Miami Marlins Fire Sale Sets an Example of Budget Reform for the U.S. Government

By Paul Grossinger

America’s government is currently examining various methodologies to dramatically cut the United States’ future budget and avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Perhaps they should take a leaf out of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria’s playbook: when you overspent, are way over budget, and suffering from waste and mediocre returns, dump it all and start fresh with a clean slate.

Loria, unlike the U.S. government, operates like a dictator. Fickle and cheap, he signed off on this fire sale with one stroke of his pen; effectively ending the Marlins’ chances of contention for a half decade. His “budget reform” was devastating for the team’s performance but great for the franchise’s balance sheet and his personal checkbook; the Marlins now have less than $25 million in guaranteed contracts, down from $100 million in 2011. Equivalent “budget reform” by the United States government would involve cutting nearly $3 trillion annually, or 75% of the budget, and probably kill of the military, social security, and medicare.

So, no one is endorsing Loria-style budget reform.

Yet, Loria’s drastic actions do provide an instructive lesson in taking decisive action to solve growing problems that could become endemic and worse by the year. America’s government certainly could learn from that mentality.

Perhaps, to apply that mantra, America’s politicians could act to balance the future budget for social security. It would be difficult but certainly not impossible, involving tweaks to the retirement age, monthly payout totals and eligibility. A hard decision but one clearly necessary; kind of like Loria’s decision in July to trade Anibal Sanchez, his best starting pitcher, for top prospects just months before he hit free agency.

Miami Marlins Fire Sale Sets an Example of Budget Reform for the U.S. Government
Aug 14, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (left) shakes hands with catcher Rob Brantly (right) after their game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park. The Phillies won 1-0. Photo Courtesy By author.

Maybe, the government could even be slightly more aggressive; moving deftly to tackle the elephant in the Federal budget room: Medicare. That sacred cow will be much tougher to reform than social security; the math is tougher to balance and the path to a bipartisan solution is fraught with clearly defined party lines. Sacrifices will be needed on both sides to get a deal done; much like Loria’s reluctant parting with his ace, Josh Johnson, in order to get out from under long, onerous future contracts to ageing pitcher Mark Buerhle and speedster Jose Reyes.

Sure, Loria’s decisions are simpler. He is an owner, a King, completely free to sell of his team if he so chooses. Unlike politicians, he doesn’t have to respond to popular opinion in South Florida and cater to his fan’s needs – he can instead extend a chosen finger in their direction. The government’s task is infinitely harder, and its needs much more nuanced than Loria’s crude fire sale, but America’s politicians should still learn something from the Marlins owner’s actions.

When faced with impending disaster, don’t wait around and quibble. Be decisive and take action: in times of great distress, any action is often better than no action at all.



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I like the topic, but the harder issue is whether you think it's a good example or a bad one. that's the harder question of course. certainly it was …

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