Luther Campbell, the man who made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Campbell praises the new-look Miami Marlins for making baseball matter again in South Florida.
The federal government might look into claims that the Florida Marlins fooled the City of Miami about the stadium deal, but I like what the team is doing. It's exciting to see owner Jeffrey Loria's team sign closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million contract and shortstop Jose Reyes at $106 million for six years. I once suggested the county and the city should have included a clause forcing the Marlins to be among the 20 top-spending teams in Major League Baseball. They have certainly surpassed my expectations.
The Fish lost out on slugger Albert Pujols, who signed with the Angels, but they followed up the $137 million investment in Reyes and Bell with another blue-chip signing last Friday, nabbing pitcher Mark Buehrle with a four-year, $58 million contract. Buerhle has won at least ten games for 11 straight seasons, and his addition makes it clear: Loria is turning his loser ballclub into the most valuable franchise in MLB.
In Miami, you have to field a team that will get people out of the nightclubs, off the beaches, and into the ballpark. With Venezuelan-born manager Ozzie Guillen at the helm, the Marlins have done a fantastic job of getting Miami's Hispanic community excited about opening day in 2012. Remember we live in Miami, not Gainesville.
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Of course, there is still a lot of controversy hovering over the Marlins. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently subpoenaed city and county officials for all the records related to the stadium deal that left Miami-Dade taxpayers on the hook for 80 percent of the $634 million construction cost. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado is also complaining the city was duped into paying the property taxes on the stadium's parking garages to the tune of $2 million a year.
But you can't keep blaming the Marlins. The team just followed the blueprint. Of the 25 teams that have built or rebuilt ballparks, only two did it with private financing. Miami-Dade voters need to accept the blame for electing and re-electing the jokers who approved the onerous Marlins stadium deal. This past November 2 in the Miami city elections, voters could have gotten rid of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, one of the city's biggest ballpark supporters. But no one turned out at the polls and Sarnoff won easily with bundles of absentee ballots.
So it's time to stop hating on the Marlins, because the team is finally coming up big.
Follow Campbell on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.