Marlins Financial Records Fiasco — “I Just Don’t See It” Redux

Much ink has been spilled over the last few days over the shocking discovery — much to the amazement of several Miami-Dade commissioners — that apparently the Marlins were doing pretty good financially during the very time they were pleading poverty in order to get our tax dollars spent on their stadium:

“It’s all very explainable, because the people we negotiated with at the county and city knew everything, our banks know everything, our partners know everything,” Samson said.

But in an e-mail exchange Tuesday with The Miami Herald, Miami-Dade spokeswoman Victoria Mallette said the county never saw the Marlins’ financial records during the negotiations, although it was not surprised to hear the club made money.

Yet several members of the County Commission, who gave their final approval to the stadium’s $500 million city-county funding package in March 2009, have expressed shock at the extent of the Marlins’ profitability.

The problem I have with this coverage — which includes fine Miami Herald columnists Fred Grimm and Greg Cote — is that none of the articles provided any historical perspective to the numbers at issue.

In particular, Adam Beasley’s article quotes from Dave Samson, but makes no effort to press him on contradictory statements and positions in the past taken by Marlins representatives (including Samson himself).  And the reader thus has no ability to judge the present positions against the historical record.

This important historical context is not very hard to locate btw.

In fact, we covered the very question of the Marlins’ financial condition when Roberto Martinez went into Judge Escharte’s courtroom back in June of 2008 and specifically asked for public disclosure of that information because Dave Samson — incredibly, in my view — refused to answer any questions about the topic during his deposition:

The Florida Marlins and Miami-Dade County won a slight victory in court Friday when Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. shot down several attempts to get Marlins President David Samson to disclose the ball club’s financial picture.

The two sides are readying for a July 1 court date, with auto dealer Norman Braman contending the $609 million stadium and parking garage plan — to be built with almost $500 million of public money — doesn’t benefit the public.

On Friday, Braman attorney Bob Martinez tried to get Echarte to compel Samson to answer dozens of questions the Marlins executive had waved off when he was deposed earlier this month.

Echarte shot that down, ruling that almost all of Martinez’s questions dealing with club finances weren’t relevant to the trial.

When Martinez tried to get Samson to hand over projections of attendance, the judge questioned whether such figures are paramount to the public purpose of a stadium. ”I just don’t see it,” Echarte said.

Both sides will be back in court most of this week setting witness questioning and attempting to narrow the proceedings so the trial doesn’t run too long. Echarte said he has vacation plans for most of July.

Here’s what I wrote back then:

We’ve all heard Samson cry and whine on Lebby’s show about how badly the Marlins are doing financially without a publicly-financed stadium in the picture, but now he refuses to answers questions at a deposition about this very topic? I guess we’re stuck with his mediocre and stunningly pedestrian movie reviews instead.

I also don’t get the Judge’s ruling if it is based — as it appears to be — entirely on relevancy grounds. Something has to be completely way off-base for the entire topic to be excluded from discovery on relevancy grounds. Were there other grounds raised? 

“I just don’t see it” indeed.