A Bronx Cheer For Our Amateur Negotiators The Marlins 9
Written by Michael Lewis on September 23, 2010
By Michael Lewis
Miami-Dade commissioners still don’t get it: after giving away the game in a stadium deal that never should have been, they praise the winning Florida Marlins and ignore their own costly errors.
In their official postmortem of last year’s gift to the Marlins of every revenue stream from a stadium costing county taxpayers $3 billion over three decades, commissioners ignored their own strikeouts.
The commission should focus ahead rather than criticize the Marlins, said Audrey Edmonson. "They have a business. They did a good job in their negotiations."
That’s absolutely true. The Marlins are a very profitable business, as commissioners have just learned to their horror, and they did a good job in convincing the county that they didn’t have a cent and needed the $3 billion gift in the worst way.
Unfortunately, it was the worst way for the county, not the Marlins.
County Manager George Burgess negotiated using the weakest possible game plan: get a deal at any cost. Knowing that he would say yes to anything at all, the Marlins had no qualms about pitching for a shutout. They did even better: a no-hitter.
"We did back flips to accommodate the Marlins," dissenting Commissioner Carlos Gimenez told the others two weeks ago as their reviewed their failure. "We got nothing in return. We’re going to get a baseball stadium — to benefit the Marlins."
That’s correct. The blame, as we said, goes to the nine commissioners who voted to issue $2.4 million in bonds for the fiasco and their manager, Mr. Burgess.
They make quite a team, one we lumped into a nameless, faceless Marlins’ 9.
A Miami Beach reader, no commission fan, gently chided our lapse:
"Thanks for the sad recounting of the greatest baseball boondoggle of all time, i.e., the Miami-Dade commission $3 billion public stadium giveaway to the Florida Marlins.
Although you refer to those county commissioners who voted to give the stadium away without doing their due diligence on the public’s behalf as the "Marlins’ 9,’ you don’t mention their names. Please do, so that we can do all we can to make sure they’re not re-elected."
We’ll go Mr. Copeland one better: artwork suitable for framing of the Marlins’ 9 and the manager who pulled their strings as they dutifully gave away the game.
While Sally Heyman, who voted against the gift, now is asking for $50 million back from the Marlins, don’t expect a penny, although we’re due a whole lot more than her request.
The Marlins continue to play this game far better than the Marlins’ 9 and their manager.
They pitched it well, hitting their targets in private, commissioner by commissioner, to leverage votes with the county manager in tow to make it happen.
They batted well, promising an instant $3 million Major League Baseball youth academy in Hialeah that is still raw land.
And they fielded superbly, scooping up every stadium revenue stream, from tickets to advertising, concessions, luxury suites, sponsorships, naming rights, media rights and even revenues from non-baseball events. Not a single penny got past their glovework.
And what did the Marlins’ 9 get? Promises of tickets in a luxury suite in the county’s own stadium where commissioners can exhibit their zero-win play.
They got that plus the headaches that surfaced with clandestine Marlins financial statements that the commission never demanded before allowing a $3 billion steal.
No, our county hall amateurs can’t play in the same league as professionals like the Marlins, and they took their lumps as a result.
Of course, they have one out: it’s not the commission and their manager who will pay in the end but the taxpayers.
So they didn’t really lose the game: we did.
Save this poster of the Marlins’ 9 as a souvenir and action guide. It’s all you’ll get for your $3 billion.