The Bobby Valentine interview, and impending hire, is on hold. The Marlins are saying to be patient, that there is a process here and that they want to hire the right guy.
I am going to be critical here. Firing Fredi Gonzalez so abruptly without having someone in line shows the Marlins to not really have a plan. Then again, to fire Gonzalez and immediately bring in a new manager means that this was going on for awhile and that Gonzalez was a lame duck. Since the Marlins were, in all likelihood, supportive of the Fred, it makes sense that they have an interim situation while they find their next skipper. But, if the Marlins fire Fredi Gonzalez only to hire a retread, this will be a bad move. They need to not make a lateral move here, but find someone who is going to be there when the Marlins move into the new stadium and will anchor the franchise and help get them on a winning track again. Delays only confuse and possibly lose the team and vitally important games.
Yet, there is surprisingly a lot of bitterness in the media and among celebrity fans (notably, Stan Van Gundy) that are not supportive of firing the Fred. I want to stress something – if fans actually go to games, this doesn’t happen. Perception and reality are usually conjoined, and just as a business will spend lots of money to market itself to its customers, the perception coming back to the business owners can be an alternate of reality as well.
The Marlins have a huge following on TV, but it doesn’t translate into ticket sales. Say what you want, but the fans have gotten away with way too many excuses at this point and the owners need ticket sales to drive their business.
The Marlins aren’t moving. There is no threat of contraction. They have a new stadium on the horizon and one of the best players in baseball in Hanley Ramirez. And still, you can’t give away tickets. Why?
People actually have the audacity to bemoan the firing of Fredi Gonzalez? What is the front office and ownership supposed to do? They know if they don’t win they don’t draw. We are not talking about just having a winning season – like the Braves franchise can get away with every year in Atlanta – but the Marlins have to win big just to have a sniff at an on-field profit.
Sure, Marlins fans have had their share of heartbreak. We watched the franchise’s birth only to be cut short a season later in the 1994 strike. Then we won the World Series in ’97 only to have the dismantling made by criminal Wayne “H-Bomb” Huizenga a few weeks later. Ask a Cub fan if they would take those circumstances for a title, by the way, and they would immediately snatch at the opportunity.
The 2003 title was probably one of the best in baseball history – but it is largely ignored because of the luke-warm Miami sports fan market. ESPN doesn’t show the Fish on TV because they don’t respect the fan following here in south Florida. We whine and cry about the lack of national coverage and I always criticize ESPN for its lack of teal (I even go so far as to boycott ESPN whenever I can) but there is little interest – which makes little interest for stakes holders.
And even though Stan Van Gundy has a right to be angry that Fredi was fired and criticize owner Jeffrey Loria for being a cheapskate, he doesn’t have the proper perspective. This team doesn’t draw – so how can Loria spend money? Sure, he has revenue from TV and other streams, and the Marlins spend more on advertising than they do on acquiring a star player. But what historical evidence is there that the fans of south Florida would support a Marlins franchise that spends big money on a star player? There isn’t any. Only winning can draw fans.
So, the real Marlins fans might feel the right to criticize the ownership because, well, they have been supportive and showing their loyalty throughout these years. But we have to also remember, this isn’t about you – this is about your quiet brethren out there, tuning in on TV but not going to the games. Because those “fans” don’t go to games, there is no visible support for this team.
The perception is there for the ownership and front office that the team needs to make a change to get this franchise winning so that they can draw fans to games. And to be fair, who wants to shell out all of the money and make the haul to Land Shark/Pro Player/Joe Robbie/Suntrust Stadium to watch a team that doesn’t have appeal? They want to see a win and feel good when they leave the park.
This is a move to try and reawaken the team but also to get fans’ attention. Not the ones who are currently at the games – they are fans and will be at the games no matter what. It is an attempt to try and get this team winning so that they can draw out those fans to the ballpark. Say what you want about Loria, but the guy wants to see his team win if only to drive up his profit potential. He is not a bad businessman and is not going to be charitable with his money. Of course, he does not have the deep pockets of other owners, but you don’t get rich by spending money. You also don’t get rich by not winning games.