by Maria Sanders, editor
For baseball fans, especially those in Florida, 11/11/11 wasn’t just a crazy day where all the digits in the date were the same. It was the day the Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins.
Since the team’s beginnings in 1993, the Marlins have never become a National League powerhouse. And despite winning two World Series titles, the Marlins have never gained strong attendance numbers either. The organization had the third lowest attendance numbers in the MLB for the 2011 season, with an average of 19,000 fans per game, according to an espn.com article.
Rumors existed for some time concerning relocating the team. On that magic day in November, those rumors proved to be true, well at least a little bit.
The Marlins, while remaining in Miami, are relocating to a new stadium in the Little Havana neighborhood, with a new name and image.
“Mr. Jeffrey Loria, Owner of the Miami Marlins, along with Marlin players, invited dignitaries, and international Latin Hip Hop star Pitbull, addressed the crowd from a 1,600 square foot stage engineered and built out over the third base dugout and extended over the newly installed infield box seats,” according to a Media Stage news release published on prnewswire.com.
The rebrand announcement signals a new era of Marlins baseball.
Getting the look
Gray and teal have been the signature Marlins’ colors from the beginning. But with the rebrand, the team’s new logo showcases a slew of Miami-esque colors.
“We are the red-orange of the breathtaking Miami sunsets and the citrus industry; the blue of the sky and the sea; and the yellow of the beautiful Miami sunshine,” Jeff Loria, Marlins owner said.
The bright colors of the new logo represent the audience the team is trying to attract.
A research poll by the Sun Sentinel, a South Florida newspaper, found 59 percent of respondents disliked the new uniform. But feedback overall has been positive.
“The logo is really intense. The colors are pretty cool,” said David Arteaga, of Miami. “It’s South Beach colors. It does actually represent us pretty well.”
To view the old and new logo click here.
A true investment
A team known for being cheap is showing they are moving toward being anything but.
Websites like Bleacher Report, Yahoo Sports and MLB Trade Rumors have reported the Marlins are offering the 31-year-old Albert Pujols somewhere in the ballpark of $225 million for nine years of play.
Pujols is one of the hottest free agents this offseason. He was the first baseman for 2011 World Series champs, the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s also the new Mr. October after becoming the only player in MLB history to hit three home runs in one World Series game.
In the same game he also went 5-5 with six RBIs and 14 bases. But who’s counting, right?
Pujols won’t be a cheap commodity, and the Marlins are a front-runner in the quest to sign him.
According to James Bondman’s Bleacher Report article, if Pujols accepts the offer, it will make him the highest-paid Marlins player. Pujols’ deal will exceed Marlins’ current highest-paid player, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, by $155 million. It will also make him the highest-paid player in all of major league baseball, taking the title away from Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez.
They’ve given up promising prospects to pay millions to one of the most colorful managers in the league — Ozzie Guillen.
But why would they trade a handful of talented guys for just one manager? Dan Le Batard gave his two cents in his article, “Miami Marlins’ expensive experiment: Will MLB work here?”
“Because it gives them a famous Latin face . . .,” Batard said. “And it gives them the kind of buzz and momentum and credibility they are looking to build, piece by piece.”
There’s a line in the movie “Moneyball” that seems to fit this scenario well.
In the movie, the character Billy Bean, played by Brad Pitt, said, “If we try to play like the Yankees in here, we will lose to the Yankees out there.”
Pitt’s character was referring to the Oakland A’s attempt to spend as much on players as the Yankees so famously do.
The Marlins are taking a huge gamble here, especially financially, and only time will tell if a team really can try to spend like the Yankees and win.
Some may think, as it is often touted in these types of scenarios, that a brand new stadium with a reinvented Marlins team would enrich the Miami economy.
However, according to Tom Griffin’s article “Only a Game: Economic Impact of Pro Sports,” professional sports only make up one-tenth of a percent of the city’s economy for which they are located.
One-tenth of a percent is so marginal, it’s hard to imagine Marlins owners and executives would be using an economic angle to sell the new and improved Marlins organization.
The effect may be greater on the intangibles of the community. And it appears this is the effect the Marlins are in fact looking for.
A new direction
Lou Gehrig once said, “There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.”
For 18 years, the Marlins have been located in Miami, a city with a significant Hispanic population. And for those 18 years, the Marlins have failed to engage that Hispanic audience directly.
This rebrand represents not only a new logo or new stadium, but also a redirection of communication on the Marlins’ part.
Instead of trying to be Florida’s team, the Marlins want to be Miami’s team.
“It is not a coincidence that, in introducing their new uniforms, their new look, the new Miami Marlins did so with Emilio Estefan and Pitbull, old Miami and new Miami merging to be very, very Miami,” Batard said.
Everything about this new Marlins team is aimed at gaining the support of the Hispanic market in Miami — the manager, Ozzie Guillen; the free agents being pursued, Pujols and Jose Reyes; the city-specific team name. It all screams, “We want you, Miami!”
Taking the risk
The game of baseball is full of risks.
Attempting the hit and run, having your fielder play in or trying to stretch a double into a triple all have their own potential dangers.
However, if it works — if both players get on base, the bunt is fielded or the extra base is reached — the juice was worth the squeeze.
The Marlins are taking such a gamble. But just like in the game, a risk can be worth it in the end.
Will the fishy venture work out?