Frustrated in its inability to strike a deal for a new stadium, Marlins president David Samson (above) said Tuesday that the team has received permission from Major League Baseball to begin discussions with other cities.
The Marlins are expected in the coming weeks to have conversations with officials from Las Vegas, Charlotte, N.C. and Portland, Ore. Samson declined to discuss the merits of possible suitors.
Samson said that he will continue efforts to strike a stadium deal in South Florida, but no longer would continue discussions wth the City of Miami. He said if a new stadium is built in South Florida it likely could be next to Dolphins Stadium on land owned by Wayne Huizenga. But Samson said striking a deal for that site would be a long shot because the sides are $80 million apart.
Samson said the Marlins will remain at Dolphins Stadium at least for two more years and no more than five more years.
Las Vegas, Portland, and other runners-up in the Montreal Expos sweepstakes are no closer than Florida at guaranteeing stadium funding – but there could be another subtext at play here. Under the current labor agreement, MLB is allowed to consider contracting by two teams next year, without having to seek the union’s permission. If the threat of a Vegas move is dubious, the possibility of having the Marlins wiped off the map is much harder to gauge, and could – if you’re Loria and Samson – present another hammer with which to threaten Florida electeds into coughing up stadium dough.
Of course, you need more than a move threat to make your team a candidate for contraction – you’d want to be hapless on the field as well, the better to avoid the potential embarrassment of MLB threatening to contract a winning ballclub.