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As Rays seek a new home, Marlins can tell them it doesn’t mean a panacea

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As the Tampa Bay Rays continue to look for a new home, there is a cautionary tale. If you pay attention to the Miami Marlins, it isn’t a cure-all.

The Marlins, despite their new park, continue to struggle to gain a foothold in the state. They have the lowest revenues in the game, and their payroll is third to last (ahead of only Tampa Bay and Milwaukee). Miami is plagued with low attendance, and they don’t make much money off of their TV contract.

“Right now, we are last in the league in revenue, and that’s not where Miami should be,” Marlins President David Samson told the Miami Herald. “I don’t expect that to continue.”

It’s arguable that the Marlins are worse off than the Rays when you consider their World Series titles, their new park and the presence of Giancarlo Stanton.

The Marlins are projecting an opening-day payroll of $70 million. And nearly $8 million, about 11 percent of that allocation, will be given to a player who’s no longer on the team: catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was released last May.

When local government agreed to finance the majority of costs for the $634 million stadium project (including $515 million for Marlins Park), the expectation was that the ballpark would allow the team to be in the mid-range of big league payrolls, as team executives speculated two years before the ballpark opened.

In their first four seasons in the new ballpark, the Marlins’ season-ending payroll ranked 18th, 29th, 30th and 30th among 30 big-team teams, according to baseballprospectus.com.

That’s in spite of signing Stanton to a back-loaded 13-year, $325 million contract, the largest in baseball history.

Though some teams in the bottom half of payroll make the playoffs, they rarely win the World Series.

But “our plan building this team,” Samson said, “was always keeping in mind revenue increases that we expect to see coming down the road.”

But even a payroll of $100 million would have ranked only 22nd last season — well behind midsize markets such as Kansas City ($113 million) and St. Louis ($121 million).

“When we study the correlation between payroll and winning in terms of what percentage of the payroll does an individual player take up, the largest would be, let’s say for us, 25 percent,” Samson said.

The Marlins have been 29th, 27th and 28th in attendance the last three years.

“We’re not exactly selling out the building,” Samson said. “We haven’t won in this ballpark. I don’t blame the fans. I blame us. We hope we’re right with this core of players.”

Another problem: The Marlins haven’t been able to secure a stadium naming rights deal, which could produce another $5 million or more in annual revenue.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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