Thursday, November 23, 2017

New Owners: Bean Counters

By John Dorschner
    Every day the new owners of the Marlins are revealing added details about how they view their purchase as an investment --not a quest for championships.
    The latest revelation comes that lead investor Bruce Sherman is still seeking $250 million more from investors, as first reported by And it's all put in money terms, with "payroll discipline" being a top priority.

    What's clear is that Sherman has bought into the Marlins with the idea that sports teams tend to soar in value over time.  If he just holds on to his investment, his money might double or quadruple in five or 10 years. Consider Loria paid $158 million in 2002 and sold for $1.2 billion this year.
    Among Sherman's top priorities: "Payroll discipline."  Investor talk for cutting salaries.
    Contrast that with Mark Walter buying the Dodgers in 2012 for $2.15 billion. The team president at their first meeting, according to Wall Street Journal, told the billionaire there two ways to build a winner -- high-priced free agents or developing young players. "Let's do both!" said Walter.

    With the Marlins all we hear is that Sherman has $400 million in debt that he has to pare down. Every move the owners have made so far seems focused on money, not victories. Heck, they even kept on Michael Hill, the guy responsible for innumerable bad drafts, trades and free-agent signings -- perhaps because he has a lengthy contract that they'd have to pay off to dump him.
    And still, the pitch to new investors starts with the promise that Sherman-Jeter will "significantly improve ticket sales." How? By dumping Stanton?
    Now, to be clear, Sherman inherited a mess from Loria.  I'm sure Loria knew he planned to sell the team and was looking to get another championship -- without caring about long-term costs. Stanton's ultra-long-term contract for $325 million -- back-loaded so that the team just starts to feel the hurt with the first big hit of $25 million in 2018 -- really never made sense for a team with poor attendance and awful TV contract.
    Then there's Chen -- due $12 million in 2018, and $20-plus million for the following two years. Tazawa gets $7 million next year, Ziegler $9 million, Prado and Volquez $13 million each.
    Marlins fans needed a deep-pocket owner, semi-insane, willing to spend big bucks for a championship -- and instead we got bean-counters just biding their time till the value of the club goes up.
    Note: I first saw the investor pitch at

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Marlins pitchers pay scale

Loria upped the payroll this year, perhaps knowing it would be his last attempt to get to the playoffs. But how wisely did they spend the money? ERA is just one of many measures, of course, but just for a rough look, it's an indication there seems to be no correlation between pay and performance with this team. (Salaries from Herald report.)

Chen4.33    $15.5 mil
Volquez    4.71    $9 mil
Ziegler4.49        $7 mil
Ramos3.01    $6.5 mil
Koehler5.61    $5.75 mil
Tazawa 4.49   $5 mil
Phelps4.76   $4.6 mil
McGowan4.58   $1.75 mil

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 Batting -- Yellich Yes! Hech No!

Woody Allen said "80 percent of success is showing up."  Here's what Marlins batters did in 2016 -- total bases (singles, doubles, triples, HR) plus walks, plus hit batsman. Note how poorly Hechavarria does, compared to the injured Bour and injured Stanton -- And Dietrich was around for only part of the season.  And Prado was Mr. Steady.
Yelich 279 72 4 355
Prado 250 49 4 303
Ozuna 252 43 4 299
Stanton 202 50 4 256
Realmuto 218 28 5 251
Dietrich 149 32 24 205
Hech        158 33     1     192
Bour  133 38 0 171

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Gloomy Look at Marlins for Next Decade

    Giancarlo's injury isn't just a disaster for this year's play-off hopes -- it's an indication of the worsening disasters that await Marlins fans for the next decade. 
    As I have noted before, Stanton is often a wounded warrior. Last October, I wrote a post based on the Woody Allen comment:  "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Stanton was showing up for work only 75 percent of the time. Pujols in his first years, by contrast, was playing 95 percent of the time.
    Now that Stanton's once again done for the year, we can see that he's averaging 118 games for his six full seasons -- or 73 percent of games played. (All figures in this rant based on numbers from

            Stanton Contract + Attendance = 
                            Crushing Numbers

      But another figure is just as depressing.
    Here's the background: The Marlins have been playing exciting baseball up to this point, even after losing the league's batting average leader of 2015, Dee Gordon, for a lengthy stretch. In the middle of August, they're still in serious contention.
    And yet... yet ... they are drawing a mere 21,753 fans per game (through Aug. 14), down about 500 from the average of 22,220 at this point last year, when the team was pretty damn hopeless.

     Miami is just a crummy sports town, except when a championship is on the line, while people in places like Denver and Chicago get much larger, devoted attendance for all sports, even when the teams are dogs. (And I suspect the attendance is inflated with Chevron discounts, free senior Thursdays and those mid-week day camp games that are listed as 25,000-30,000 but those kids are getting in with group discounts meaning that Marlins average price of ticket-sold is much lower than many other teams.)

             Loria Counting on Attendance Boost 

     Here's why this attendance is particularly devastating: Loria, in his infinite wisdom, back-loaded Stanton's contract -- cheap years at the beginning, expensive at the end. Stanton received $6.5 million to start his $325 million contract, $9 million this year and $14.5 million next year. For the decade starting in 2018, he will be receiving $25 million to $32 million a year.
    Loria's theory is that the cheaper years at first would allow the team to build a solid contender around Stanton, creating excitement leading to soaring attendance that would pay for the expensive years later on.
    So not only is Stanton missing a ton of playing time, but attendance isn't soaring -- meaning that in the years ahead, the Marlins won't have the big bucks to build a team and may have to scrimp on other players in order to keep fulfilling the huge Stanton contract.

             As long as I'm ranting... Latos et al.
            I should step back to say the organization has made some good moves. Prado is decent, though he doesn't provide the power that championship teams ordinarily have at third base. Dee Gordon had one great year, although long term, I'll still not sure how valuable he will be. I like Mattingly as a manager, with plenty of good ideas, such as finding lead-off hitters while Gordon was out.  BUT ... BUT ...
          Marlins are paying Wei-Yin Chen $12.5 million this year, $15.5 million next year. So far, he's 5-4, 4.99 and injured. 

          The minor league cupboard is close to bare. The big San Diego trade was pretty much a disaster, and I (along with many fans) don't have much confidence in the Marlins executives making the right decisions.
    Just one example: While the Marlins struggle to find starting pitching, they're off to Cincinnati, where on Tuesday they will be facing Anthony DeSclafani, 6-1, 3.11 ERA, earning $540,000 this year.
    You remember that December 2014 trade? We gave up DeSclafani and a minor leaguer for Mat Latos, who was such a disaster with his $9.4 million contract we dumped him to the Dodgers last year in mid-season.
    And who will be the Marlins pitcher facing DeSclafani? As of Monday morning, it's TBA.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mike Piazza -- What a Deal

       In case you're wondering, I looked it up:

       So basically, it was part of that sickening unloading that soured many fans. In the end we ended up with starter Preston Wilson. Zeile played 66 games in 1998 and was gone. Yarnall played two years with Yankees in 1999 and 2000.

       We got Wilson, we gave up Bonilla, Eisenreich, Johnson and Sheffield.  

       But I didn't look far enough. My buddy Sam adds this: "Those deals weren't a complete waste.  We traded Yarnall to the Yankees for Mike Lowell.  We traded Preston Wilson to the Rockies for Juan Pierre and Mike Hampton.  We later traded Hampton to the Braves for Tim Spooneybarger, who got hurt and never did much for the Marlins but at least he had a great name."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Royals vs. Marlins -- Sad Comparison 2

    In an excellent analysis, the Los Angeles Times has shown how a small-market team like the Royals could build a national champion.
    There were a lot of smart moves, but at the core was the draft.
    From 2005 through 2008, the first picks of the Royals were outfielder Alex Gordon, pitcher Luke Hochevar, 3B Moustakas and 1B Hosmer.
    The Marlins had a bunch of first round picks during those years for various reasons involving free agent compensation (I think). They were Chris Volstad, Aaron Thompson, Jacob Marceaux, Ryan Tucker and Sean West (2005), Brett Sinkbeil and Chris Coghlan (2006), Matt Dominguez (2007) and Kyle Skipworth 2008.
    You might recall you saw Coghlan in the playoffs with the Cubs. What did the Marlins get in return for that trade? Well, there wasn't a trade. The Marlins granted him free agency in 2013.
    Now, the LA Times noted that the Royals picks were at the very top of the draft, because the Royals had finished at the bottom the year before. The Marlins highest pick was Skipworth, sixth overall in 2008, a high school catcher that received a $3.2 million signing bonus.
    Skipworth's only appearance in the Show was in 2013 -- when he made four plate appearances with the Marlins, getting one walk and no hits. After the 2014 season, he became a minor league free agent. He was signed by the Reds. During 2015, he struggled at AAA and AA.
    In eight minor league seasons, he batted .214 with a total of 93 HR.
    The Royals also did some smart things. In the Latin American signings, they got catcher Perez, the World Series MVP, for 65,000 pitcher Yordano Ventura for $27,000.
    After their World Series lost in 2014, the Royals decided they couldn't afford to retain pitcher James Shields, designated hitter Billy Butler and outfielder Nori Aoki. They went into the free agent market to get Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios as replacements. Total cost: $48 million, same as the Dodgers spent on Brandon McCarthy, the LA Times reported.
    Meanwhile, the Marlins signed free agent Michael Morse for $16 million for two years. He didn't make it to the end of the season.
    When the Royals had starting pitching woes, they traded three young pitchers for Johnny Cueto, who threw a WS shutout. The Marlins sent a young prospect to the Reds for Latos, who also didn't make it to the end of the season.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mets vs. Marlins -- a Sad Comparison

     They both used to be losers in the NL East. Now one of them is still a loser …
      During the post-season, I've been gathering data. 
     Of the top eight batters and four starters:
     The Mets have built their team like this: 7 from drafts, one from the amateur free agent (meaning basically smart draft option), three trades and one free agent.
      The Marlins have six from the draft (one being Rule 5: Bour), five from trades and 1 amateur free agent.
       I was expecting that I'd see the Mets with a lot more draft picks, but now let's break it down.
       First of all, what didn't we see? The Marlins wasted money on two free agents – Salty at catcher and Morse at 1B – that weren't part of the end-of-year roster I'm using for this comparison.
       What's more, the Marlins dumped two young pitchers – Andrew Heaney, 24, who ended up in Anaheim 6-4 3.49, and Anthony DeSclafani, 25, with the Reds 9-13 4.05.For these two young two young pitchers we got two old pitchers – now gone – and Dee Gordon, an All-Star second baseman.
      The rumblings were that DeSclafani and Heaney in brief appearances with Marlins in 2014 hadn't been as good as hoped, and so they were better off dumped. So ...maybe the drafting folks weren't as good as they should have been.
      As the Marlins give away young pitchers, what did the Mets do? They dumped a successful older pitcher, Dickey, and picked up a super young pitcher, Syndergaard, as well as a young starting catcher, d'Arneau.
      And this year, in a last-minute deal that sent Mets prospects soaring, they obtained Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers for two young pitching prospects. Imagine: They have four young fabulous pitchers in their rotation and they still had so much depth in the farm system that they could give up two more pitchers for a (temporary?) super-star.
     Another contrast that with the Marlins: Two young pitchers Eovaldi (14-3, 4.03) and German (injured), a super prospect in minors, were traded for Prado.
      Free agents: The Mets picked up Granderson, a great addition; the Marlins picked up guys like Salty who didn't even make it to the end of the season.
      Quality drafting: Mets pitchers Harvey, deGrom and Matz. Marlins drafted pitchers: Fernandez, Koehler. Think Mets would trade one of those guys for Koehler, who's in the mix only because the Marlins dumped other pitchers? 
      Marlins management could say the team would have done better if Stanton wasn't injured, but in fact their play improved in last part of season without him. AND Wright, the Met's traditional star, missed a lot of the season with a gimpy back.

                       "Show Me the Money" 

    So let's look at the money. At start of season, the Mets were spending $101 million on payroll versus Marlins $68 million.
    The Marlins have less to spend because they get less money from fans. The Mets TV contract must be a ton larger than the Marlins (nothing can be done about that). The Mets had attendance of 2.6 milion in 2015, compared to 1.7 million for the Marlins. This translates into less money.
     How much less. On the web, you'll see that the average Met ticket price is $25.30 versus the Marlins $28.96.
     But I'm thinking that this must be list price – the way that hospitals have list prices that nobody pays.
     In fact, I myself attended eight games at an average cost of $12.50, because half the games I got in free as an old fart. I'll bet the Mets don't give old farts free admission.

                 Loudly Ticking Time Bomb: Stanton

      Now, let's get to the worst part. There's a loudly ticking time bomb. The Marlins – and Stanton – agreed to backload the $325 million contract. This year, he was paid a mere $6.5 million – with the idea that front office would have enough money to start building a winner, drawing fans to the ballpark, creating more revenue, for better ball players, etc.
        So by going after Latos and Morse et al, they've basically blown a year.
       Next year, Stanton costs $9 million, according a Forbes report. In 2017, it's $14.5 million and by 2018, it's up to $25 million.
      The clock is certainly ticking on building a winner. Forbes noted earlier this year: Of the past 46 major league playoff teams, only nine spent more than 17 percent of their payroll on a single player. Stanton will currently eclipse those percentages.”
    You do the math.