Several weeks ago the Marlins shocked the nation by signing Giancarlo Stanton to the largest contract in North American sports history (325 million for 13 years). For a team that has a reputation for thriftiness, why have they gone out of their way to shore up their depth chart?
The answer to that is simple enough. They are not shoring up their depth chart, but the “trust” bank. The same one they’ve bankrupted repeatedly over the years through fire sales & market corrections. Their end game:? increased revenue through an enhanced TV contract. Their current deal, signed with Fox Sports in 2012, pays the team about 14 million dollars. “We have the worst TV revenue in baseball, and we have another two or three years to go before we can negotiate that,” Loria said back in 2013.
“We have the worst TV revenue in baseball, and we have another two or three years to go before we can negotiate that”
According to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, the team hopes to triple their annual local TV revenue. They also plan to increase payroll to more than $100 million by 2018 using the money from that TV deal. There is no way any media company is going to give the Marlins money to broadcast a lackluster team without a face of the franchise. That’s where Stanton and their other off-season acquisitions come in.
Media money is very important for the long-term survival of any franchise in the modern sports landscape. An apt example of how important TV money is for a franchise and how it impacts an organizations bottom line are the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers secured a TV deal totaling 6 billion on January 2013 with Time Warner Cable. What effect did it have on the Dodgers? Their payroll increased by 111 million dollars from 2012 to 2013 and they have yet to finish anywhere below first place in their division. Using those funds, the Dodgers acquired or retained Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez. Those moves ensured that the Dodgers not only have a competitive team for years to come, but also that they reach the playoffs consistently. In other words: increased TV revenue = better players = playoffs = more eyeballs for advertisers = more money for team.
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Now, don’t get me wrong, I distrust Loria as much as the next disgruntled Marlins fan. However, while Loria the owner can’t be trusted, Loria the business man is worth his weight in gold. The same reasons that have pushed fans to hate him actually work in his favor this time around. Loria has never run the Marlins as a hobby, to him they will always be a business. In this case, that may not be such a bad thing. Right now the business needs more eyeballs (fans). Loria is going out and getting them.
An example of his business ability is how he came to own the Marlins in the first place. In 2002, he sold the Expos to the league for 120 million. Then he paid former Marlins owner John Henry 158 million for the franchise. Where did he get the difference? He secured an interest free loan from the league.
Through these details we can be reasonably sure that Loria has his best interest at heart. In this rare occasion, those interests are actually aligned with what the fans have desired since the first fire sale in 1997: a team they can actually get to know and root for!
It sure looks like the sun is finally rising over fish fans far and wide. Let’s hope it’s actually the sun, instead of an oversized flashlight that can be turned off on a whim.