MLB: Stop thinking of the Miami Marlins as a baseball team
The Miami Marlins’ latest legal maneuver shows that the franchise has always viewed South Florida only as a means to its desired ends.
A recent report by Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald lays out the most recent scheme the Miami Marlins have used to avoid being anything but a drain on the resources of the people of South Florida, and it’s curious why anyone would expect anything different from the franchise.
Hanks details how the Marlins use their partial ownership by a company which is based in the British – not the US – Virgin Islands as leverage to force a change of venue in a lawsuit brought against the team by Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami. The suit alleges that the city and county are owed part of the proceeds of the recent sale of the team.
The Marlins want to avoid what they perceive as a “home field advantage” for the city and county, as the judge who is presiding over the case seems in favor of the plaintiffs. If the Marlins’ argument is successful, the lawsuit would be transferred to a federal court.
A history of loopholes
This is the latest event in a string of abuses against South Florida’s citizens by the Marlins. Besides fleecing the county and city public treasuries for over a billion dollars for Marlins Park, the Marlins’ legacy has included lawsuits levied against season-ticket holders and using offshore holding companies to avoid paying taxes.
The Marlins have been wildly successful, albeit in a twisted manner. Not only did they secure a brand-new state-of-the-art facility to play their games in, but the value of the franchise boomed over the course of 15 years from the $159m that former owner Jeffrey Loria paid for the franchise in 2002 to $1.2b he received from the current ownership group last year. On the field, success has been sparse but legitimate. In just 25 years, the team has won two World Series titles, although the team hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2003 and has had just one season in which it finished above .500 since that time.
The boom in valuation, outside the value of Marlins Park, has largely been because of the boom in the valuation of MLB. Broadcasting rights money and funds from other ventures like MLB Advanced Media and its offshoot Bamtech have acted as a rising tide that lifted all ships. Although attendance at Marlins games is at the bottom of the National League every year and Marlins Park is still without a naming rights sponsor in its seventh season, just the fact that the Marlins are an MLB franchise makes them a precious asset.
An asset is all the franchise has ever been treated as, and South Floridians would be wise to share in that view. For all professional sport entertainment franchises, the on-field action is just one product being sold. Owners of these franchises are only interested in that product as far as it affects the overall value of the business. Business plans, especially for businesses which deal in revenue in the millions of dollars, are built to maximize the value of the asset.
That’s where a clear disconnect between the reality of the Marlins’ business plan and some South Floridians surfaces. Given recently announced attendance figures under 10,000 at Marlins Park and social media conversations, some people in the area have boycotted games to send a message of their displeasure about how the team is being run. There are several problems with that philosophy.
The first is that any “damage” being done to the Marlins’ bottom line by refusing to buy tickets to games is minimal if not non-existent. The Marlins’ business plan is not built to rely on the gate. Revenue sharing, broadcasting license fees, and corporate sponsorships make up the lion’s share of the revenue the Marlins plan on bringing in. If anyone buys tickets, that’s just gravy.
Where change starts
The larger problem with the ideology of sending a message by boycotting games is that assumes the Marlins view the franchise in the same light as these disgruntled fans. It’s an erroneous view that the on-field product, which is of paramount importance to the fans, is the focus of the Marlins’ ownership. Profit is the foremost allegiance of not just the Marlins, but any business.
Part of the blame for this situation belongs on the city and county leaders in South Florida, who not only handed the Marlins a shiny new park to purvey but continue to at least appear to toe the company line today. If South Floridians want a change in how the Marlins operate, that begins with holding their local elected officials accountable for pandering to a business which enjoys their tax dollars while returning little value to the community.
To further and more effectively send a message with their habits and wallets, South Floridians need to adjust their strategy. Boycotting Marlins broadcasts on television and streaming media sources along with boycotting companies who sponsor the Marlins is a much more powerful message. Imagine how quickly change would come if Fox Sports declined to renew its television broadcasting contract citing putrid ratings or Miccosukee Resort threatened to pull its sponsorship because of customer backlash. It would take a concerted, mass effort by thousands of South Floridians, but that’s already visible in the decision not to attend Marlins games.
The Miami Marlins aren’t a baseball team. They are a marketing and sales business which has a baseball team and have become successful by fleecing South Florida’s resources in unprecedented and unethical ways. If South Floridians want things to change, they have to hold the franchise accountable for that and forget about the on-field product.
What do you think of the Marlins’ legal tactics? Let us know in the comments below.