Citizen’s Arrest: The Case for Putting Jeffrey Loria Behind Bars

Jeffrey Loria should consider himself put on notice. The Miami Marlins owner needs to be arrested, prosecuted, and placed behind bars so he can no longer feed upon the good will, tax dollars, and public infrastructure of South Florida. Loria is the Ebola Virus of sports owners, settling in different locations and leaving nothing behind except legions of cynical former fans. His latest sin, described as a“disgrace” and an “embarrassment” by the most mainstream of baseball writers, was yesterday’s shocking trade of star shortstop Jose Reyes, All-Star pitchers Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle, and others to the Toronto Blue Jays for basically a Lloyd Moseby rookie card and Dave Steib's mustache trimmer. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Marlins payroll in one off-season could drop by over 80%.

Bad trades happen of course and salary dumps have become as much a part of baseball as tobacco stains on the dugout steps. But there is a much more nefarious machination at work. Reyes and Buehrle were brought in during the 2011 off-season as a way to sell tickets for the Marlins brand-new $600 million eyesore of a stadium, described by the Miami New Times as “a festering, silver-plated pustule, a grotesquely huge can opener, or just an obscene ode to wasted cash.”

If this was Loria’s own ugly-baby of a stadium, that would be between he and his architect. The problem is that it was built with taxpayer money: $2.4 billion over the next 40 years to be exact. The elected officials of cash-strapped Miami-Dade County took Loria’s word the team was going bankrupt and would cease to exist without a new ballpark. These claims of bankruptcy we now know were lies after the website Deadspin posted leaked financial documents that told a very different story. The deal was so shady, the lack of oversight so egregious, that the Security and Exchange Commission has an ongoing investigation into how taxpayer money could be so blithely squandered.  Last December, Neil DeMause quoted a Yahoo Sports story that said, “While the subpoenas issued by the SEC do not explicitly detail the purpose of the investigation, the feds' motives are evident: They want to understand how, exactly, a group of county commissioners agreed to fund 80 percent of the Marlins new stadium, which cost more than $600 million, without ever seeing the team's financial records — and whether bribes had anything to do with it.”

Now, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, this $80 million salary dump is being seen as prelude to “baseball’s worst nightmare”: the immediate selling of the team along with its expensive new stadium, and all the public money magically morphing into Jeffrey Loria’s private profit. The fight for the new stadium, the promises of urban renewal, the shiny free agent contracts given out during the last off-season, now look like little more than a classic long-con, with Loria the master grifter in the owner's box. This is only a baseball story insofar as setting. The particulars have far more in common with the work of David Mamet than Peter Gammons.

This story of con artistry and corporate crime is evil enough. The problem with Loria is that he’s a repeat offender. Before South Florida knew his name, Loria bought and then destroyed the Montreal Expos. People forget today that Montreal was once a jewel of a baseball town, where Jackie Robinson first broke the color line as a minor leaguer. It was also the team of Hall of Fame caliber players like Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Gary Carter. Loria bought the team in 1999 and his first act was to say that he would rebuild the franchise and bring a championship to Montreal. His second act was to say that the city needed to build a new stadium or "we cannot stay here." After enraging the locals, Loria proceeded to gut the team of talent until fans bitterly turned away from the dispirited, cellar dwelling franchise. Then in one of the most bizarre ownership shell-games in history, Loria sold the Expos to Major League Baseball (a trust of the other 29 owners), was also given a $38.5 million interest-free loan by the league, and in return bought the Florida Marlins. This cleared a path for Marlins owner John Henry to then purchase the Boston Red Sox.

There was one problem with this delightfully incestuous ownership romp: the Expos had other owners who were left out in the cold. They proceeded to sue Loria on RICO act charges. They lost their case, the Expos of course became the Washington Nationals and now, Montreal is a baseball ghost town where framed photos of Ellis Valentine, Tim Wallach, and Warren Cromartie hang in dusty corners of the neighborhood sports bar.

As for the Marlins, Loria was owner in 2003 when they won the World Series and he then proceeded to sell off the team piece by piece. He’s already destroyed the baseball love in this town once. Now he’s like a sadist going back for seconds. The SEC couldn’t bring down Loria. The RICO statute couldn’t bring down Loria. Now, like the man selling the Monorail in Springfield, he’s going to destroy another baseball town, take the money and run. He’s Rollo Tomassi, the guy who's going to get away with it. Bud Selig isn’t going to do a thing about it. The compromised and possibly criminally negligent city officials of Miami aren’t going to do anything about it. All that’s left is us. It’s citizen’s arrest time. Jeffrey Loria: for the crime of destroying Montreal as a baseball town, for destroying Miami as a baseball town, for stealing money from taxpayers to build a monument to your own excess, you are hereby notified of your impending arrest. Please report to the nearest federal prison. You will be granted visitation rights and ample time in the yard but no conjugal visits. You’ve screwed over enough people for one lifetime.

9 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Trolling for Loria in Sactown

What hapless city is next, when Loria cashes out of Miami? I bet former NBA player Kevin Johnson-now mayor of Sacramento, CA- has him on speed dial. In spite of desperate times here, KJ's number one priority is building a new arena (when he's not forming questionable public/private educational parnerships, and helping his wife, Michele Rhee, take down teachers unions). When an arena funding tax was voted down, Johnson tried to privatize city parking revenue as part of the deal.

Sac Kings owners, the Maloof brothers, only wish they had moves like Loria, as they piss away the family beer fortune, shutter the champion Monarchs, and let the Kings starve in the cellar. KJ and his cadre of developers would love to trade the out-of-their-league Maloofs, for Loria and his deep, post-Miami pockets.

drug test Loria

so, if Loria is taking tax payer money, shouldn't he be drug tested the way Gov Scott wants to test people who welfare ?

Disaster, but another lesson

If any team owner should be charged with defrauding a city, it would be Loria. Beyond that though, this is one more case where municipalities should never, ever trust a team owner.

$600 million. Just think what the city could have spent on literally almost anything else. Heck, by the census estimates and reported cost of that ugly stadium, the city could have given every known man, woman, and child $234 apiece and it couldn't have been a worse idea.

Tampa Bay Rays owner is lobbying for a new stadium. Take note, citizens. Let billionnaire sports team owners build their own stadiums if they must, but stop giving them money!

Who is at fault here?

I hope you understand how the law works in this coubtry.

Who is going to notify Mr. Loria to report to the nearest federal prision?

Think this through and ask your self: Who are the real culprits here?

Add Lincoln And Armstrong To The Arrest List

We long suffering Mariners fans here in Seattle feel exactly the same way about Nintendo and their corporate lawyer representative who runs the team, Howard Lincoln, and his bozo of a side kick Chuck Armstrong. Worst pro baseball ownership by far. And, surprise, they've been showered with plenty of tax payer money over the past 15 years.

Really, you can't expect any other result when free tax payer money is being given away. It's too easy to make money, and it doesn't matter that you are not any good at managing a pro sports team.

EXPOS and Loria, the jerk.

Great article. I'm in deep conflict about the latest Miami downsizing. As a suffering Jays fan I am thrilled to finally have a competitive team in the difficult AL east.

But as a born Montrealer and Expos fan at heart, I'm recalling all of the bad things that Loria did to us. I was there in 2004, the last year. I went to the last Expos home game (ironically against the Marlins). And to this day I still can't believe the team is gone. Montreal is a great sports town and Montrealers love baseball. It can work there. But the damage Loria has destroyed any good chance at MLB returning to that great city for decades.

Thank you David for exposing how awful a man Loria is. I will never get the chance to take my son to an Expos game because of his actions; he's ruined the chance for so many great family memories for so many people across Montreal, eastern Canada and the north east states. One man causing so many problems. Citizens arrest indeed!
Go Spos!

5 Good Trends in Sports

Luria is clearly not a shining example of how to run a sports franchise. Guys like him obscure the positive in pro sports -- leading to a general moan of nostalgia for a "purer" past. But the truth is that sports today are actually a pretty positive influence on society. Here's five ways big time sports has been trending in the right direction:

1. Before most NBA games, the players from opposing teams embrace. Then they play with intensity and emotion for 48 minutes. Then they hug again. Its a great lesson to everyone, including the kids who idolize them, that you can play fiercely but not personally. That you can be kind and friendly outside the game and be a tough competitor during it. And that you can show emotion to your friends in public. This true after NFL games, too. You can see that behavior mimicked all the time in youth sports. The self-protective stoicism among guys trying to be tough is no longer necessary.

2. In the 1970's there was a fear that as NBA rosters got more black players, the popularity of the sport would decline. White people would just not be as interested in a sport with nearly all-black teams. But the truth is that as the NBA has gotten blacker, it has gone from a niche sport to a global juggernaut. Thirty years ago, the NBA finals were shown on tape delay now there are live regular season games on TV almost every night and a whole network dedicated to the League. And in addition to fewer white players, there are more international players. As a general trend over the last 50 years, as the league as gotten blacker and more foreign, it has gotten more popular and valuable. Perhaps most telling, the Celtics roster is currently composed of fourteen black players and one white foreigner, and the team is as popular and beloved as ever in Boston.

read the rest at: http://www.thebiggerhammermovie.com/blog/2012/11/5-ways-pro-sports-are-better-they-used-be

As a baseball trade

I agree with the overriding sentiment in the article. What Loria has done warranted a long prison term before this trade and he hasn't helped himself at all. The only quibble I have with the article is that you seem to suggest the Marlins got nothing in return in the deal, which is an exaggeration. As a pure baseball trade, the Marlins actually did quite well considering how much money they unloaded on to the Jays.

Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Adeiny Hechavarria are significant prospects that could all end up being very good Major League players someday. Escobar (although a deplorable homophobe--he's certainly not alone there in the sports world) still has value and an incredibly team-friendly contract and Henderson Alvarez has the tools of a mid-rotation starter, even if it's unlikely he reaches that ceiling.

The big problem with the deal is how Loria treats the players and the taxpayers of Florida. He should be put in jail based on the utter fleecing that has occurred here, but AT LEAST the Marlins were able to accrue some talent from Toronto that could help rebuild what is a tattered farm system.

Corporate Greed

Once again we see the greed of the 1%. They aim to control it all, while the poor get poorer and they get richer.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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