Loria speaks out, and only shows again that he doesn't get it
Jeffrey Loria's three-day return to public view concluded Tuesday with a visit to Marlins spring training and a press conference. Instead of helping himself, the Marlins owner simply proved against that he doesn't get it.
JUPITER, Fla. -- The focus should be on the players, Jeffrey Loria said Tuesday.
So he held a press conference.
"It would be nice if there was some positive," Loria said.
So he chose this week to finally return to public view.
He just doesn't get it, does he? He's no more in touch with reality than he was three springs back, when he declared the Marlins should make the playoffs -- with a team that ultimately couldn't even win more games than it lost.
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For months, as he tore apart his failed grand experiment, Jeffrey Loria said nothing. Then he chose this week to speak up -- three days in a row, just as the Marlins were starting to play spring training games.
And he doesn't understand why this was a bad idea.
He challenges us to be "courageous enough" to report that the Marlins do have some good young talent in camp. Then he makes sure to take away any chance that anyone will talk about that talent, choosing this week to turn the focus back to him.
Yeah, that's what the few remaining Marlins fans want to hear, a few defiant words from an unrepentant owner. That's what they want, to hear Loria say that people around town have been "congratulating" him for his latest fire sale, and that the Marlins' controversial trade with the Blue Jays was "almost universally celebrated" by people in the game.
Look, what the Marlins have done over the last year and a half was never going to be easy to explain to their fans. But leave it to Loria to find a way to make things even worse.
"It's almost like they defy you to care," said Susan Hart, one of the few fans who showed up wearing a Marlins cap for Tuesday's spring game against the Mets.
And Loria doesn't get it.
He keeps talking about "hitting the restart button," as if that was the only possible reaction to a $100 million team gone bad. He blames "columnists" for inciting the negative reaction, saying the word with such disdain that you almost think he's blaming "communists."
He asks us to focus on the young talent the Marlins got back in their trades, then refers to Adeiny Hechavarria as "the shortstop," suggesting that he doesn't know Hechevarria's name, either.
The truth is that the Marlins did get quite a bit of talent back in the deal with the Blue Jays. The truth is that the new coaching staff is impressed with the young talent in camp.
"There's talent," hitting coach Tino Martinez said. "There's a lot of talent. We need to develop them, but they're going to be good major-league players."
I'd tell you more about the kids, but that will have to wait, because Loria instead chose to make this week be all about him. After keeping silent all winter, he began Sunday with an open letter published in local newspapers, continued Monday with a session for local writers and then Tuesday with a sometimes-tense press conference with local television reporters. He gave Sports Illustrated even more access, ensuring that Loria will remain the story for even more days.
As if that will help sell tickets.
The Marlins said this week that their season-ticket base has been cut by more than half since last year, and that it's now down below 5,000. They admitted that only 1.4 million came through the Marlins Park turnstiles last season, even though their official announced attendance was 2.2 million.
"Miami is a wonderful baseball town," Loria said Tuesday.
How would we ever know? How will we ever know, as long as Loria keeps finding ways to drive away fans, rather than attracting them?
"He's 72," said Kevin Duda, another fan at Tuesday's game. "It's time to enjoy the rest of his life, and sell the team to someone who cares."
The sad truth is that Loria does care. He doesn't get it, but he does care.
He just keeps finding ways to make sure the fans stop caring.
When he walked through Roger Dean Stadium just before gametime Tuesday, there was no reaction. No one yelled anything at him. No one even seemed to notice him.
"Maybe in Miami, but we're much more polite up here," said Hart, the fan from Sebastian, Fla. "There's more Midwesterners here."
Either that, or this is just a sign of things to come. Either that, or Loria and the Marlins have done such a job turning off their fans that those few who remain can't be bothered to raise their voices and complain.
"I know there will be about 5,000 loyal fans who will come out no matter what," said Duda.
He said he bought a season-ticket package last season but didn't renew. He said he heard from others who tried to cancel their renewals after the big trade, only to be told they couldn't.
"When [the Marlins] called to try to sell me tickets, they were trying to sell me on the Clevelander," he said, referring to the nightclub behind the left-field fence. "If I want to go to a nightclub, I can go anywhere."
Do you think Jeffrey Loria understands that?