Ichiro reminds us why we are fans

The only embargo being lifted in Miami in 2015 relates to an islands nation with a proud baseball tradition dating back to the 19th century, Japan. As such;

I, generic Marlins fan of Hispanic background, being of some mind and impeccable Miami ethnicity — to wit, privileged to have stepped on or into the following; Orange Bowl, Miami Senior High, St John Bosco Catholic Church, Miami-Dade College, FIU, UM, McDonalds, Cuba, Bon-Bon Bakery, 5th Street YMCA, and the Aquarius Lounge — hereby declare the games of the MMXV Miami Marlins to be open and free of resentful fan embargoes, at least until the next treacherous personnel move.

Why now you ask? Is it because of the Stanton signing? Sure that helps, but that signing’s most significant value to angry fans is the realistic timetable it provides as to the end of Loria’s ownership. No the main reason to move past our resentments is the arrival of the great Ichiro Suzuki to play on hallowed Orange Bowl grounds within our Little Havana neighborhood.

To go from being represented by Ozzie Guillen to Ichiro Suzuki, is to go from the relentlessly profane to the height of professionalism. Ichiro is a worthy successor to Mariano Rivera as the best combination of sustained excellence and class MLB has to offer. Baseball royalty resides in Little Havana for 2015.

A bridge too bizarre. Such journeys can’t happen all at once. You need a Mike Redmond buffer. Unlike the Corleone’s, the attention-starved Marlins management only lately have recognized their need of buffers or class.

The profaneness about the Miami Marlins was not limited to their manager in 2012. The team owner, playing the proverbial geek desperately trying to curry favor with the cool kid, happily informed Guillen of how many F-bombs he had used in his initial address to the team in front of Showtime cameras. Never wanting to be left out, the team president also dropped an F-bomb in a choreographed pep talk to Marlins office personnel. If loving Ozzie was wrong, these jock-sniffers didn’t wanna be right.

Marlins managment were committed to Ozzie all the way through Spring Training. Then came April 2012, then came the long con, as Jeff Passan might say. But our sports hatred of Loria is no long-term reason not to follow and support Miami’s MLB team based in Little Havana.

My next Marlins blog post will discuss a possible target date for Ichiro reaching 4,257 career hits. He is 134 away and we need to explore how Redmond can find the needed AB’s over the next, hopefully, 2 years.

Sorry Garcia, Ichiro’s coming for your boy.


The God Particle to Miami Marlins fans

Up with Carl Loria

Up with Carl Loria

Gary Nelson’s question to Jeffrey Loria properly identified what truly binds [aka ¹God Particle] Miami Marlins fans, he asked:

Your organization and you are, quite frankly, much despised among many in this community…. Can a deal like this wash that much bad blood away?

Nelson’s point was deliciously undeniable. Jeffrey Loria is [sports] despised by an overwhelming majority of Miami Marlins fans. It is an enmity earned by repeated lies and obfuscation. It will not go away until he goes away. It binds us.

Two great things have happened for us Miami Marlins fans as a result of the Stanton signing. First, given the way the contract is structured, heavily back-loaded after the first 3 years, we can now see the light at the end of the Loria ownership tunnel. Second, we get to have Giancarlo Stanton on our team for the next 6 years. In that order.

So for us Marlins fans, Nelson’s question during the televised press conference carried the emotional equivalent of D’Angelo Barksdale asking Stringer Bell, “where Wallace at?”

Like Stringer, who must have assumed he could con D’Angelo one more time, so too Loria must have thought that the Stanton signing would at least provide a temporary respite from the enmity. While listening to the question, and no doubt noting the mortified straight-ahead gazes of his employees, the unlikelihood of any PR rehabilitation must have registered deep in an area other humans refer to as a soul.

Yo Jeffrey, where Miggy at?


Highly questionable or in the tank?

Graphics by G. Costales

Dan Le Batard’s recent column makes various assertions about the finances of the Miami Marlins which echoes what Jeffrey Loria would have us believe. I don’t know when Le Batard would ever reach the point of skepticism about his Marlins sources, but his patience is impressive. While he is critical of Marlins management on non-financial issues, what he accepts as fact about their finances just doesn’t add up. He wrote:

The team overspent assuming we’d fill the ballpark [#1], which we didn’t, and that meant losing about $40 million [#2] in that calamity of a season…. Unlike Micky Arison, who lost money every year he owned the Heat except last year, Jeffrey Loria doesn’t have enough money [#3] to keep losing $40 million a year even as the ballpark appreciates his and the franchise’s value [#4].

  • #1 – Depends on the meaning of the word ‘fill.’ Marlins stadium capacity is 37,442. To have sold it out, or filled it, would have meant drawing 3 million fans. David Samson is on record with ESPN’s business reporter Kristi Dosh noting that they expected attendance of 2.7 million [89% capacity], or about 500,000 higher than the 2.2 million [73% capacity] it turned out to be. Noting 89% vs 73% capacity may not be sexy, but it sure is more useful for the purposes of determining expected revenues.
  • #2 – The lower than anticipated attendance would not even come close to accounting for a $40 million loss. It is misleading to imply that the 1st year attendance is to blame for dramatically altering the Marlins business model in year 2 of the stadium. Here’s why.

Marlins revenues from gate receipts, as per Forbes, averaged between $15.1 & $16.3 per fan [gate receipts divided by attendance] between 2007 and 2011 [click on spreadsheet within blog post]. Assuming a healthy 25% increase in per fan revenue to $20 per fan in the new ballpark, multiplied times the missing 500,000 fans, equals a nice round $10 million in missing revenue. A more accurate description of what had to occur to make up for the missing fans was to dump Heath Bell’s contract.

On the positive side, its good to know the Marlins are back to discussing the results of their yearly operations. Let’s hope it’s not a 1 year thing, given that 2013 is looking a lot like 2006 through 2009.

  • #3 – Sloppy and misleading. Does Le Batard know how much money Loria has? Does ‘money’ refer to cash flow as opposed to assets? When exactly would Loria run out of ‘money,’ given the assumed losses? Answering any of those questions would be useful information. Or is Le Batard suggesting that 1, 2, or even 3 lean years would affect the net profitability of Loria’s MLB investment, given the Revenue Sharing fat years which preceded it and the new ballpark which came after? Here’s what is known:


Hubris on display, Marlins management

This blog post has two purposes. One is to document the continuing attempts — see Jeff Passan’s and Sarah Talalay’s columns — by the Florida Marlins president David Samson to mislead the public about the Florida Marlins profitability and how Jeffrey Loria has benefited from that profitability. The other purpose is to give future auditors a good example of how someone can attempt to mislead by using pretentious language. This latest example came on Samson’s radio show with Dan Le Batard on 9/1/10.

The exchange came with 18 minutes left in the program. My clarifications will be in [brackets] and my comments will be [bolded in brackets]. See the text below:

Le Batard: Given your claim that “not a dollar has gone to Loria,” what’s the explanation for the payments which went to Double Play, a company run by you and Jeffrey Loria?

Samson: Yeah you have to look a little deeper though into the statements and understand they are … Double Play is the Managing General Partner of a partnership [Marlins] and … God we’re getting so technical it’s such bad radio, I’d rather talk about other things [JC: No doubt.] but I will always answer your questions … Daniel.

Samson: Ugh … it is a … it’s [Double Play] the Managing General Partner of a partnership [Marlins]. Any limited partnership [type of partnership the Marlins are] has a [Managing] General Partner … and what Double Play is … in the books … is that Managing General Partner … and the Partnership [Marlins] gives money to the [Managing] General Partner, in the form … we call it a … it’s a management fee, for its expenses in running the Partnership [Marlins].
[JC: Important to note that Samson has said nothing yet to answer the actual question. He merely stated that Double Play is the Managing General Partner of the Florida Marlins, but he did so in a very confusing manner. For example he never mentions the Marlins, always calls them the partnership, and Double Play is alternately referred to as the ‘Managing General Partner’ and the abbreviated ‘General Partner.’ They are one and the same in Samson’s explanations.

The question was; Why did the Marlins pay Double Play? Double Play’s role in relation to the Marlins is clearly spelled out in the released financial statements. So he has merely reiterated facts which were not asked or in dispute, and done so in an attempt to create confusion.]

Le Batard: [clearly baffled] What?
[JC: So it worked, for now. Where’s Jo-Ellan Dimitrius when you need her.]

Samson: What you don’t understand or what you want a different answer?

Le Batard: Is that how owners get paid?

Samson: [cough] I, I, … In terms of getting paid, I don’t know what that means.
[JC: He does.]

Samson: In terms of W-2 income … [cough] …
[JC: W-2’s reflect salaries paid to employees. There is no reason to refer to a ‘W-2’ when discussing the fees paid by the Marlins to Double Play. Clearly an attempt to confuse in the hopes non-business people associate getting paid with an employee salary, as opposed to a management fee from one company to another.]

Samson: … it’s [Management Fees] expenses that are paid [to Double Play] in the running of the partnership [Marlins].
[JC: So he raised the issue of W-2’s and then just ignored it. The question was not whether the monies paid to Double Play were expenses to the Marlins, the question was whether that is how Loria gets paid. Since it is how Loria gets paid, we get his nonsensical answer.]

Le Batard: Like?

Samson: Travel
[JC: Remember, Double Play was paid $5.4 million over two years and is scheduled to earn $3.2 million this year. Samson has tried to imply that Loria does not benefit from those monies because the company which he controls, Double Play, had expenses which would have eaten up the $5.4 million received from the Marlins.

Here, he can’t even think of anything significant which would be an expense to Double Play, which strongly suggests that the monies paid were exactly what the question implied, fees paid to the owner. Fees which obviously put a lie to the claim that “not a dollar has gone to Loria.”]

Le Batard: Like?

Samson: I could go on and on.
[JC: If he could have, he would have.]

Samson: It’s a complicated thing to run a partnership.
[JC: Misleading people about numbers on audited financial statements is even more complicated.]

LeBatard: And it [costs] millions of dollars right?
[JC: Key question. Without putting a dollar amount on Double Play’s expenses, Samson could continue to allude to different expense line items — for example the “travel” he noted earlier in the interview or the “architects and engineers” he had told the Miami Herald last week — which don’t alter the main point here.

Whatever expenses Double Play may have, they would never approach the $5.4 million paid to them by the Marlins. Because the main reason for setting up a [related party] company like Double Play — an arrangement which involves two companies with the same owner — is to pay the owner [Loria] in an indirect manner.]

Samson: Ugh … it is millions …
[JC: Careful David, this lie would be really hard to walk back.]

Samson: … it is millions of dollars [the $5.4 million management fee] that is awarded to the Managing General Partner [Double Play] …
[JC: No David, we know $5.4 million was paid [awarded?] to Double Play. But what were Double Play’s expenses? That’s the question now being asked.]

Samson: … that they [Double Play] then use, it [DP] then uses, it’s not a they [JC: kinda funny that Samson interrupts himself to ensure that Double Play is thought of as an “it” as opposed to a “they” – it’s the only thing he is interested in being clear about], which it [DP] then uses to do it’s job.
[JC: But David, the question was how much of the $5.4 million it uses to do that job. Because even if travel amounted to $400,000, that means that Loria personally benefited by $5 million from the team in fees alone over the two exposed years.

To be clear, if Double Play’s expenses were millions of dollars, the answer could have been a simple yes. It does not cost millions of dollars to run Double Play. It is how Loria gets his money from the Florida Marlins and simultaneously reduces the Marlins net income. Samson ends the interview how he began it, reiterating facts which were not being asked in such a way as to confuse non-business people.]

LeBatard: We come back with your questions for David Samson….

Some people would argue that this attempt at obfuscation is just part of Samson’s job. I believe that if he can’t be truthful, Samson should just avoid these type of public comments. Far from revealing any type of financial acumen — the things I pointed out could spotted by most 1st year accounting students — they reveal a contempt for the listeners; Marlins fans, people concerned about public monies committed to private projects and the actual hosts of the radio show.

Of the hosts, only Dan Le Batard would claim any type of journalist role, but not necessarily, or perhaps explicitly, not on the radio. But at what point does someone who earns a living at least part of the time as a journalist, have a responsibility not to appear to be complicit in the public dissembling of the Florida Marlins?

To me the complicity comes not in the actual interview, during which it would have been difficult for someone unfamiliar with financial language to spot — I had the luxury of replaying the broadcast — but in the lack of a serious follow up, even if it means bringing up the topic on the next show. The irony is that the Le Batard questions I noted in this interview was one of the few times [I’m a regular listener] that there was a follow up to something Samson had said on a previous show.

But what’s the point if the follow up is met meet with yet more of the same unchallenged nonsense? Samson has been making these type of misleading comments for years on his shows. It’s just too convenient for Le Batard to write that the truth is a matter of perspective when most of Samson’s lies have been spoken on his radio program.

This latest radio interview was just another example of the hubris of Jeffrey Loria and David Samson.

Marlins Ownership: Doublespeak Through Double Play

The first line from Jeff Passan’s column reads, ‘Florida Marlins president David Samson has perfected the art of doublespeak.’ That actually might be an understatement. Passan, of Yahoo Sports, points out how the recently released Florida Marlins financial statements has disclosures which make David Samson’s assertion on The Dan Lebatard Show this Wednesday that “Jeffrey Loria did not put a dollar in his pocket” a lie. This is a blog and I’m not a journalist, but I’ll highlight that Passan credits my blog as a good source of information about the Marlins finances.

I’ll be writing more specifically about what’s in the financial statements — for example, what could possibly be the source of debts for a team that since Loria purchased the franchise in 2002, has had, according to Forbes, net operating incomeof $134 million through 2009 — but the key revelation in the Passan column is that the Managing General Partner of the Florida Marlins partnership is a Florida Corporation named Double Play [clever no?]. On the annual report filed with the State of Florida, a public document, Double Play’s officers and directors are listed as Jeffrey Loria [CEO] and David Samson [President]. The main disclosures in the Marlins financial statements which make David Samson’s statement untrue are:

  • As the Passan article notes, the Marlins are the only one of the six teams whose financials were leaked to have taken a Management Fee in their operating expenses. The fees paid in the two years to DP/Loria came to $5.4 million.
  • Related Party Promissory Note to DP/Loria was reduced from $19.9 to $14.1 million. So DP/Loria received $5.8 from the Marlins in repayment of loans.
  • The DP/Loria Promissory Note also earned $3 million [$1.2 & 1.8] in interest for the two years.

If you are keeping score, that’s $14.2 million that went from the Florida Marlins to DP/Loria. Management fees to companies you control, interest payments on related party loans and repayments of those loans are not illegal or even unusual, given certain tax implications. But they are unequivocally payments from the Florida Marlins to DP/Loria.

Now pretend you are Loria and Samson. Earlier in the week you had been exposed with the release of the documents. Samson is now going to be on a radio program taking questions. There may be times in the career of people who speak publicly, when they might make unintended comments. I don’t think this could reasonably be considered one of those times. What David Samson said on Wednesday has to be considered the firm position of the Florida Marlins and Jeffrey Loria. What the experienced MLB executive decided to say was that “Jeffrey Loria did not put a dollar in his pocket.”

The reaction of the people on LeBatard’s radio show after their interview with Passan last night was revealing. They reminded me of a David Letterman joke about defending Pete Rose from charges of gambling: “Recordings, fingerprints on betting slips, bank statements, and corroborating affidavits? Hey Commissioner, let’s see some real evidence!”

Passan had noted the management fees and interest received, but did not get into the repayment of the loans. The hosts reaction — mind you, these were the same people who Samson had told one day earlier that “Jeffrey Loria did not put a dollar in his pocket ” — was to speculate whether the $5.4 million in management fees could not have been considered a salary, … and “who would begrudge them a salary,” … it was a “small amount of money, all things considered.”

The point is not whether the $5.4 million was salary [we don’t know], or if that salary was fair, the point is that the president of the Florida Marlins did not go on the air the previous day and say; ‘Aside from a fair salary, interest income and repayments of principal on a loan, the total of which is well into eight figures, Jeffrey Loria did not put any other dollars in his pocket.’

He did not say that for the same reason that he has been intentionally lying prior to the release of the financials. The reason is that owner of the Florida Marlins does not consider telling the truth a viable option given his objectives, a largely taxpayer-funded stadium and pocketing revenue sharing monies, instead of spending them as intended by MLB. What we’ve learned this week is that their willingness to lie remains unchanged.

Unless of course, we’ve all misconstrued the meaning of ‘pocket.’

The Jeff Passan column referenced is copied in full at end of post.

Marlins execs funneled cash to themselves
By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports – Aug 27, 2010

Florida Marlins president David Samson has perfected the art of doublespeak. Even after the mushroom cloud settled over the disclosure of financial statements that showed he and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria are indeed duplicitous, Samson couldn’t help himself. Lies are simply part of how the Marlins do business.

The latest came during Samson’s weekly radio appearance on The Dan LeBatard Show in Miami, during which he addressed Deadspin’s publication of the Marlins’ balance sheet. What Samson said was so provably false that it was akin to a 3-year-old trying to hide his peas under a pile of mashed potatoes.

“Jeffrey Loria did not put a dollar in his pocket,” Samson said.

So programmed is that statement in Samson’s head, he keeps repeating it, like a robot with a shorted circuit. He’s right. Jeffrey Loria did not put a dollar in his pocket.

He put millions.

On Page 34 of the documents, under the heading Note Y, is a transaction called “Management Fee.” A corporation named Double Play Company is listed as the Marlins’ managing general partner. The partner is paid a yearly sum. For the two years the documents cover, the fees were $2.6 million and $2.8 million. In 2009, the documents say, the fee was raised to $3.2 million.

Records from the Florida Division of Corporations show Double Play’s CEO is Jeffrey Loria. Its president is David Samson.

Of the six teams whose documents were leaked, only the Marlins have a management fee listed in their operating expenses.

Earlier in the balance sheet, under Note L, is a one-paragraph section called “Related Party Promissory Note.” It explains that the managing general partner made a number of loans to the team at 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent above the London Interbank Offered Rate – a particularly high interest rate for the current lending climate, according to two accountants who reviewed the Marlins’ financials. Over the past two years, the loans have paid Double Play $1.83 million and $1.19 million, respectively.

While the financial records of Double Play are unavailable because it is a private company, at least $8.42 million went to the managing general partner in the past two years. Though the documents do not show that Loria has taken a direct distribution of money as owner, it is undeniable that he plundered the team’s coffers as it received nearly $500 million in public funding for a new stadium and more than $75 million in revenue sharing from MLB.

Samson did not reply to a request for comment.

The ugliness of the ballpark debt was apparent long before the documents surfaced. To help fund the $634 million stadium complex, Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to secure more than $400 million in loans, most of which are loaded with balloon payments. The worst is a $91 million loan that will take $1.2 billion to pay off. By 2049, the county will have spent $2.4 billion to cover its portion of the stadium.

The anti-Marlins groundswell in South Florida continued Thursday when Miami mayor Tomas Regalado asked the city attorney to look into renegotiating a $100 million parking-facility contract for the stadium complex. Political backlash was a given after the Marlins’ refusal to release their financial records during the push for the new stadium.

For years, the Marlins cried poverty. Loria threatened to move the team from Florida. Despite several sources claiming the Marlins raked in money — Forbes’ annual valuations for the Marlins have proven extremely close to reality, and Miami-area accountant Jorge Costales has written incisively about Marlins finances — the county commissioners voted in December 2007 to pay for more than three-quarters of the stadium due open in 2012.

Samson claimed on LeBatard’s show that the tax dollars will come from tourism money devoted to sports and convention complexes. That is only half-true. To free the tourism-tax dollars, the county shifted general-use monies from property taxes to pay other debt. Take from one hand, give to the other and buy an owner worth hundreds of millions of dollars a new toy from which he reaps damn near every cent, all with the money of hardworking citizens.

This was avoidable, of course, had the county commissioners refused to approve a deal until they saw the Marlins’ financial statements. The management fee was an obvious red flag. How could Loria and Samson say they didn’t have enough money for a stadium when they were paying themselves? The loan was another red flag. Such revelations almost certainly would have given the commissioners pause about offering the breadth of public financing they did.

Loria refused transparency. He is an excellent businessman, and he knew the repercussions. In the end, the Marlins hoodwinked local politicians so caught up in the excitement of keeping the team in Miami, they forgot with whom they were dealing. When hundreds of millions of dollars are involved in anything, people are going to lie, and Loria and Samson made statement after misleading statement and got away with it.

“I never go back to regret what I do because I make decisions based on the information provided to me, my conscience and what is best for those I represent,” said Rebeca Sosa, one of the nine county commissioners who voted for the stadium funding against four opponents — including Regalado, now the mayor. “The situation and information I have today in my hand is different than the one I had before.

“I still support the Marlins stadium.”

How Sosa, or any commissioner who voted yes, could stand by a potential $2.4 billion of debt with a clear conscience is difficult to fathom. The Marlins are up to their old tricks, still pussyfooting their way around the facts. All those years the team had the lowest payroll in baseball, Samson claimed money went to hidden costs in running a ballclub. One of them, he told Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, was marketing.

“Eight figures,” Samson said. He told The Miami Herald it was among the most in baseball.

In 2008, the Marlins spent $9.8 million on marketing, according to their balance sheet. The Tampa Bay Rays spent $23 million, the Pittsburgh Pirates $17.1 million, the Texas Rangers $16 million and the Los Angeles Angels $10 million. The only team to budget less among the six whose financials were leaked was the Seattle Mariners, whom the Marlins outspent by $11,000.

This isn’t a white lie here, a fib there. It is systemic. Marlins mislead, public follows. The balance sheet was a gift to Miami-Dade County taxpayers who deserve – and have deserved since the “yes” vote – to know how the team they were endowing is run.

The poor, poor Marlins had an operating profit of $48.9 million in 2008 and 2009, including $11.1 million last year, when they increased payroll and started paying off their stadium debt. Loria has already doubled his money on the Marlins – he bought the team for $158.5 million, including a $38.5 million interest-free loan, and it’s now worth $317 million, according to Forbes’ valuations – and the revenue streams from the new stadium should only increase that figure. A county hemorrhaging jobs funneled tax money to fund a stadium for a team with a reckless disregard for its community’s welfare.

The politicians can pursue recourse, and the fans can bellow, and it doesn’t change the reality that a $91 million loan to the county will take 39 years and $1.2 billion to pay off, and that Jeffrey Loria still owns the Florida Marlins with David Samson as his president, and that the retractable-roof stadium, the one that’s 40 percent done, was built on lies that never seem to end.

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