Occupy Baseball

Wow, this story by Jeff Passan is worth keeping our eyes on.

For two decades now, Major League Baseball has funded its rise from corporate slacker to gilded cash cow on the backs of taxpayers bullied into building new stadiums. It’s a marvel the government took so long to sniff out the rot that emanates from these deals, though not much of a surprise that the Miami Marlins were the target when they did.

The Security and Exchange Commission on Thursday launched guided warheads at the Marlins, requesting the team’s financial records, communications with MLB officials including commissioner Bud Selig, minutes of meetings with local government leaders and political campaign-contribution information, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

While the subpoenas issued by the SEC do not explicitly detail the purpose of the investigation, the feds’ motives are evident: They want to understand how, exactly, a group of county commissioners agreed to fund 80 percent of the Marlins new stadium, which cost more than $600 million, without ever seeing the team’s financial records – and whether bribes had anything to do with it….

The Marlins pushed the limits on exactly how much a team can hold its city hostage. They cried poverty and threatened to move unless they got a new stadium while refusing to disclose their financial records – records that were later leaked and showed a team swimming in tens of millions of dollars in profits and funneled millions more to a corporation run by team owner Jeffrey Loria.

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  • Fish

    Corporations are people too, you know. Poverty-stricken sports teams need welfare every bit as much as poor oil companies and struggling defense contractors. I am proud to pay taxes so that burned-out CEOs can enjoy their jets and investment bankers can have $1000 lunches. They bought government and they have a right to the income from it.

  • Is there any way to agree with what Fish said without sounding cynical? sigh.

  • I doubt it was bribery. These teams always use the same chip — they threaten to leave. I’m waiting for a couple of cities to say, “Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.”

  • Brian

    I sure am glad that we have the federal government to help protect local governments from doing stupid things with their people’s money. Obviously the people of south Florida are so stupid that they elected a bunch of people that are so corrupt that the only solution is for the federal government (never know for corruption itself) to come in and straighten everything out. Over the last couple of decades we have seen both MLB and the NFL pull stunts with communities over the building of stadiums. Teams threaten to leave and so local governments give in to all sorts of expensive deals. I’ts always seemed wrong that the local governments have given in, but the people that elect the officials responsible could always vote them out. But it seems that we no longer believe in that solution. Instead we need the federal government to take care of it for us. My only question is, who is the bigger guy that can come in and fix things when it’s the federal government that does things like this.

  • JohnM

    First, I’d want to know – What is the economic value of having a MLB team to the hometown? Not a rhetorical question, I wonder what the answer is, and that answer would make a difference to how I’d view funding a new stadium. Don’t read this as automatic support for decisions by local government officials to go along with team owners demands, I’m asking if it is ever a sound investment on behalf of the common good. If not, I’m with ChrisB #3.

  • Rick

    This is why my enthusiasm for professional sports is limited. The teams do not belong or represent the city in the way portrayed (Green Bay may be the exception). Instead, they are about the owners, who may pick up and leave for another city at any time. Just like any other business in any given city. Owners are just smart enough to put the name of the city (or state, or region) in front of the team name, to give the impression of city/public ownership.