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More Marlins outrage: Some regret voting for stadium; UM books opponent; Fins, Heat

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

After the Marlins’ salary-dumping trade with Toronto, several politicians who always opposed the deal ranted on local airwaves.

But with the community still outraged, we sought a different perspective last week from the other side: former Miami-Dade County manager George Burgess – who negotiated the stadium deal – and the commissioners who voted for it. They discussed their regrets, the Marlins’ future, and why they never asked for more contractual assurances from the team. Some of their feedback:

### I polled eight of the nine Miami-Dade County commissioners who voted in favor of the new stadium in March 2009; the ninth, Rebeca Sosa, was on a cruise last week. Though all were disappointed and some furious with the payroll-slashing, only two (Javier Souto, Natasha Seijas) said they would have voted against the ballpark if they knew the Marlins would slash payroll to this extent. Another, Audrey Edmonson, said she “may have voted differently.”

That probably would have been enough to kill the stadium, because with all 13 commissioners in attendance, nine “yes” votes were needed to pass several aspects of the deal.

“This ownership group is a disgrace. I regret supporting it,” Souto said, adding he originally voted yes because his constituents in his district like baseball and wanted the ballpark and he thought it would create jobs.

“I told [former Miami-Dade County mayor] Alex Penelas years ago when I met Jeffrey Loria: ‘This guy only cares about the money, not us, not the county, not the people.’ There were so many promises about all the things that would be happening around the stadium, in Little Havana, and I haven’t seen anything.

“This was a convoluted, complicated deal that Burgess concocted and only he understood. He promised us it was the best deal…. Now, we’re close to a total boycott of the team. The best thing that could happen is for this ownership group to get the hell out of here for the good of the community.”

### Burgess, who spent countless hours crafting the deal, insisted in retrospect, there was nothing he would do differently. The Marlins are covering $120 million of the $634 million project, with the county financing $395 million through tourist taxes, and the city paying $119 million for garages.

“People are trying to connect the stadium deal with the [payroll slashing] and one has nothing to do with the other,” Burgess said. “I’m not making a conclusion on a multigenerational investment based on a decision on trading five players. The facility was not built for this owner – it was built for this community. Owners come and go.

“The 70/30 public/private [financing ratio] is comparable to other ballparks. We got a stadium built without any new taxes. This was as good a deal as you were going to get. The product we put there was a gorgeous facility.” Burgess said development around the stadium is “inevitable” but was not going to happen “overnight.”

### Several commissioners said Marlins president David Samson assured them orally that they would field a competitive team. But “competitive” was never defined, one commissioner said.

“We wanted to make sure they had enough revenue to bring in a quality product on the field,” said commissioner Dennis Moss, who voted yes. “That was part of the dialogue, basically promised to citizens.”

So why didn’t the county get this in writing? “You can’t assume payroll at an exact number,” Burgess said. “How are you going to do that for 40 years?”

But why didn’t the county push for the Marlins to assure – in writing – that they would have a payroll between, say, MLB’s 10th and 20th highest payrolls of any previous season?

“We can’t make management decisions for a professional franchise,” Burgess responded. “I’m not sure that would make a lot of sense.”

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who voted for the stadium, said asking for such an assurance wasn’t realistic because “payroll doesn’t guarantee you a winning season. And I imagine they wouldn’t have guaranteed it.”

### Regrets? Among the commissioners who supported the stadium, Moss said: “We probably needed to be more involved in the negotiations. We should have asked more questions and gotten more details.”

Barbara Jordan, who also voted yes, said: “What I regret is we didn’t have all the information relative to finances. If we did, I certainly would have demanded the Marlins put in more.”

Said Dorrin Rolle: “We made decisions based on erroneous [financial] information. If they wanted our money, we should have insisted to see their records. Or we should have said no…. You come to us for public money and then do this? It’s embarrassing.”

### After the stadium was approved, deadspin.com obtained leaked documents showing the Marlins made $48 million in 2008 and 2009. So why didn’t the county push harder to see the Marlins’ books?

“We pushed hard, and it wasn’t going to happen,” Burgess said. “Private businesses rarely open their books. We were able to figure out everything we needed to know to make a decision. The deadspin.com report did not prove… they were swimming in money.”

Burgess said he strongly believes the Marlins were losing money before that two-year sample size.

### Barreiro called Samson after the trade to seek an explanation. “It definitely concerns me,” Barriero said. “They have an obligation to field a competitive team. “David Samson told me they would have a competitive team.”

Would he still support the stadium if he had it to do over? “I still believe there has to be a substantial amount of public funding for a venue,” he said. “Could we have negotiated $50 million more, or whatever the number is? Monday morning quarterbacking is not my thing.”

### Several would like to see Loria sell the team. “He should because he has not respected the community,” said Seijas, no longer in office. “I have respect for Samson because he stood there and negotiated step by step. Loria showed up once. I don’t think he’s a very nice man. This is a slap in the face to the community.”

### Burgess still believes if the stadium had not been built, “the real likelihood is there would have been contraction or relocation because it wasn’t viable in the other facility.”

He said he doesn’t feel deceived by the Marlins’ cost-cutting. But “as a fan, I don’t like it remotely. I thought it was not a way to build a fan base. If you don’t have a product fans will enjoy, their business will not succeed. They need to do what they need to do to field a quality product and win games. Period.”

### FYI: On the city side, former Mayor Manny Diaz, a strong stadium advocate, declined to comment about his views on the project, in retrospect. Former city manager Pete Hernandez said during negotiations, “there was never any discussion about the product on the field” or payroll. Regrettably.

CHATTER

### Despite his up-and-down play, the Dolphins have told people that keeping impending free agent Jake Long remains a high priority.... Though the Dolphins have made offers to some impending free agents (including Brian Hartline), they oddly have not made one to Randy Starks, a key piece of their defensive line. "Still waiting," he said. "I would like to stay."

### The Dolphins have attempted only 30 passes that have traveled in the air 20 yards or more – in the bottom six of the league and well below many others, such as the Ravens (70), Colts (69) and even the Jets (44). Brian Hartline suggests that must change: “Throwing deep is something I hope we go back to… We’re still in need of a couple more playmakers to step up consistently.”

### An associate of LeBron James said a report about the Lakers pursuing him in 2014, and James possibly being receptive, “came out of left field and no one is taking it seriously. I would be surprised if that happened. He’s happy here.” But a return to Cleveland later in his career isn’t considered out of the question by his associates.

### UM is finalizing a 2013 home football game against Savannah State, which was 1-10 and lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State and 55-0 to FSU. Home games against UF and FAU and a road game at USF are also scheduled. UM is philosophically trying to move toward an easier non-conference schedule.

### UM, which has about 15 scholarships to offer, now has oral commitments from 11 after receiving one Saturday night from Alex Figueroa, a 6-3 linebacker who graduated from a Virginia high school earlier this year but wasn't heavily recruited at the time because of academic problems. He planned to play at Fork Union Prep this season but couldn't because of a torn labrum. He reportedly had no other offers, besides UM, as of last week.

### The Marlins have had conversations with the representation for multi-position players Jeff Keppinger (.325, 9 homers, 40 RBI for Tampa) and Ryan Raburn (.171 last year but .256, 14, 49 for Detroit in 2011). Raburn would be more affordable, and the Marlins are among several teams in the mix. Talks will continue at the winter meetings next week.

 

Comments

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MiguelCabrera

The county got hoodwinked, just like the fans did.

Mike

Loria doesn't even have the decency to explain what he's done.

Penguin

C'mon Mr. Burgess, Every time a private business seeks a loan, it opens all of its books. All of them. Every time. Often, even, it shares the financial records of its principals. Often.

As for the rest of you: do you really feel comfortable with having relied on Mr. Burgess as you did? C'mon!

I wonder what the SEC will decide about all of you. Derelict? Dishonest? Incompetent? Asleep?

All I know is that Miami-Dade will never be world class without more competent, transparent, and honest leadership and management.

Cardinal Richelieu

Burgess says that the facility was built for the "community" and not the "owners" so why did he agree to a deal in which the "owners" essentially get to keep all the money - even for non-baseball revenue?

Leaked documents weren't necessary to figure out that Marlins were making money. Revenue sharing money exceeded our payroll - it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they were in the black.

I supported Mr. Burgess. I thought that he brought much need stability and professionalism to the County. I felt terrible at the way he was treated by Commissioners. I now recognize that I was wrong. Either he was incompetent or corrupt and his statements here lead me to believe that it is the latter. I am saddened that he would taint his career with this affair.

TInSouthMiami

They arent stupid and didnt get "hoodwinked", they are corrupt and knew exactly what they were vdoing
Im just suprised that some of them are putting on a phony buyers remorse act

TInSouthMiami

Burgess is correct that this will be a "multigenerational" ordeal that costs us more than $1 Billion

Go scratch

The citizens of this county are just as negligent for continuing to re elect these moron commissioners who play fast and loose with your tax dollars. Barreiro says "Monday morning quarterbacking just isn't my thing" ?...this, coming from the guy who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Marlins to make sure this deal would go through? What a lying, thieving ass clown!

I HATE THE "U", so what?

Way to go UM, you schedule Savanah State and FAU, but fail to make to logic pick of playing FIU????? UM should change its colors to yellow and green, because UM officials are yellow, how can you be afraid of playing FIU? FIU is in your back yard, and would bring in more fans to that empty Joe Robbie than Savanah State and FAU.....Well who cares, the U is going to get another 2-3 years probation and with bowl bans. The "U" is dead.......

Seriously?

Haha, you're kidding right?

You don't actually think Miami should ever play the local community college again, when their thug sixth rate talent with inferiority complexes started a brawl that embarrassed Miami in front of the entire country?

Cardinal Richelieu

what does UM get from playing FIU...nothing. Why bother?

Georgia Cane

What's wrong with cupcake scheduling. Everyone is doing it, just look at UGA. Just what we need!

rbleigh

In Miami's last championship run they played FSU, Penn ST and a then good Washington team. Today they like the Marlins's FO looking at guys like Ryan Rayburn and Kevin Kouzmanoff are dumpster diving. Savannah St and FAU in the same season, ugh.

2002 they played Florida, FSU, and Tennessee. Not sure about the rest of ya Canes fans but I'd much rather see them play the big boys then the cupcakes regardless how much of a drop off they are since the glory days. And please don't give me any garbage about the ACC being that much tougher than the Big East. Today's ACC = a decade ago's Big East.

NYCFIUFan

Great job UM trying to fill that oversized stadium of yours. Savannah State should bring a ton of fan interest and boost that tough ACC schedule. Pathetic. Hope the NCAA throws the book at the U.

Ron

FIU... How did they do this year? Any better than other losers? Get REAL! U Clowns beg to play the U and U know U can't compete.

NYCFIUFan

Just saying, UM needs to drag people to their stadium and Savannah State is not going to do it. It is goog that Notre Dame is playing ACC games, at least the stadium will be filled with ND fans since the UM fan base is apathetic.

Seriously?

NYCFIUFan, great job UM trying to fill that sh*tty tin high school stadium of yours. Any team you play should bring a ton of fan interest and boost that tough whatever sh*tty conference you're in schedule. Pathetic.

Seriously?

FIU has never had as many fans as UM drew for Bethune Cookman and NEVER WILL.

johnny

alex figueroa???

mike

figueroa had quite a few offers from others except for his grades weren't up to par but he has gotten that straightened out now.i read a lil article where his parents were former marines and he was just slacking off on his studies but seems like they got him straight now and he was rated pretty high out of high school.

Jo jo

Hope Canes Golden saves at least 3 picks for JUCO D linemen.How in the world are the Canes going to ever get a better defense otherwise?They need some big experienced college players.Not 4 more HS projects that Miami s DC doesn t have a clue in "coaching up".This guy above just mentioned.....got no other offers?????No one else is inyerested??????Why is that?????Hope he doesn t end up as another Kyle Wright.

mike

Va tech and some other acc and big east schools were looking at him

HeHateMe

Wait... Neither Florida nor FSU fans should be talking about out of conference schedules. ULL, Bowling Green and Jacksonville State? Get real and dont give me this SEC BS. Conference games are conference games. UF's OOC Schedule was a cake walk. Not to mention they RARELY play OOC games away from home.

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