JUPITER -- On Day 3 of a public relations blitz to address the uproar over the stripping of the roster, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria addressed the media at the team's spring training headquarters. Here's his latest Q & A with media:
Loria: "I fulfilled my promise in the new ballpark last year. We had a $100 million payroll. It didn't work. So what do you do? Go back again and lose more games? I can only tell you that we can't win without good players in the organization. We needed to do something to beef up the organization. It's as simple as that.
(Didn't you) promise fans there would be competitive payroll?
Loria: Yeah, except last year was a disaster and we had to push the restart button. Fans didn't come last year after the team started losing. I can't make them win or lose, but I can set the parameters, and we put a team out there that we thought was good, and it actually continued what was going on the year before. Do you want to spend every year in front of you, looking and watching and seeing losing baseball. I'm not here to be involved in losing baseball.
Couldn't you have hit the restart button and kept some of the pieces?
Loria: It wouldn't have worked. If you know anything about the game, you know that down the road, you have your ideas of what your payroll is going to be and who the players are going to be. It doesn't add up.
So it was about payroll?
Loria: No, it' snot about paryoll. It's about players. It's about people. I said the same thing in 2003. For me, it's never been about payroll. You guys can keep repeating those words. We have some very exciting young players here, and we need to bring them along and bring in what you would call the "stars" while we develop our own stars, or else we're going to be a last-place team forever, and I don't want to live with that. I don't think any of the fans accept losing. If you accept losing, you don't come to the ballpark. And that's not what we bought the ballpark for.
Fans are upset because they feel like you're asking them to come out this season, support a Triple A ballclub. What do you tell them?
Loria: "It's not a Triple A ballclub. I don't know whose words those are. They may be your words, but they're not mine. It's not a Triple A ballclub. It's a ballclub with some pretty impressive players. I wouldn't call (Placido) Polanco a Triple A player. I wouldn't call the new shortstop a Triple A player. I wouldn't call our second baseman a Triple A player. I certainly wouldn't call Rob Brantly that. These are exciting young players. Giancarlo Stanton is not that. Juan Pierre, Mr. Energy who sets the tone for how you play and the standard for excellence....these are not Triple A ballplayers. If you want to use those terms, I can't prevent it. I can't stop you from saying what you want to say. But I will tell the fans we have now the core -- 16 or 17 terrrific young players -- and they're going to be here very quickly. Some of them are going to be here this year. We're hoping that Yelich and Fernandez will start the ball rolling."
....about Miami being a baseball town. What does that tell you?
Loria: "Miami is a baseball town. Miami is a wonderful baseball town. It has a great baseball heritage, going way back long before there was major league baseball here.
The letter you put out Sunday said the buck stops with you, that you can accept some of the blame. But it was followed up with a lot of buts. Where does the blame fall on you in all of this?
Loria: Where does it fall on me? I don't know. Maybe from last year and the year before my thinking we could do it with what we had, and it didn't work? And adding to it. I didn't hesitate when it came to putting a $100 million payroll out there. But when you have that happen and nothing good happens on the field, I don't know where the buck stops there because I can't hit, I can't run and I can't throw anymore. But, you know, I'm responsible overall, so I guess the buck stops with me. However, it's time to look ahead. My father used to say to me, 'Jeffrey, you know why the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror? Because the future is a lot brighter than the past." That's what we have. We have a bright future, and I would like us to rally around that.
Why did you take so long to come out and basically explain this?
Loria: "It's kind of hard to stop a runaway train. The season ended and I decided it was time to decompress and let all that was going to be said, said. I felt the time was right recently just before spring training started.
Do you understand the sense of betrayal the fans are voicing?
Loria: I understand the disappointment. I really do understand the disappointment. I'm disappointed. I didn't enjoy last year. We had kind of a perfect storm. Everything collapsed right at the beginning. The team didn't play well. Other things happened, which you all know. But it's a new year, and I would like us to look in front of us instead of behind us. And we have the core and makings of a championship caliber team now. Didn't work. It didn't work. We stunk. We had to fix it. We had to change it. We had to do it quickly. And that's what I wanted to do.
You think the fans are not buying this because we've been through already? We had a World Series championship already and we didn't have one the next year.
Loria: "Well, we didn't have one the following year and there aren't many teams that repeat....
Not repeat, but keep those guys who won the World Series together for at least a couple more tries.
Loria: "Well, you're looking at 2003 now. I'm trying to focus on the future."
Aren't those what the last eight years were, prospects, trading away key guys, to build toward the future for when the ballpark came?
Loria: "We had prospecrs over the last eight years and if you really want to focus on it, many of those prospects didn't work out. We didn't have the players. We should have had the players. We drafted players and paid first-round players bonuses to perform. Jeremy Hermida. Sinkbeil. Allison. Taylor Tankersley. But guys didn't develop, and you have to have these guys develop."
Why should we have faith that these new guys are going to develop when they haven't the previous eight years?
Loria: "I have faith in my baseball people....
Even after that?
So you see where fans are coming from? You're putting the future of the franchise on the hope your baseball people will find this young talent when you promised them you'd have established talent?
Loria: "Well, the established talent didn't work. We had it last year. We had players that we thought were top players and they were paid and didn't perform."
Jose Reyes didn't perform?
Loria: "Listen, I love Jose. There's no discussion about that. But when you put together a baseball team, you have to look in front of you about where you're going to be, one year, two years, three years down the road. There's certain players here we want to keep. There's certain players that are going to come along. And we have to have that flexibility to bring in young players to go with the core. It just isn't like I'll sign this star and this star and this star. We did that last year and it didn't work."
So where do you see the Marlins eight years from now?
Loria: "Eight years? I can't tell you where I see them eight years from now. I see us putting together all of the pieces that we have, and all of the talent -- championship caliber talent -- which I see inside that clubhouse and out on that field, selecting and working and getting them to the major leagues quickly, and then we'll find out who we need to augment that. That's just the way you build a club. I did not want to be like some other teams in major league baseball. They make one or two changes each year and they never have winning seasons. We've had a lot of winning seasons through this decade. It's been not so great these last two years. We thought going into the new ballpark it would be terrific. So that's why I said let's go out and produce this $100 million payroll. It didn't work. If it doesn't work, you've got to fix it. I said yesterday, no gain without a little bit of pain."
How do you expect fans to show up when they don't know half the starting lineup?
Loria: "If they like baseball, they'll come."
They didn't come last year with names that they knew...
Loria: "Yeah, because they were losing."
If the same thing happens this year and they don't show up, what happens next?
Loria: "You're jumping the gun. You've got to watch to see how these guys develop. You probably don't even know half of the names of some of these guys we have. Spend a little time and look into that, see who they are. When we made the trade with Toronto, it was very interesting. We had the 28th worst farm system in baseball. You don't win baseball games without guys you can call on. Last year we had injuries. There was nobody to call up. We were bringing up Triple A kids who were 6-year free agents. They did their best, and we were grateful they were there. But that's not what you want for a championship caliber team."
With all due respect, why should fans believe anything that you're saying, given the history?
Loria: "You've said that question in four different ways, and my response to you is we have put together a championship caliber of young players, a large group of them. We're going to field an excellent team in the next two or three years that you're going to be proud of. I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe what I think."
Did you repair the image with the taxpayers, that it was kind of a con job with the stadium?
Loria: "Con job? I'm not even going to answer that question. Sorry."
Did you encourage Jose to buy a house?
Loria: "I never encouraged him to buy a house. I spoke to Jose when he was here and he was looking for a house. He was going to wait until the end of the season and -- I'm glad you asked that question because it's been reported inaccurately."
He said you talked to him about four days before he was traded. That's not accurate?
Loria: "First of all, four days before he was traded, he was on a plane to Dubai. I never spoke to him. I saw him at a dinner that I invited him to come to. I had no idea we were putting together any trade that was going to happen while he was away. First of all, he sat two people away from me, so I had very little opportunity to speak with him. My wife sat inbetween us. I asked him if he had been to Miami. He said he was looking at houses, his wife was down there. He said he was going to Dubai. Three or four days later, Larry (Beinfest) called me with what he wanted to do. I immediately called his agent, Peter Greenberg, and I said we're going to be making a trade. I want you to call Jose. Just make sure he doesn't buy a house. That's the essence of it all."
On the use of taxpayer money to build the new ballpark....
Loria: "First of all, the money is not local taxpayer money. The money is tourists' dollars. You keep reporting this inaccurately."
The perception by the general public who doesn't understand the taxation that the money isn't public money, how do you get beyond that?
Loria: "It's public money that's supposed to be used for facilities. If you want to be a major league city and have a major league baseball team, you need a major league facility."