to persuade his colleagues to start from scratch, he said he wants the Marlins to contribute their share for construction first. Under the current deal, the public pays to build the first three-quarters of the stadium; the Marlins pay to finish it.

Gimenez also wants the public to get a share of the profits if the team is ever sold — not just in the first nine years, as the current contract stipulates. And he wants the county to hire an independent auditor to make sure that the Marlins have the money to live up to the deal. Team owner Jeffrey Loria has refused to open the Marlins’ books to show assets and liabilities.

”It’s a major-league franchise,” Alvarez said. “We met with the commissioner of Major League Baseball. These are legitimate people.”

A skeptical Gimenez said the county shouldn’t enter into such a big business deal based on its partner’s word.

Gimenez isn’t the only one who will be waiting for the deal with a legislative scalpel.

Commissioner Sally Heyman said she’ll introduce an amendment to reduce the county’s share of the construction cost to $206 million and to make Major League Baseball cosign the Marlins’ promise to stay in Miami for 35 years. That way, the league could be sued if the team were to leave.

Heyman also wants to get rid of the so-called ”death clause” that would allow Loria’s heirs to sell the team without the requirement to share the profits with the city and the county.

”I am very concerned about the agreements because they offer little financial or legal protection for our citizens,” she wrote in a memo Wednesday.

While commissioners debate the contracts Monday, Loria will sit in the audience, possibly one momentous roll call away from a dream that he and two previous owners have been chasing for 15 years: a permanent home, with a retractable roof, for a team that consistently ranks near the bottom of the major leagues in attendance and payroll.

Despite playing in a football stadium that is often nearly empty, the players have managed to win two World Series.

”South Florida really needs a baseball-only facility,” Marlins catcher John Baker said last week after Miami’s vote. “It would be a great benefit to the community to have a stadium.”

Miami Herald staff writer Andre Fernandez contributed to this report.

Baseball on the Radio

I had one of those busy nights last Tuesday. I was shuttling my kids, my Mom & Tia around from nightfall on. The next to next to last stop was to pick up a friend on our way to a funeral home for the father of a mutual friend. We arrived at the funeral home around 9:30, paid our respects and engaged in the type of conversations which make you question why we allow petty concerns to dictate so much of our ‘regular’ lives. The conversations can be predictable and yet still cathartic. The seriousness of the moment permits us to outwardly show appreciation towards friends and inwardly entertain big and serious thoughts.

In one of those traditions which ‘we should begin if it didn’t exist,’ the funeral home visit was followed by a stop at a restaurant with friends. By law, the restaurant must serve Cuban coffee, in this case, La Carreta. I skipped the coffee–I said the restaurant had to ‘serve’ the coffee, not that you had to have it–and waddled straight to the flan–staying above 30% body fat is not a hobby for the feint of heart. However, that is not what I meant to write about.

Tuesday night was the night of the exciting Team USA win over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. After the game, a moving story unfolded as a handicapped U.S. Army veteran–Felix Perez–was brought into the U.S. clubhouse by the usher of the century, Brian Finnegan. Perez was treated, very appropriately, like a hero. However, even that is not what I meant to write.

I listened to the WBC game intermittently on the car radio, catching the entire 9th inning rally on the way home. A local station picked up the ESPN televised broadcast. The play by play guy on the broadcast is very familiar to Miami sports fans. Jon “Boog” Sciambi was part of the Marlins radio network from 1997 to 2004 and for a while hosted a mid-day radio show here. He was a bright guy who knew his stats and could never bring himself to do the typical sports radio thing, i.e. yelling at callers. When someone would try and bait him, he would offer to fight them on their home lawns. I was a fan. Currently, aside from ESPN, Sciambi is part of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team.

Sciambi made my favorite sports ‘call’ ever. The odd part is that I did not even hear his call live, if that makes any sense. He was part of the radio broadcast and I only heard his call on the DVD of the Marlins 2003 playoff run. The thing is that the DVD served as a reliable lullaby for my kids, so I heard it often. The call described Mike Mordecai’s second at bat in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. It would be hard to describe the absolutely unbelievable turn of events represented by an inning which started with a dominant Mark Prior [as a former Dodger fan, I was having Miamian Steve Carlton [1983] flashbacks during the game] retiring Mike Mordecai to start the inning. That seven runs later Mordecai would be standing on second base still amazes me. Sciambi’s call captured the incredulity of it all.

Sciambi’s call of the WBC game mixed in easily with discussing the home run controversy the previous night and other topics. When Rollins got on base, he lead Buck Martinez into a discussion about the strategy in those situations and highlighted just how good Rollins is in that department. Good stuff for us baseball fans. As I listened to Sciambi, I was reminded of what approaches. The baseball season. Following baseball in Miami in the early 1970’s meant listening to the Braves on WKAT. A lifelong (hopefully) habit was born. So goodbye audiobooks burned to CD’s, MLB is back. Soon, seemingly every time I get in the car at night, there will be baseball, and in the case of the Mets, hopefully their blood.

City of Miami approves Ballpark

Marlins Ballpark Approved

Article referenced is copied in full at end of post.

Miami Commission OK’s Florida Marlins stadium – BY CHARLES RABIN AND JACK DOLAN

Posted on Thu, Mar. 19, 2009

A month of deliberations by Miami commissioners turned into a moment of joy for the Florida Marlins on Thursday, when city officials agreed to help build the team its long-sought new stadium.

Next up: Miami-Dade County, where the 13-member commission will be asked Monday to bankroll the lion’s share of funding for the $634 million stadium and parking complex in Little Havana.

With the county’s blessing there, the mirage is closer to reality: a new 37,000-seat retractable-roof stadium to rise in 2012 for the financially strapped ball club with a history of low payroll and attendance.

In Miami, commissioners Thursday cemented the city’s end of the stadium plan at the old Orange Bowl site. The first vote — approving the stadium’s core contracts — passed by a one-vote margin.

”It’s just like beating the Cubs in Game 6. We still have to come back and play Game 7,” a buoyant Marlins President David Samson said moments after the vote, recalling his team’s storied 2003 playoff run.

The Marlins won Game 7 in a rout, then took the World Series against the New York Yankees.

If Thursday is any indication, Monday at County Hall may not be as easy.

Though the Miami Commission was required to pass three votes, the big one supporting the stadium and parking garage construction plan passed 3-2, with Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones the swing vote. She was on maternity leave during a deadlocked 2-2 February vote.

Joe Sanchez and Angel Gonzalez also voted yes on Thursday, as they had before; Commissioners Tomás Regalado and Marc Sarnoff were once again against.

Two other votes followed. One, a no-bid waiver for $24 million worth of road and utility work, required a supermajority. It passed 4-1, with Sarnoff joining the majority and Regalado the lone holdout. A final vote to approve an interlocal agreement between the city and county passed unanimously.


The six-hour battle over spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public money began early in the morning with dueling protests outside of Miami’s scenic City Hall.

Union workers holding Marlins signs shouted about the need for work. Activists in coordination with Liberty City’s Miami Worker’s Center questioned the plan, arguing the jobs would be temporary, and the bed-tax dollars paying for most of the stadium would be better spent elsewhere.

Inside, City Manager Pete Hernandez began the proceedings informing commissioners of changes to the stadium agreement since last month’s meeting.

The Marlins would now contribute $500,000 a year to charity, with $125,000 going to city and county parks programs the first seven years.

More significantly, the team agreed to boost the share of profit Miami and Miami-Dade would split should Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria sell the club within nine years of groundbreaking.

The governments had previously agreed to a scale beginning at 18 percent that lowered each year. The new deal beefs that up to 70 percent the first year, 60 the second, down to 5 percent in year nine, Hernandez explained.

Chamber seats filled up and the line of 73 public speakers stretched out the door. Some were unemployed construction workers who spoke in favor of the stadium.

”I’m not here to ask for a bailout. I’m here to ask for a job,” said Carpenter’s Union Local 79 member Greg Mikenas.

Miami Worker’s Center organizer Hashim Benford countered: “It doesn’t serve the interest of the working people. I’m concerned once the stadium is built, those jobs are gone.”

Following three hours of public input, the commission took control.

Regalado, a stadium critic since the plan was announced more than a year ago, voiced concern over giving away city land, not getting enough public guarantees and the fact that county police — not city — would patrol inside the facility.

”Under this deal city of Miami police would only be able to go to the stadium to use the bathroom,” he said.

Sarnoff focused on the economy, worrying that the $634 million plan could balloon to $1.8 billion or more with interest payments. He also questioned whether the Marlins could meet their commitment to pay $155 million toward construction.

”You have no idea what the Marlins are worth, or aren’t worth,” he said of the team, which previously won a court order to keep its financial books private.


Sanchez, representing Little Havana, said a stadium would mean jobs and economic vitality for a portion of his district badly in need. He said the public money, most coming from tourist hotel taxes, can’t be used for police, fire or social services.

”I don’t look at this as being a Marlins stadium,” Sanchez said. “I look at it as an opportunity.”

Spence-Jones, who had already secured more than $100 million for her Overtown district in a separate vote this month, flexed her swing-vote muscle — speaking for an hour and calling teems of officials to the podium before voting yes.

”Leadership requires sometimes taking bold steps,” Spence-Jones said. “Really what I wanted to do was hear the voices from this room. And I’ve heard them loud and clear.”

The vote means Miami commissioners approved a plan for the county to pledge $297 million in tourist taxes, and another $50 million from a bond referendum, toward stadium construction. The Marlins would spend about $120 million toward construction, and repay the county a $35 million loan. Miami will build the $94 million parking garages.

After Thursday’s approval, applause was somewhat muted, in part because Commission Chair Sanchez often asks the audience to refrain. But mainly, because the decision took so long, supporter greeted the final verdict mostly with relief.

Miami commissioners had been set to vote Feb. 13, but Sarnoff stalled the process by demanding a string of concessions from the Marlins. Sanchez continued the meeting to Thursday.

Immediately after Thursday’s votes, Marlins owner Loria was mobbed by supporters and media.

”We’re making a major private contribution here,” he said, when asked about the major public contribution toward the stadium.

Loria refused to answer a question about whether he’d open the team’s books.

Instead, the owner looked ahead. Perhaps, to Opening Day 2012, when the Miami Marlins could take the field in Little Havana.

”As we look back years from now,” Loria offered, “we’ll realize how good this decision was.”

Cuba’s WBC Loss in San Diego, Alters Plans in Santiago de Cuba

Japan knocked Cuba out of the World Baseball Classic yesterday in San Diego and its effects were felt as far away as Santiago de Cuba. A major infrastructure project, the first in the city since 1967–largely due to Soviet largess then–was dependent on the Cuban Baseball team staying in the Classic through the final round for funding. Now it will have to be explained to the citizens of Santiago, that imperialist plots in the planning for more than twenty years–involving the CIA and unnaturally athletic Japanese families, including, but limited to, the notorious Matsuzaka, Ichiro and Iwakuma tribes–have unfortunately borne fruit. Another special period of sacrifice will be needed to overcome this setback. Ironically, a park with a baseball diamond was part of the plans.

Tangled non-Spalding Web

A Cuban baseball official dreams of defecting. But not for the typical reasons his former players always cite–family, freedom and hunger–no his reasons are largely professional. He sees his counterparts and his face turns a Cuban uniform red [that’s another thing, why couldn’t the revolution’s color have been a nice teal] with envy. See all those other baseball guys get to evaluate talent alone. In his case, he has to factor in the relative defection potential [it’s always there to a degree, the kid would have to be an idiot not to consider it]. You know how hard it is for a guy in his 50’s to figure out what young men are thinking? Figure out how desperate and unhappy his family is? Impossible, even for a ‘New Man.’

So for a number of years, he just kept everyone who appeared to want to be on the National team which gets to travel outside the country, off the team. But players caught on to that. So then he only kept players on the team who appeared to want to be on the team, thinking he was one step ahead of the con. But that proved to be a disaster when the players actually did defect. Just you try and explain that you didn’t think he would defect because he appeared anxious to get out of the country. God, he would never forget the recent Viciedo interrogation, they made him feel like a real chump. The moronic State official even lecturing him on baseball strategy.

He struggled to fall asleep last night. He was like most Cuban middle-aged men, resigned to their fate, but yet hoping that some nameless, impetuous younger man would act and pull them all out of this nightmare. Not tonight ‘viejo,’ not tonight. He was thinking politics, not baseball, now. Not his strong suit and never a good recipe for falling asleep. This would be a very long night indeed. To make it even worse, the first stanza of that stupid Yeats poem kept running through his head:

I know that I shall meet my fate

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

Hanley Ramirez – What to expect in 2009?

There was an interesting analysis of Hanley Ramirez’s numbers over at The Hardball Times by Derek Carty. Carty did the analysis to address the perception that Hanley Ramirez is the #1 player to be chosen in fantasy leagues. He basically says, Hanley’s great but his numbers don’t reflect a consensus #1 player. In fact they may be comparable to Jose Reyes for 2009. Below in the chart, I recreate some of his statistics and include Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols for comparison purposes.

After doing so, the following stands out:

  • Cabrera and Ramirez’s numbers are remarkably consistent. It will be interesting to see how much Ramirez hitting 3rd will bring their runs scored and RBI numbers closer together.
  • Neither one comes close to Albert Pujols, who is just into what should be the prime of his career – ages 28 to 32. The best ever talk is not an exaggeration with Pujols.
  • Ramirez’s low RBI numbers are good evidence that those numbers are very dependent on the the team’s on-base percentage.
  • The Ramirez of 2007 justifies the confidence in his greatness. In 2008, he came back to the field, just slightly. So 2009 will answer the question; Which year was the better reflection of his talent?
  • As a fan, I think we in Miami have it pretty good. There’s a chance to have the Dwayne Wade of MLB play his entire career here–relax, I said there was a ‘chance.’

    Great source for looking up all sorts of statistics and analysis:
    The Hardball Times

Click on chart to enlarge

Magglio Ordonez: Fellow Traveler

Fellow Traveler defined:

Refers to a person who sympathizes with the beliefs of a particular organization, but does not belong to that organization. The phrase must be understood as referring to people who “walk part of the way” with an organization, without committing themselves to it.

Some people see the hostility [booing] towards Maglio Ordonez during the World Baseball Classic and find it unfortunate. We call these people metrosexuals. Ordonez richly deserves the mild abuse he has received, since he is a classic fellow traveler.

A professional athlete being booed is mild abuse. Real abuse is what a national government can do to dissidents. Abuse is what the man who Ordonez endorses from a safe distance does to those whom he deems to threaten his power. Until I see proof that Ordonez keeps a healthy chunk–he signed a five-year $75 million dollar contract in 2005–of the monies he has earned in Venezuelan banks, under the control of Venezuelan authorities and subject to the ‘Organic Tax Code’ and wealth and property confiscation laws, then he is a hypocrite. The type that advocates coercive governmental policies which they will never have to adhere to.

I have no idea whether Ordonez is a well-educated man who believes deeply in a more socialized form of government, excusing potential abuses as a necessary evil to correct historical injustices, or just some yahoo whose athlete status and indigenous appearance [4th degree–out of 5–PC Teflon protection, results may vary] has immunized him from a harsher scrutiny up until now. The bottom line is that he has chosen to use his wealth and influence to aid and abet a dictator who many of us believe has done great damage. And for that Mr Ordonez will have to answer for long after his window of usefulness to MLB and the Chavez regime–in that order, unsurprisingly–has passed.

But the powers that be have no doubt noticed what has happened here these past few nights. You can just smell their horror that someone–someone who supports a leftist regime dammit!–is being held accountable for those beliefs. If you close your eyes, you can just see the Ordonez defense team gathering steam. First it will come from someone in the baseball community, likely Peter Gammons.

Host: Now for a report from the great Peter Gammons
PG: MLB officials were privately horrified at the treatment Magglio Ordonez received in Miami. It is fair to say that this area will not be hosting the Classic again, and frankly, you can understand [read: I do] why they feel that way.
Host: [Note: A real ESPN host would never actually ask confrontational and challenging questions, it is presented here as our version of fantasy baseball talk] Peter given that the boos came from his own countrymen, why would MLB seek to punish the Miami baseball community. Wasn’t the Classic in Miami exactly because they knew the fans from Latin countries would be passionate about their teams?
PG: Passion for the game is one thing, but to have a player singled out for his actions off the field is just unacceptable. Especially when those actions are not inconsistent with the type of changes which we ourselves have voted for recently. I mean it’s bad enough Cuba had to shipped across the country to play.
Host: Wasn’t the Cuban sent out west partly due to the Cuban governments boderline paranoid concern about defections?
PG: The Cuban players I talked to were happy to play for the National team and would never think of defecting. Frankly, that’s just the spin from Miami’s Cuban exile community and a lot of people [read: me] think it’s time American foreign policy moved on from their parochial concerns.
Host: Peter, we are in your debt as always.

From there it will spread to the reliable purveyors of leftist truth; MSNBC, network news and late night comics. However, that crowd’s only other contact with people who look like Magglio is their catering crews. So we know that the manufactured-outrage crowd’s attention shall too pass(ball).

What will be left one day is Ordonez likely settled in the U.S. and trying to figure out where he fits in. Forget living in Venezuela, his kids are being raised here. If Thomas Wolfe’s neighbors were immigrants, the book would have been named, ‘We’ll Never Go Home Again.’

First the bad news. Where he settles depends on a choice which awaits him in retirement. He will either issue a sincere and contrite apology for his actions and be embraced by the Venezuelan community in South Florida. Or he can move into Obama’s Hyde Park neighborhood–is that Billy Ayers knocking on the door with an organic fruit basket? The good news is that at least he’s got a choice. Unlike the people whose freedom he helped to further erode.

Yankee Stadium vs Marlins Stadium

The most comprehensive coverage of stadium financing that has appeared in the Miami Herald was on Feb 11th–the Herald links expire, so I copied the article at the end of this post–and it was a good example of the power of omission. Here is what it said about New York stadiums:

The New York stadiums, worth nearly $2 billion, include no upfront public payments — but the city is investing nearly $400 million in infrastructure surrounding the ballparks.

That is true but incomplete. I will break out the Yankees stadium costs from the Mets for comparison purposes and highlight what the article could have pointed out. Facts that, I believe, would have been of great interest not just to those following our local stadium issue, but to the legion of fans which follow the [Evil Empire] Yankees:

  • The new Yankee Stadium will end up costing approx $1.5 billion
  • The New York Yankees up front contribution towards the construction costs were $225 million–or 15%
  • The Florida Marlins up front contribution towards their stadium costs are scheduled to be $120 million–or 23%
  • The Florida Marlins up front costs could increase from 23%, since they are responsible for any costs overruns not attributable to government related delays. This explains why the Marlins insisted on selecting the architects and builders for the project.

The article noted a combined $400 million in infrastructure costs, however the costs related to Yankee Stadium alone totaled $325 million. When you read the quote from the article above about the New York teams, the importance of the words ‘upfront’ and ‘payments’ might not have jumped out at you. Here’s what else local, state and federal governments did for the New York Yankees, albeit things which fell outside the self-imposed parameters of ‘upfront public payments’ by the Miami Herald:

  • They issued a total of $1.3 billion in municipal bonds to finance 87% of the new stadium costs. Structuring their debt in this manner–by raising the money through tax-free investments– is estimated to have saved the Yankees $268 million.
  • The bonds were issued through a New York City agency, Industrial Development, and the city waged battle with the IRS to ensure that raising money for the stadium qualified as a legitimate public purpose for the bonds.
  • Exempted the Yankees from paying property taxes. The forgiveness of property taxes is common for large construction projects. Typically though, the property taxes begin after 20 years. In the case of the Yankees, it is permanent. Estimated savings on property taxes not paid after the 20th year–$417 million.
  • Re the City’s battle with the IRS – They had to address the peculiar issue of why investors in bonds issued by a NY city agency, would be receiving payments from the NY Yankees. The creative solution is an animal called PILOT.
  • Exempted the Yankees from paying sales tax on stadium construction costs. Estimated savings to the Yankees–$42 million.

Bottom line. The New York Yankees annual payments towards those bond holders–in effect the stadium costs–will come to approximately $70 million per year for 30 years.

When $70 million really equals $49 million, then $40 million

The Yankees revenue sharing and luxury tax payout in 2008 totaled $110 million. It could have reasonably been expected to increase, especially after this off-season. However, there is a clause in the MLB collective bargaining agreement which allows teams to consider capital payments towards a new stadium as ‘maintenance’ costs and use those amounts to reduce their revenue sharing payouts [all teams pay out a certain percentage of their local revenues, the smaller market teams just get more in return]. In the case of the Yankees, it represents an approximate 30% savings on its annual payments. Which means that $21 million of the $70 million annual payments will go towards reducing the Yankees revenue sharing payouts. So how much did the new stadium cost the Yankees–a team worth, before the new stadium, $1.3 billion and with annual revenues of $327 million last year [compared to $128 million for the Marlins].

  • $225 million upfront
  • Annual Pilot payments estimated at $70 million
  • Annual [30% of $70 million] $21 million reduction in costs since the team can deduct the Pilot payment from the revenue it is required to share with other major league teams. So as long as the Yankees Luxury tax payments would be in excess of $21 million, the Pilot payments resents a 30% net savings to the Yankees.
  • Potentially another 30% net savings is the annual stadium maintenance costs, estimated at $30 million annually. Again, 30%of the annual stadium maintenance costs can be deducted from the revenue the Yankees are required to share with other major league teams. Now the net annual costs are down to $40 million, given the savings they represent from the Luxury taxes the Yankees would otherwise be responsible for.

The odds of the new Yankee Stadium paying for itself through higher gate receipts and the various governments help–upfront, out-back and in the middle stages–is high. So go ahead and complain about the Marlins deal with local governments. But at least get a few facts and rules straight. Rule #1, if you try and compare the Yankees and Marlins stadium deals, please try and do so with a straight face.

To the Miami Herald I dedicate a song by Bob Seger:

Well those drifters days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

I need to thank to Neil deMause from the Field of Schemes blog. While no fan of public financing of stadiums, he takes the time to help all interested in understanding this issue. Below a recap of the various sources:

Loot, Loot, Loot for the Home Team
House That You Built
Neil deMause
Sports Business Daily
(Costs)/Savings From Exemptions and Subsidies for New Yankee Stadium – chart below – click on chart to enlarge

Florida Marlins stadium deal better than most for team

Posted on Wed, Feb. 11, 2009


The Florida Marlins stadium deal coming up for final showdown votes Friday — where the public would foot 70 percent of the construction bill and share none of the revenue — would be among the more generous to a team owner this decade, a Miami Herald analysis found.

Fourteen Major League stadiums have been built, or begun, since 2000. The average public contribution for construction of those stadiums has been 44 percent, the newspaper found.

Under the proposed Miami deal, the Marlins would rank ninth of the 14 in the percentage of construction costs borne by the team, the newspaper found.

”It’s probably not the best deal that has ever been worked out between a community and a team,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said after his State of the County speech on Tuesday.

But he insisted it’s better than most and comes at a time the region is thirsting for a public works jolt, adding: “At some point, negotiations have to stop.”

The Herald examined public records, reviewed media reports and spoke with city and county officials across the country to create its list, showing:

• The public paid a higher percentage for construction costs for stadiums in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. Taxpayers in Washington and Houston also paid more initially, but will recoup much of their investment through generous revenue sharing with the teams.

• Team owners are on the hook for a greater share of construction costs in Minneapolis, San Diego, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, New York — with stadiums for both the Mets and Yankees — and San Francisco. The New York stadiums, worth nearly $2 billion, include no upfront public payments — but the city is investing nearly $400 million in infrastructure surrounding the ballparks.

Stadium deals are complex financial transactions that can be difficult to compare. Some involve outright gifts of public land, which can be hard to value, some involve taxpayer-funded infrastructure that benefits the team and the public, and almost all involve varying degrees of low-interest financing subsidized by government agencies.

Those factors make it impossible to draw an across the board, apples to apples, comparison of every financial variable.

However, the initial stadium construction agreements are generally comparable, typically setting the tone for how generous local governments are going to be to the team over the multidecade life of the deal.

The Herald analysis of those deals shows cities that drove the hardest bargains often did so after putting stadium deals to a public vote, or after politicians dismissed threats from team owners to move.

Voters in St. Louis refused to finance a stadium for the venerable Cardinals, so team owners raised 88 percent of the construction money themselves, relying on a county loan for the rest.

In San Francisco, where voters rejected four ballot measures that would have committed public funds to a new Giants stadium, a local grocery magnate built a spectacular waterfront park with money from Silicon Valley investors and deep-pocketed fans.

”We really would have preferred if the public had taken the risk instead of us,” said Peter Magowan, who bought the Giants after the failed ballot measures. “But voters had spoken in unmistakable terms to us a number of times.”

In Miami, the Marlins and local leaders carefully avoided a public referendum by structuring the deal so most of the public money comes from hotel bed taxes paid primarily by tourists.

Bob Starky, who consults for Major League Baseball on stadium deals, reviewed the newspaper’s findings.

”The most difficult thing to do with these deals is compare them,” he said.

Starky questioned how fair it is to compare the Marlins to large market teams like the Yankees and the Giants, or even smaller market teams with historically high revenues, like the Cardinals.

”They can put more toward the ballpark than Miami, or Minnesota or Pittsburgh,” Starky said, “just like some people can afford to buy a bigger house.”

In some cases, teams were willing to put up more of their own money because they own the property adjacent to their new stadiums and would profit from the development of restaurants and shopping. San Diego, Detroit and St. Louis fall into that category, Starky said.

Under the proposed Marlins deal, outright public gifts would cover $361 million of the $515 million stadium construction. The Marlins would pay $119 million and get another $35 million loan from the county, to be repaid in escalating annual installments.

The Marlins will not have to buy land: The county will host them rent free for 35 years on the site in Little Havana, which is assessed at $16 million by the county appraiser. The county will own the stadium, so the Marlins won’t pay property tax.

So-called bed taxes will cover $311 million of the total $515 million cost.

But revenue from the bed tax has been severely compromised by the global recession, raising questions about whether the county would have to dip into the general fund, which pays for a wide range of services, including police and garbage collection.

Public money also paid the estimated $10 million cost of demolishing the Orange Bowl, which had occupied the site, and will cover an estimated $24 million in infrastructure work.

Other cities have constructed finances differently. In 2004, the Washington, D.C., council voted to cover all $600 million of construction costs for the Nationals. But, Washington also shares significantly in the team’s proceeds.

To help cover the city’s roughly $35 million annual construction loan payments, the Nationals pay an average rent of $5.5 million a year. The city also collects tax on tickets and merchandise at the stadium; their share came to $12.5 million in 2008. Taxes on businesses and utilities cover the rest of D.C.’s annual loan payment.

Marlins President David Samson said up until six months ago, he offered the county the exact same deal that D.C. received.

But county officials say they’re better off with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spending $154 million toward construction costs than creating dedicated revenue sources for the stadium.

”Washington, D.C., is all public money, it’s taxes imposed on users of the stadium,” County Manager George Burgess said. “We have not created any new tax or fee, or raised any, for the financing.”

Robert A. DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball, said of Loria: “This is an owner who is reaching in his own pocket in a market that, frankly, is unproven.”

The San Diego Padres opened their new stadium in 2005, built with 67 percent public funds, slightly less than in Miami.

As part of the deal, the team owner invested $300 million to help develop the neighborhood surrounding the stadium. There is no such requirement for the Marlins to invest in Little Havana.

The city of San Diego is able to pay off its debt with proceeds from other events at the stadium, including concerts, soccer matches and motocross races. The city makes more than $1 million per year through such events, said Tim Moore, the city’s ballpark administrator.

Under the Marlins’ pending deal, all revenue from the first 10 non-baseball events at the stadium each year would go to the team. After that, the county would get half the profits, but the money must be spent on capital improvements at the park — another benefit to the Marlins.

”Wow, the Marlins negotiated a good deal,” Moore said.

In Milwaukee, emotions are still raw even though the stadium opened eight years ago and the Brewers made the playoffs in 2008.

”You’re gonna get ripped off, lookout,” Wisconsin state Sen. Michael G. Ellis said last week. “Bud Selig is on the way; hold on to your wallet.”

Selig, now the commissioner of Major League Baseball, owned the Brewers when stadium negotiations began in Milwaukee in the early 1990s.

The initial conversations involved Selig paying for his own stadium, said Ellis, who was majority leader of the state Senate during key votes. Through relentless lobbying, ”the worm turned,” Ellis said, and the public wound up footing 78 percent of the bill.

Selig got the site he wanted, in a remote location where the team wouldn’t have to compete with other restaurants and businesses.

The Miami deal sounds familiar, Ellis said. “So it’s a self-contained unit? They get the revenue and they don’t pay property taxes? It’s the same modus operandi as they used up here.”

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who went on to serve in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet, was originally a strong supporter of the Brewers’ deal. ”It couldn’t have happened without me,” Thompson said in an interview last week.

But as the deal progressed, Thompson soured. The Seligs, he said, “were going to contribute a lot more money and a lot more support, and they just kept pulling back, all during construction.”

Thompson said if he were a Miami politician, he would not vote until he saw signed, enforceable contracts for every aspect of the deal. He would insist the Marlins prove they have the financial wherewithal to live up to their end of the deal.

Contracts for stadium construction and operation are written, but not signed. The Marlins have fought for years to keep their finances private, and so far have not offered public proof they can cover their share of the construction costs.

Marlins President Samson said he expects to approach lenders in the next 18 months, and that ”the banks are comfortable today” with lending money to Major League baseball teams. ”People want to own that paper because they know there are revenue streams that never go away,” he said.

Selig could not be reached for comment.

City and county commissioners will cast votes on five separate stadium contracts on Friday, the final votes in the franchise’s decade-long quest for a permanent home.

Passage could come down to a one-vote swing, as the County Commission must approve two contracts — for construction and management — by a 2-1 majority because the Marlins hired contractors without formal bid, requiring a bid waiver.

MLB’s DuPuy added that the Marlins might be better off somewhere else if a stadium deal can’t be hammered out. ”Anyplace is better than Miami without a ballpark,” DuPuy said.

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