Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fixing Florida

Selig brings his devil-may-care looks and Cary Grant charm to Miami to lobby the local pols for a new stadium for the Marlins:

Selig said the Marlins are handcuffed by playing in the Miami Dolphins' stadium. He noted that three teams in Florida's division -- the New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies -- either have a new stadium or will soon.

Wow. Turner Field, currently enjoying only its eleventh season, is too old to be mentioned in the list of new parks in the NL East. What else ya got, Bud?

"I believe in this market," Selig said. "You give the Marlins a new stadium with all the revenue streams their competitors have, and this will be a great franchise, I'm very confident."

Look, I'm not going to say that the Marlins don't need a stadium -- they certainly do -- but it seems to me that Bud needs to couch his sales pitch on the very existence of the franchise in Miami as opposed to its "success." This is, after all, a team that has won the World Series twice in the last decade. I realize that Bud's definition of success is more aligned with profits than pennants, but he has to understand that in lobbying for a publicly-funded stadium, he is engaging in a political operation. There are a lot of voters in Miami who aren't baseball fans and are wondering why a team that can win more titles than anyone besides the Yankees over the past decade needs their tax dollars for a new home. Bud, you probably have most of the baseball fans behind you already. Make the case to the swing voters.

Bud's not all wrong, however:

The Miami Hurricanes' decision last week to move football games from the Orange Bowl to Dolphin Stadium beginning next year fueled speculation the city will lure the Marlins to the Orange Bowl site. The franchise and Major League Baseball prefer a downtown Miami location. DuPuy said no sites were ruled out Tuesday. He and Selig declined to discuss the Orange Bowl as an option.

Selig is right to not discuss the Orange Bowl, as it's a terrible location for a number of reasons. I know less about Miami than I do most major league cities, but those more savvy than me tend to agree that downtown is the only viable option. If Selig and Loria can't make that happen, they'll almost have to find a place for the Marlins to move, because anywhere is going to be better than the status quo or the Orange Bowl.

Would it be easy for baseball to abandon such a potentially attractive market as Miami? Sure it would, because my guess is that it wouldn't be abandoned for long. I'm just spitballin' here, but if the Marlins were to leave town, isn't it reasonable to assume that a few years down the line that the politicians will feel like they made a mistake in letting baseball go? Isn't it also reasonable to assume that they'd do an awful lot to lure another team to Miami? Isn't it also reasonable to assume that the Devil Rays will be absolutely aching for a new home by then?

None of this should be construed as support on my part for a publicly-funded stadium in Miami, because I personally hate the notion of tax dollars being used to purchase cash machines for rich team owners. If you want to see how owners should think about their relationship to the stadiums in which their teams play, here's a great example. For some reason the Miami politicians are still willing to dance with Bud, however, and as long as they are one can't really fault him for trying to land some corporate welfare.

If he's going to try, though, he needs to be smart about it, and he needs to be willing to walk away from Miami if necessary. Another city will jump into breach. They always do.

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