Some Athletes Just Don’t Get It

The Florida Marlins are facing a union grievance from one of their own players, apparently because they demoted him. reported that Logan Morrison was sent down to the minors in August because he failed to show up at a team meet-and-greet for season-ticket holders. According to the report, player representative Wes Helms told Morrison he didn’t have to come to the event, and so he didn’t. After that night’s game, Helms was released and Morrison was sent to the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate.

The Marlins said at the time that the demotion was a baseball decision, even though Morrison was one of their top players. Less than two weeks later, he was recalled … and figured out he was being punished.

This grievance is a classic example of how out of touch some major league players and the MLBPA are. The Marlins are last in their division with a record of 67-82, and last in the National League with an announced average of 18,000 fans a game. To put that in perspective, the Cardinals are averaging 20,000 more fans per game, while San Francisco and Philadelphia are well above that. The Marlins’ total of 1.3 million fans this year is 400,000 behind Washington, which has drawn the second fewest in the NL. The only team close to the Marlins is Oakland, which has drawn 15,000 more, but also has Major League attendance leading San Francisco across the bay.

The Marlins have never drawn well. After getting three million through the gates in their inaugural season, the only time they even drew two million was during their World Championship season of 1997, when they bought the championship. Otherwise, their highest attendance is 1.8 million in 2005, an average of 22,000 fans a game.

So, it’s pretty clear that the Marlins need to draw better. And so, they have meet-and-greets so that their few season-ticket holders can actually access the players. Not that there are many players to meet. Aside from Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Mike Stanton and Gabby Sanchez, Morrison is about the only compelling figure on the team. At the time he failed to show up to meet the fans, Morrison was second on the team in OPS and homers, and third in RBI.

Why do you think it’s so difficult for a player to understand who ultimately pays his salary? Of course, with the Marlins it’s different because their primary means of paying players is through revenue sharing. But you get my point. The Marlins aren’t getting multi-millions from their TV or radio deals, and aren’t loaded with corporate sponsorships. The one way they can make money is from their season-ticket holders.

Next season, the Marlins are moving into a new stadium. They need to build a foundation of support in the Miami community, and one of the few ways to do that is to have charismatic players help sell the franchise to the people. The Blues provide personal meet and greets with players when fans purchase ticket packages. Rams players have been more than happy to meet with corporate partners and ticket holders when called upon. Young Cardinals players traditionally go on Cardinal Caravans throughout the Midwest to help sell tickets during the offseason.

What was Morrison thinking? Why would someone make it a point to spurn the ticket holders and anger the franchise? Obviously, he hasn’t studied the history of the franchise in South Florida, and doesn’t realize that it isn’t a self-sustaining entity.

His agent has joined Morrison in the grievance against the Marlins, so obviously he’s on board with his client’s ignorance. Fred Wray believes Morrison’s demotion was punishment for not going to the meet and greet. Well, Wray should have told him to be there that day. When Morrison approached him about a grievance, Wray should have said, “Let’s let this one lie. You deserve it. You should have been there. And when you didn’t show up, you should have been punished.”

Clearly, these guys think money grows on trees, and that the players don’t need to exhibit any effort to show the fans that they care. While the Marlins are partially to blame for saying the demotion was for “baseball reasons,” the fact of the matter is that they should have the right to expect players to act like major leaguers.

Unfortunately, Morrison is apparently too immature to understand where he is, and why the team he’s on never has fans in the seats. Otherwise, he would have gladly showed up and met with the people that pay the freight.

Next year, when the Marlins move into their new stadium, they would like to fill it up, generate tons of revenue, and eventually pay guys like Morrison to be the foundation of the franchise. In radio, we’re often asked to participate in receptions to meet clients, and we do it gladly. Our job is to help the company make money, so that the company can pay us. Morrison’s position is no different than ours. The difference is that he doesn’t understand that he actually is more than just a number, more than a guy the Marlins will eventually trade to a contender. He’s a product, something his employer can utilize to help them pay him. And he has no clue that that’s the case.