Or is it bad is in the eye of the beholder?
One man’s pragmatism is another man’s amorality.
There are some that consider Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria capricious, petulant and impossible; that he uses threats and bullying to get his way.
Did he use unethical tactics to force the state of Florida to build him a new ballpark? Has he played Jedi mind tricks with MLB itself to pocket a vast chunk of the revenue sharing his low-budget Marlins receive from the other clubs? Does he play fast and loose with semantics to enrich himself?
But does he run one of the more efficient and successful teams (in terms of bang for the buck) in baseball? Does he have a championship ring? Is there a new ballpark on the way for his team, accomplishing something the prior owner—the just as ruthless, albeit with a smile—Wayne Huizenga?
You can say whatever you want about Loria.
He’s straddled or crossed the line of perceived propriety in conducting business; his clever chicanery is discussed in detail in Jonah Keri’s book—The Extra 2%—about his Florida statemates, the Rays. (I read the book and a review will be coming soon.)
But Loria is a businessman.
He’s a smart businessman.
He essentially traded the first club he owned, the Expos, for the Marlins; he made his money in the art world which often has nothing to do with quality, but what people think is quality based on what they’re told; how others value a certain piece of work.
You can find this phenomenon in any endeavor which has a non-linear way of judging value like music, writing and filmmaking—even baseball with its increasing reliance on stats is a transient and judgmental landscape.
You can “pump and dump” anything including athletes; such a strategy is the hallmark of a large part of the creative world. Hype can make or break a song, book, film or painting.
Loria has populated his Marlins front office with smart and gutsy people who know baseball and make unconventional decisions. From president of baseball operations (the true baseball boss) Larry Beinfest; to GM Michael Hill; to player personnel men Jim Fleming and Dan Jennings, there’s an intelligence and talent recognition skill that has kept the Marlins competitive despite the imposed payroll constraints.
So now Loria is being referred to as a George Steinbrenner wannabe because he’s angry at the Marlins poor play in spring training—Palm Beach Post Story—but he’s the owner of the team. If he has unrealistic expectations and is demanding, that’s within his rights as the owner.
He wanted to fire Joe Girardi because Girardi talked back to him in 2006? He took the side of Hanley Ramirez in a dispute with former manager Fredi Gonzalez? He’s angry that the team is looking clueless in spring training?
He owns the team.
The Marlins are talented, but flawed. I said as much in response to a question about their 2011 hopes for contention—Viewer Mail 3.14.2011—and they’re working with a manager on a 1-year contract who’s clearly under fire already.
Is it the “optimal” way to run a team? Not for the fleeting tastes of those who are looking to hide amongst the rabble and don’t think for themselves; those that are reluctant to state a dissenting opinion for fear of being shouted down or cast out.
No matter what you think of Loria and his aesthetics, you can’t argue with his financial intelligence, winning within a budget and getting himself the cash cow of a new ballpark without having to pay for it.
It’s business and there are about 20 teams/fan bases in baseball who’d be in much better shape right now if they had the Marlins front office—from the owner on down—running their teams.
MLB and the media can gnash their collective teeth and shake their heads all they want, but Loria—like Steinbrenner—built something through any number of means that could be seen as illegal, sleazy, mean and outright crazy.
But look at the results.
Isn’t that what matters?
The bottom line?
I published a full excerpt of my book yesterday here.