Blurring the Line Between Ownership and ManagementBy
“There is a sense in FLA front office that Jeffrey Loria and David Samson will be taking a greater role in making player personnel decisions.”
Buster Olney, via Twitter (@Buster_ESPN)
One issue that often faces informed sports fans is the difficulty of reconciling the emotional attachment to the team on the field with the financial relationship to team ownership. In an ideal situation, fans’ and owners’ interest are perfectly aligned towards winning as many games as possible. This is the situation of the Green Bay Packers, in that they are the only public (i.e. fan) owned professional sports franchise. In reality, sports teams have owners that are focused on profits. In most cases, winning and profitability are highly correlated, so fans’ and owners’ interests are aligned.
Jeffrey Loria is currently the Marlins owner, and David Samson is the team president [Full disclosure, Samson is Loria's stepson]. Loria made his money as an art dealer, while Samson was an investment banker for Morgan Stanley. Loria purchased the Marlins in 2002. Prior to this he owned the Montreal Expos, which he sold back to Major League Baseball because the local government refused to contribute taxpayer dollars to a new stadium.
Currently, player personnel decisions are made by Larry Beinfest, President of Baseball Operations, and Michael Hill, Vice President & General Manager. Beinfest was assistant then interim GM for the Expos under Loria and came along when Loria purchased the Marlins. Both Beinfest and Samson are under contract through 2015.
I have no insider information as to the organizational relationship between ownership and management. I would assume it is an amicable and trusting partnership, as Beinfest has been Loria’s main personnel decision-maker for 9 years across 2 franchises. I do know the Marlins are contributing $155 million to the new stadium, and that amount comes from Loria’s bottom line. Loria now has a much more substantial investment in this franchise. It is not a leap of faith to assume he is taking greater control of personnel decisions in order to maximize ticket sales at the new stadium. I hope he does not damage the prospects for long-term success by making short-sighted moves solely to put more butts in the seats, such as trading away any assets for a manager (i.e. Ozzie Guillen).
One purpose of keeping ownership and management separate is to maintain a buffer between purely financial considerations and on-field performance decisions. Marlins fans’ and owners’ interests have not always been aligned. The most prominent examples are the fire sales of 1998 and 2005. Hopefully Loria is committed to building a long-term contender, and will not compromise the young developing core of this team for some cheap extra wins in year 1 of the new ballpark.