READ BETWEEN THE LINES: Despite his unassuming personality, Jeffrey Loria might be one of the most controlling and manipulative owners in all of baseball. Photo courtesy Steve Mitchell/US PRESSWIRE

There are few things in this world that take real balls.

I’m not talking about bravery like running into a burning building or jumping in front of traffic to save someone. Something like that is selfless and inspirational.

No, things that take balls are SELFISH. Like planting something on a coworker so you get the promotion. Or pocketing money from your company just because.

Or, in the case of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, screwing over an entire city. Again.

You see, to the naive eye, the fire sale that has taken place in South Beach would appear to be nothing more than a bold and desperate attempt to rebuild an underachieving franchise. As if it were as simple as they thought they had put together a winning roster, they hadn’t, and so they stripped said roster.

TOSSED ASIDE: The Loria strategy is easy: anyone with a big paycheck is expendable. Photo courtesy Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

But there is something much more sinister at play here and the vast majority of baseball fans see it. Loria, like a toddler, wanted things he didn’t necessarily need. But unlike a toddler, Loria has real power and ambition, so he set forth a plan to get what he wanted.

The first step was to hang the thought of skipping town over the city’s head. Why? Because, point blank, Miami wanted to keep its baseball team, so why not play the ultimate trump card from the get-go?

Loria played this card to set up what he wanted, which was a new stadium. “Well, we’d like to stay, but our current space is just the pits,” I imagine Loria told to city and county officials. Miami fans didn’t necessarily want a new stadium built. Playing at Sun Life was by no means, well, a sunny life, but it was a heck of a lot easier on taxpayer’s wallets.

But if a new stadium was the difference between the Marlins staying and going, a $500 million price tag all of the sudden seemed a lot more affordable.

Of course, in order to help sell the stadium, Loria and the Miami front office painted a picture of brighter days ahead. A new stadium would be complete with a new franchise. No expense would be spared in order to bring premium talent to Florida and to go for a third world series in fifteen years.

The deal got done and Marlins Park got built. In time for its 2012 debut, Loria appeared to have made good on his promises as big name after big name flew in. Why have one face-of-the-franchise shortstop when you could have two and move one to third? So they got Jose Reyes. A closer? Nothing but the best will do, get me Heath Bell. Quality southpaw? Bam, Mark Buehrle.

It made enough waves that eventually even baseball’s pundits bought in. Could the Marlins dethrone the incumbent Phillies? Maybe this WOULD be the next World Series. And, heck, if the Heat win the Finals, too, how great of a sports town might we be?

If you don’t remember THOSE 2012 Miami Marlins it’s because they never existed. Instead, they got off to a slow start in April. Then, after a hot turnaround in May, another lull came in June. By the fourth of July, the season was looking like a losing battle.

And Loria couldn’t pull the plug fast enough.

Hanley went to LA, where the new ownership group led by Magic Johnson was showing people how you ACTUALLY excite a fan base. Edward ‘The Chief’ Mujica got shipping orders to St. Louis, the defending champs. Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were dealt to the pennant-racing Tigers. And, before you knew it, there was a big white flag over Marlins Park.

These moves might have rubbed some Marlins fans the wrong way, but it wasn’t a cause for rebellion in and of itself. Losing teams were always sellers at the trade deadline, why should the newly-minted ball club in Miami be any different?

But this last blockbuster trade with Toronto was the final curtain-pull on Jeffrey Loria’s dog and pony show. He found the names necessary to buy his team a new house primarily on somebone else’s dime, and then gutted the roster so fast he became AAAA farm team for the rest of Major League Baseball.

STATE OF DISCONTENT: It’s only a matter of time before Loria’s alienation of the Marlins’ fan base does damage to his pocket book. Photo courtesy Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

Now, the “angry mob mentality” in Miami is at an all-time high. They hate Jeffrey Loria. I mean HATE him. They hate him so much, they’ve pretty much forgotten all about that guy who said he loved Fidel Castro.

You see, Loria is about to learn a valuable lesson. Everyone knows the fans are the lifeblood of any pro sports organization, but that doesn’t mean you have to do right by them 24/7. If I may be blunt, you are allowed to eff the fans to get what you want every once in a while. That being said, though, you can only eff them so much.

Think of it like a game of Jenga. Every owner wants to build the biggest tower possible. In order to do that, you can take away from your foundation (the fans) in order to build over the top. But there comes a point where, if you take too much away, the whole thing comes tumbling down on you.

Consider this last trade with Toronto one block too many.

Like I said, you can eff the fans, but if you do so too hard, they’ll turn on you. And, whether or not he knows it, the fans are about to turn on Jeffrey Loria.

They’ve had it with the shenanigans. The way the front office lied about how much profit they were turning. The way they threw their weight into Miami politics for the guys who had their backs on a new stadium project. The fact that the organization’s business practices were so shady that even the SEC felt the need to conduct an investigation.

What’s left is a tract record that shows an oligarchy whose actions have been, at best, intentionally dishonest and, at worst, criminal in nature.

If you think about it, the stadium itself is the perfect metaphor for Loria’s tenure as the Marlins owner. From the outside, all you see is a big, gleaming building, so bright you almost have to squint to look at it. But for those on the inside, for those that are there rooting for the Marlins day in and day out, all they notice is the leaky roof and the grass that keeps turning brown.

It is a constant reminder that this stadium, this supposed shrine to South Florida sports, was set in motion by a turd of an owner. You can polish it and give it a new-franchise feel, but that horrible stench of all the wrongdoings in the past remains.

Now Loria has gone on the offensive, verbally defending the club’s move to pawn off just about every half-decent baseball player not named Giancarlo. “We finished in last place,” said Loria, “Figure it out.”

Well, he need not worry.

The sports world is finally figuring it out.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for MLB updates and other shenanigans!

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