The truth does not hurt the Florida Marlins. It turns them inside out, salt to a group of slugs. It reveals what festers inside a franchise operated by thieves. And as Logan Morrison(notes) learned this week, it is strictly forbidden if in any way it exposes Marlins ownership for who they are: tiny little men.
Owner Jeffrey Loria is Henry VIII of his fiefdom, and his latest uncalled-for beheading left popular hitting coach John Mallee out of a job. Morrison, the talented 23-year-old left fielder whose candor has won him a devoted Twitter following, said Loria personally called for the firing. Loria called him into his office and essentially told him to shut up.
"I was asked a question, I told the truth," Morrison told the Palm Beach Post. "But I guess I don't do that anymore."
For the second time in two weeks, the Marlins were playing censor on Morrison. The first regarded his Twitter account, a rollicking, bawdy and hilariously forthright look at a ballplayer with actual personality. He's the archetypal modern athlete: funny, humble, open, generous.
And very loyal. Mallee helped him grow into a major league hitter. He struck a fine balance between mechanical expertise and mental know-how. It's no surprise the Marlins' three best hitters this season, Morrison, Mike Stanton(notes) and Gaby Sanchez(notes), are direct Mallee disciples. The organization seemed to appreciate him, too. Six years ago, Mallee won the Marlins' Man of the Year award. Now he's Anne Boleyn.
Loria's baseball compass always has lived in the gutter with his moral one, and trying to play censor with Morrison is only the latest example in an ignominious tenure of ownership. Loria committed homicide on the Montreal Expos, took copious profits from the Marlins and fleeced Miami-Dade County politicians into building the Marlins a new $600 million stadium set to open next year. Along with David Samson, his stepson-turned-team president, Loria has run managers, players and personnel out of town with incessant meddling. There is a truism about people who try to suppress the truth: They're always hiding something.
And from the leak of the Marlins' financial documents last year to Deadspin, it was information that would have prevented the county from floating hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to cover the ballpark that will funnel nearly all of its revenue to the Marlins. For years, as the Marlins threatened to move in the absence of a new stadium, politicians asked for proof the team was as dire financially as Samson often wheezed. The team refused. With good reason, it turns out: Between 2008 and 2009, the Marlins booked $48.9 million in profit – or nearly one-third of the $155 million they're set to pay on the $634 million stadium.
The county commissioners who approved the sweetheart deal cried foul. By the time the loans come due, the county will have paid $2.4 billion. They were swindled, taken, robbed.
"A contract is a contract," Samson retorted.
He's right. Loria is an excellent businessman. He bought the Expos at a bargain-basement price, destroyed the franchise, essentially traded it for the Marlins and since has ridden Larry Beinfest and Mike Hill's keen baseball sense to the cusp of contention. The Marlins' scouting department churns out gems on a regular basis, and Morrison, a 22nd-round pick, is among the latest.
The only thing louder than Morrison's bat – his .882 OPS ranks 14th in the National League, and the emergence of his power gives the Marlins a devastating middle of the lineup – is his voice. He serves as a conduit to fans without becoming the cloying sort who loses respect in the clubhouse. His willingness to play spokesman for the Mallee camp proved him the sort of leader anybody else in the game might appreciate: one who doesn't suffer fools, doesn't blindly pledge allegiance to his boss, doesn't sit quietly when someone does dirty one of his friends, even if that someone signs his checks.
Morrison has seen the corrosive effect of Marlins ownership. One source relayed the story of how Samson would approach struggling young players and threaten a trip to the minor leagues if they didn't start playing better. Another source said Bobby Valentine was set to manage the Marlins until he met with Samson and left saying he'd rather work in the Gulag.
Valentine, it turns out, was too honest for the Marlins. So was Joe Girardi, who Loria canned. And Fredi Gonzalez, who had the temerity to criticize Loria's pet, franchise shortstop Hanley Ramirez(notes), whose arrogance has infected the Marlins' clubhouse for years. Unless Morrison falls in line, he'll go, too, because the truth is a liability in South Florida, and no amount of home runs or RBIs will remedy that.
It's selective, of course, this policing of free speech. Nobody in the Marlins organization seemed to mind when Morrison lambasted San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean for his veiled threats toward outfielder Scott Cousins(notes) after he injured Buster Posey(notes) on a play at home plate. Morrison called out Sabean, someone who might be in a position to pay him significant money in the future, and did so without a second thought. Sabean eventually apologized.
The truth does that to people. It's a powerful force, and the more it comes out about the crooks that own Florida Marlins, the more we'll realize just how bad for baseball these tiny little men truly are.
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- Jeffrey Loria