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Big plans

Loria envisions another championship for Marlins

Posted: Tuesday February 12, 2002 8:42 PM
 

MIAMI (AP) -- One step closer to owning the Florida Marlins, Jeffrey Loria said the only relocation he envisions for the team will be a climb in the National League standings.

Shortly after baseball owners approved the sale of the franchise Tuesday, Loria said he expects the Marlins to remain in South Florida for many years, and he expects them to win.

"My commitment is to put a championship team on the field," Loria said from New York in a conference call with reporters. "I like to win. My intent is to succeed by doing whatever is necessary to ensure fans have a good relationship with the Marlins for generations to come."

Owners also approved Loria's sale of the Montreal Expos to a partnership owned by baseball's 29 other teams. As anticipated, Loria announced the hiring of Larry Beinfest as general manager and Jeff Torborg as manager, along with seven coaches. All were with the Expos last season, as was Loria's stepson, David Samson, the Marlins' new president.

Loria has yet to close on the $158.5 million purchase of the team from John Henry -- they haven't even signed a contract yet -- but hopes to close by Friday, when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Melbourne.

Loria offered few specifics about his plans to revive the Marlins and win support for a new stadium that would help ensure the franchise's future. But in response to skepticism that the Marlins will move or fold in a year or two, the 61-year-old New York art dealer reiterated that he bought the team to keep it in South Florida.

"I'm here for the long run. I'm here for the long run. I'm here for the long run," he said with a chuckle. "I don't know how else to say it. Time will prove it."

The Marlins' only winning season in their nine-year history came in 1997, when they won the World Series. Last year Florida was 76-86, 12 games behind NL East winner Atlanta.

Loria said the Marlins can reach the championship level in "a year or two or three."

"They're a heck of a young team, or I wouldn't be interested in doing this," he said.

Last year the Marlins finished 29th in the majors in attendance, ahead of only Montreal. By winning, they can reverse a steady decline in fan support since 1997, Loria said, allowing him to succeed where previous owners H. Wayne Huizenga and Henry failed.

"The unanimous approval of this deal today is a vote of confidence," Loria said. "My desire to bring the Marlins back to a championship level, given some time and our style, I think will prove to be the difference."

Loria confirmed he plans to switch the Marlins' spring training site next year to Jupiter, where the Expos currently train. He and Samson declined to say how many Marlins employees will be laid off in favor of Expos employees when the sale closes, but it's expected to be several dozen.

"This has been a very, very difficult time for a lot of people -- fans in different cities and employees," Samson said. "It's an unfortunate part of the business side. But it's fortunate you have people you think can help take the Florida Marlins to another level."

Joining Torborg from Montreal will be pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, bullpen coach Jeff Cox, infield-first base coach Perry Hill, third base coach Ozzie Guillen, bench coach Rick Renick, hitting coach Bill Robinson and bullpen coordinator Pierre Arsenault.

Also making the move from Montreal will be Fred Ferreira as senior vice president/director of international operations, and Jim Fleming as vice president of player development and scouting/assistant general manger.


 
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