The presidential transition and the first four weeks of the Trump administration have been marked by, to put it lightly, questionable ethics. The world truly has turned upside down when a rare exception to the constant trampling of American norms comes involves the Miami Marlins.
While it’s a gut-punch to anyone in Miami – okay, anyone anywhere – who cares about baseball to see that Jeffrey Loria will remain owner of the Marlins for one minute longer. It’s also thoroughly hilarious that Loria’s windfall for getting out of the game would be delayed by a potential buyer wanting to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
The buyer, in this case, was Jared Kushner’s family – the First Son-In-Law’s brother and brother-in-law, specifically, Joshua Kushner and Joseph Meyer. In a statement printed by The Washington Post, Meyer detailed the reason for backing out of a deal.
“Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned an AAA baseball team together. Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the president to be ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time.”
The ”recent reports” part is hilarious, as if Loria becoming a diplomat (he should know many French swear words after his role in the demise of the Montreal Expos) was merely the subject of unsourced Beltway banter, and not something that could be confirmed with a text message to brother Jared. Also, yes, sure, it’s an “unrelated transaction.” Definitely. There’s certainly no history of…
…wait, of course there is. We’re not just talking about this presidency, but Loria. The man who once became the managing general partner of the Expos after buying a 24 percent stake in 1999, upped it to 94 percent over the subsequent two years, then sold the team to the other 29 clubs – a consortium that included himself because Loria became owner of the Marlins as Marlins owner John Henry bought the Red Sox. While the plan was for the 29-team ownership to fold the Expos, along with the Minnesota Twins, contraction attempts failed and the Expos wound up moving to Washington after the 2004 season.
Loria also, naturally, has received substantial benefit from taxpayers, as Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami contributed half a billion dollars, including interest-free loans to the Marlins, for the construction of Marlins Park – money that came after threats that not forking it over would mean the death of baseball in Miami, and with Loria at the helm, it clearly wasn’t an empty threat.
But for a franchise synonymous with shady ownership dealings since original owner Wayne Huizenga’s fire sale after winning the 1997 World Series, the Marlins being sold in a way that had the appearance of quid pro quo for an ambassadorship to France – a retractable Teapot Dome – is maybe the only proper commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the organization's first championship.
At least we know now that the Kushners are looking to get into baseball’s ownership ranks. So, a quick word of advice: unlike the phony divestiture of the nation’s chief executive from the Trump Organization’s business interests, keep The Donald far, far, far away from your sports enterprise. He’s been there, done that, got the $3 in treble damages after suing the NFL in an antitrust lawsuit.