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|Loria cried poverty to use taxpayer money for the Marlins' new stadium.|
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Sept. 30 Franchise Issue. Subscribe today!
FOR THE FIRST TIME in the 11-year history of the Ultimate Standings, we are giving our last-place team a pass. The Sacramento Kings landed at No. 122 overall in our rankings -- and deservedly so. On May 31, however, software magnate Vivek Ranadive bought the club (in a deal that valued the Kings at an NBA-record $534 million), liberating the franchise from the Maloof family, which had let it rot for years while plotting to relocate the franchise to Vegas, Anaheim or Seattle. Now Ranadive, with help from Sactown mayor (and former star NBA point guard) Kevin Johnson, will keep the team in California's state capital. He's got nowhere to go but up, and we say: Good luck.
We also say one owner is even more adept than the Maloofs at giving fans the shiv: Jeffrey Loria, the art dealer notorious for running the Expos into the ground in the early 2000s, carting away everything from their manager to their office equipment on his way to buying the Marlins in a sweetheart deal before dismantling Florida's 2003 championship team. And this year, he's added a whole new section to his résumé. In 2012 the Marlins signed a batch of expensive free agents and moved into a new ballpark, giving fans a glimmer of hope. But it turned out that Loria backloaded most of those new contracts, and after a few disappointing months he started to dump virtually every player Marlins fans could name: Ricky Nolasco, Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez. Loria even traded Jose Reyes to Toronto two days after telling Reyes to buy a house in Miami.
Meanwhile, Loria cried poverty to get half a billion dollars of taxpayer money for the new stadium, while low payrolls and MLB's cockeyed revenue-sharing formula were actually making the Marlins one of the most profitable teams in baseball. Now Loria is paying his entire team less than A-Rod stands to lose during his possible Biogenesis suspension. Loria controls every dollar the Marlins make from stadium advertising, concessions and parking, and starting in 2014 another $25 million a year will roll his way from MLB's new TV deal. With fellow owners on your side and local pols in your pocket, who wants stars on the field or fans in the seats?
The Packers, that's who. Because they're the only big league team owned by their fans. And no surprise: They rank No. 1 in our owner honesty category.
No. 118: The National Hockey League,* Phoenix Coyotes
No. 119: Robert Sarver, Phoenix Suns
No. 120: Fred Wilpon, New York Mets
No. 121: The Maloof Family,* Sacramento Kings
No. 122: Jeffrey Loria, Miami Marlins
* After fan voting closed, the NHL sold the Coyotes to IceArizona, and the Maloofs (who ranked last in this category in 2012) sold the Kings to investors led by Vivek Ranadive.
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