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2 posts from February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria discusses Stanton, trades, franchise's future (with audio)

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria met with about a dozen sports writers Monday night inside the Diamond Club at Marlins Park in his first interview since the dismantling of the 2012 roster.

Among the many topics covered, Loria discussed the future with All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, why the team traded Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, and his vision for the franchise moving forward.

Video cameras were not permitted for the interview. But here is the 25-minute audio interview below.

AUDIO OF JEFFREY LORIA INTERVIEW

After Loria finished the interview and exited, Marlins President David Samson spoke for roughly another half hour about the fiscal state of the team and why the 2012 season was a failure.

AUDIO OF DAVID SAMSON INTERVIEW

HERE IS THE COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT FROM LORIA...

- Why not speak earlier... "There is a simple answer to that. It's hard to stop a runaway train. I wanted to decompress, sit back and see what we needed to be doing and I thought the time was finally appropriate to talk and get my message across to the fans, which is what we did Sunday."

- Do you have a grasp of the public anger... "I have a sense of it. I'm sorry we built this amazing ballpark and fans are feeling the way they do. But we did this for a reason. We weren't going anywhere. And I think anybody that is a baseball guy or a baseball person will realize that after two years we had we had to do something. And we had to do something swiftly, quickly and bold. I'd like to turn the clock ahead two years from now and look back at what we did because we had three or four prospects really in our system. We didn't have people we could call up last year. We had no good young players to any great numbers and I will invite any of you and all of you to be in touch with us, me, Larry [Beinfest] and Michael [Hill] to talk about who is one our system. We didn't break up the 1927 Yankees. We broke up a losing ball club that was going nowhere for two straight years. I'm about winning. I like to win. I love winning. I love Miami. I love this ballclub and I love what we've done now. Little painful for a lot of people. But no pain no gain."

- Reyes and Buehrle had just signed long term deals and fans can't understand why they were traded... "We had a pretty bad year last year and signing these free agents didn't work and I decided along with my baseball people -- in spite of what some of you think I don't make unilateral decisions -- I made two or three unilateral decisions in all these years. One to sign Pudge, which the nay-sayers said was going to be a disaster. That didn't turn out so bad. And I made a unilateral decision to see if we can get the best closer in the game at the time last year which was Heath [Bell], who had three straight successive years. I thought that would be great for us in our new ballpark. Didn't turn out so well because he had problems on the field and off the field, his father was dying. It didn't work out for him or the club. I made it my business to really pursue Jose [Reyes]. I love Jose. To this day I love Jose and I think he's one of the great young players. But when I tell you when you see what we've done here, the shortstop we've brought in for the long haul -- Hanley Ramirez called us and told us what an incredible shortstop he is. When Hanley Ramirez calls you and tells you he's a better shortstop than I am you've got a great guy on your hands. It's amusing to listen to. That's what we want to be thinking about. We wanted good defensive players. I've brought in some coaches. I asked Perry Hill to come back. Perry had his surgery and came back. We had nobody teaching anybody anything in the infield last year. But the overall picture and I wish you could all grasp this is that we had nothing going forward. We had another opportunity to have losing seasons for the next couple years. Three, four years it could have been the same stuff because we had nobody to mature and nobody to bring up. We had Jose Fernandez who I encouraged our guys to draft when they did. He was a young Cuban player that we all liked. And when he gets here he will be a household name. We don't have any household names tomorrow. But there will be. You don't win in this business and you aren't successful as a baseball club unless you have an organization of young players that you can call upon. We didn't have that. Larry, Michael talked to me during the year that they can't believe we have all these guys hitting well before their averages. Frankly we stunk. It was a disaster. I talked to our guys and these were the suggestions I got. We got to start again. Want to give me the hits? Give me the hits. The buck stops here. I'm interested in making this successful. We didn't build this building for 10 years to have what's probably going to be this year fewer fans coming. It's a spectacular place. But the baseball people told me we aren't going anywhere. So we had to do something."

- Why include Buehrle and Reyes in the trade... "Buehrle is a very interesting guy. He’s in this mid-30s. Where is he to join us? In this business you have to look ahead. You have to look three, four five years down the road. You make a team four years from now, Buerhle doesn’t fit in. He’s at the end of his career earning $17 million, 18 million, and frankly that doesn’t work down here at that point for us because there are other players we're going to want to keep, want to sign. We have good young pitching, we have really good young pitching."

- Sounds like you are taking a shot at Larry Beinfest's work... "It's not an indictment on Larry. We haven't had great luck from 2002 to 2008 or 2009 with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Johnson along and a couple of other guys. But I can give you names of players that just never made it. You draft players. Some of them work out and some of them don't. Hermida didn't work out. Jeff Allison didn't work out. Sinkbeil didn't work out. Volstad didn't work out. Wonderful kid..."

- Is your intention to resign Giancarlo Stanton... "We're hoping that moment will come, absolutely hoping that moment will come. But Giancarlo needs to play this year. He is here for certainly the foreseeable future and we will cross that bridge at the appropriate moment."

- What was your reaction to Stanton's reaction on Twitter... "I love Giancarlo. He's a great young talent and I wish him nothing, but the best. I have nothing but fond admiration for him. He's a young man. If you really look at it, you go to your workplace and suddenly three or four guys are gone, it's a little disturbing. I understand that. But I'm going to wish him a great season. My wife and I saw him in France. I asked him what he was doing last summer. I told him meet me in Paris and we'll have dinner in the Eiffel Tower. We had a great time together. I love him. He's a great talent. I hope he has a successful year.

- Some people believe Stanton will only be here for one more year... "I don't have any comments on that. He'll be here this year and I'm hopeful he'll come here the next year and when we have our opportunity to talk to him, we'll cross that bridge. We will cross that bridge. He's a Marlin. You're jumping the gun. I would love to see him be the young centerpiece on this ballclub. He'd be the young giant on the ballclub. But you can't make promises in this game because strange things happen all the time. I can tell you he is 23 years old now. He's just beginning his career."

- Do you know what the spending for the team will be going forward... "Last year we had a payroll of close to $95-$100 million and lost tens of millions of dollars. We had to turn back the clock for the moment and push the restart button and get these young players in here and look at where we are in another year or so."

- What do you envision in terms of spending... "Well its going to be a function of the revenues we have. We built this ballpark because we thought there would be a lot of fans coming in here down the road. I understand they're disappointed. That's a natural reaction. I'm not going to give you a budget down the road. We didn't do this for fun. We did this because we think we have something special here."

- Will you get back to the point where you were last season, spending a $100 million... "No. We'll never get to $100 million. We don't have the TV contract yet to do that. We will one day."

- Weren't season ticket sales going well in 2012... "Season ticket sales were going in the right direction and then the season started. We all know the perfect storm that came."

- What did this first season at Marlins Park tell you about Miami's loyalty to baseball... "I'm a firm believer Miami loves its baseball, but nobody wants to watch losing baseball. It's a community that has a background and a history of loving baseball. The latin community loves it, all over the world, wherever there are baseball players whether they are dominican, puerto rican or cuban. It's why we spent 10 years building this beautiful building. We'll get back to where we want to get to. And it was very hard last year. You come into a ballgame and Heath's blowing ballgames day after day, kind of depressing. Other things happened and we needed to fix the chemistry and we needed to fix the core of this team. I know you don't understand it some of you. You can't win in this game if you don't have good young players around you."

- Why did you sign Buehrle and Reyes... "We signed them because we thought it was going to work. I saw him as being here for five years as I saw Jose. I also saw us drawing more people and we didn't draw more people because the team was losing. There was a reaction so early in the season about some comments made. All of it was the perfect storm."

- What about the message sent to free agents. Buehrle and Reyes had either bought homes or where in the process of that... "They didn't buy homes down here. Jose didn't buy a home down here. Let me set the record straight. What you were told is inaccurate, is inaccurate. Never told him to buy a house. He was looking for a house. He came to an ALS dinner which I invited him to. He sat two people away from me, came late. I asked him what he was doing the next week. He said he was going to Dubai. I said 'Has your wife been to Miami?' He said 'Yes. She's looking for a home.' Didn't say anything after that except I know subsequent to that three or four days later Larry came to me with a trade he wanted to do and I immediately called Jose's agent out of respect for him and said 'Jose is going to be traded and I want you to call him before he reads about it. He hasn't bought a house yet has he?' He said 'No. He's contemplating.' So I said 'Just call him and let him know."

- Do you understand fans anger that they were beyond firesale... "It's not a fire sale. You can call it a fire sale. It's called hit the restart button. because it didn't damn work. I understand the feeling. I have no interest in endless losing. We had two years of that. I want to see us get back to our winning ways. We had a number of years during the last decade where we had lots of successful season with low payrolls. Now we're in a position in a new building where the payrolls should be able to go up. We envision that. And I certainly kept my promise and said in this first year we're going in, let's get our shorstop, Mr. Energy. Let's get a closer. Then we had no closer."

- What has the reception to you been from public... "I will tell you that on Saturday night I was at the food and wine festival. I was approached by maybe 20 or 30 people. All of them congratulated me, said you had to do what you did. To a person. Everybody, fans still want photographs with you, happy. I haven't seen anything. I got a few silly phone calls. That was in November and it stopped. The only stuff is what happens daily here. I'm hoping we can call a halt to it all and try to get behind the home team here."

- Poll in Greg Cote's blog, 98 percent want you to sell the team... "Well, the team is not for sale. Of course I care. That means people are disappointed. But I know what we're doing. I just know we need to get a little bit down the road here to see what we've brought in. You probably don't even know the names of three or four of the players we have, that we've brought in. We have tried. We have energized this franchise. Does it matter? I can't believe fans want to come to a ballpark and watch you lose every night. We had to do something so it wouldn't be like that. We're going to have a little bit of a rough year because we have young guys."

- Should you have foreseen this 2 years ago... "I couldn't have foreseen any of this two years ago. I'm not that good."

- What about the negative things said about you... "I don't pay any attention to it frankly. I feel for them because they identified with Jose. I'm sure nobody loved Heath and his games that he lost and I'm sure Buehrle nobody really focused on him. Jose brought a lot of energy here. When Larry and Michael focused on the major league club with the best young talent in baseball they came up with the Toronto Blue Jays. And we absolutely raided their young player development system. Last year we had the 28th worst record for minor league development. We didn't have the players."

- What about trading your stars for minor leaguers... "You want to talk about it. We traded Josh Johnson who was going to leave this year. John Buck who wasn't helping us any. Bonifacio, I adored. But it's about Reyes. And for that I'm sorry. But in order to get us the five or six players we got from Toronto. In order to get you got to give."

- The Dolphins obviously took up issue with the Marlins... "That smear campaign. I'm sure it's just an effort to get a deal done. I hope the Dolphins get their deal. I want every team to thrive in South Florida."

- Why call it a smear campaign... "Using us for what? It has nothing to do with us. They want some funds, that's their business. We should have not been included."

- What's been the reaction to your letter... "I haven't gotten 98 percent of people wanting me to sell. I've had a bunch of phone calls from season ticket holders calling me and said 'Good for you. You finally said something.' Something needed to be said. And I know you follow what your editors want you to do. And I'm okay with that. And you can write as you see fit and I'm okay with that. But I think if we can take a little time out here and go up to Jupiter and I invite you to see who some of these players are. We got some spectacular young players. I got a text this afternoon from someone who said we lost a 7-6 game but all the young players were banging the crap out of the ball. Wait until you see Yelich and Fernandez and Marisnick and even the Hechavarria kid, and that's going to play well here too because he's a little Mr. Energy himself, too. Like Jose. Climb on the bandwagon and be positive about some of this that's going on here because in two years you're going to say 'What were we doing two years ago?'"

- Will you have to give into the no trade clause... "Who knows where we will be down the road. There are some free agents who may need it, but we have to wait and see."

- Will you have a salary ceiling... "There is no ceiling. This is a market. We have to worst TV revenue in baseball and we still have a few years before we can negotiate that. That will be very helpful. We're tied up until 2020 but the negotiations for that always start up before that."

- Will you go to Stanton with a no trade clause... "I don't think this is the year to go to Giancarlo with an offer. We have to let him play it out, let him feel comfortable. And we got the right guy in there now to manage this team. Mike Redmond knows how we operate and was part of his success here. Have you seen the flavor in our camp?

- Why wait on Stanton. Would send a message otherwise... "I want him to feel comfortable about stability here and what we're doing. We will reach out to him eventually."

It's a 20-year reunion for Mike Redmond, Fredi Gonzalez and Carlos Tosca

    LAKE BUENA VISTA -- There were hugs and handshakes behind the batting cage a moment ago when rookie Marlins manager Mike Redmond had a chance to reunite with two people he said were instrumental in his baseball development: Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca.

    "I'm not here today without those guys," Redmond said.

    Tosca was the manager when Redmond began his pro career in the Marlins' system at Single A Kane County in 1993 and managed him again two years later at Double A Portland. Gonzalez was the catcher's manager in '94 at Single A Brevard County again in '98 at Triple A Charlotte.

     "Those guys have known me since I came out of Gonzaga," Redmond said. "Carlos was like a father to me. He was hard on me when I was younger as a catcher, really taught me to be responsible and to be accountable as a catcher. He was tough. He was really tough on me, old school. But it made me a better player and it made me learn the game."

     It was Gonzalez who broke the news to Redmond that he was being promoted to the majors when the two were at Triple A in 1998. The Marlins needed a catcher after acquiring, and then quickly trading, Mike Piazza. Redmond said Randy Knorr probably would have received the call-up had he not broken his thumb.

     "I was in the weight room and he came and told me I was going to the big leagues," Redmond said. "And I said, 'C'mon Fredi.' I thought he was joking. He said, 'No Red, you're going to the big leagues.'"

     Later this afternoon, the former pupil will be taking on his former coaches when the Marlins face the Braves.

     "It is a little bit weird," Redmond said. "But, at the same time, it's neat. I think it's great."

     Said Gonzalez, smiling: "That makes me feel old. That's not good."

     _________________

     -- Jose Fernandez was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday in Jupiter and, if everything goes well, will likely make his first spring appearance on Thursday in a "B" game. Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said Fernandez has been dealing with a tight hamstring.

     __________________

     -- Redmond said he's easing Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco into Grapefruit League action. That's by design. Polanco will make his first spring training appearance on Tuesday in Jupiter while Pierre, who has not played since Saturday's Grapefruit League opener, will also be in the lineup.

     "Those guys have been around a while and, with as many guys as we have in camp I want to see play, those guys are probably the least of my worries," Redmond said. "Those veteran guys, I want to take care of them, especially Polanco havine some back problems over the last couple of years, make sure he eases into it. We need those guys for the long haul. We don't have a ton of depth and we definitely need J.P. and Polanco to be healthy."