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The Biggest Ongoing Scam in Professional Sports Is in Miami

Sports

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria deceived taxpayers, pocketed funds meant for team improvement, traded away high-value players to make a buck. It's time for fans to protest the MLB about it.

The Biggest Ongoing Scam in Professional Sports Is in Miami

March 1, 2013
Atlantic Cities

Somewhere, an enterprising baseball writer must be working on a book that is the opposite of Moneyball. This story wouldn't be about a bright, idealistic, young executive who, on a budget dwarfed by those of other major league teams, fields winning ball clubs with underrated players whom he acquires cheaply.

This book—let's call it Scamball—would be about an owner in his 70s who signed All-Star caliber players, hoodwinked the taxpayers into funding most of his new stadium, and then after just one season after the stadium opened, sold off the best talent and pocketed the profits.

What actor could play such an owner? Maybe Alan Arkin, who has portrayed a variety of charming con artists. Or maybe Anthony Hopkins—after all, he made a great Richard Nixon. They don't have to actually look like Miami Marlins' owner Jeffrey Loria. They just have to convince you that they are devious enough to pull off the biggest ongoing scam in professional sports.

Three years ago, Deadspin, in a terrific piece of investigative journalism, confirmed what many had thought all along. The Marlins were using the rich stream of cash flowing in from Major League Baseball—their cut of the national television contract and licensing money as well as their share of the "luxury tax," the penalty money divvied up after teams like the Yankees go over the salary threshold—not to do what they were supposed to be doing, namely providing their fans with a better baseball team. Instead, the cash flow was simply treated as profit by Loria and team president David Samson. Loria and Samson had, for years, been poor-mouthing, insisting that they were barely breaking even financially (though in 2007 Forbes reported that the Marlins actually had the highest operating income in baseball), and they needed the help of local government to pay $645 million for the new stadium (and accompanying parking facilities) that they said they needed to be competitive.

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