Park, player contacts 'separate' issues

Updated: January 28, 2005, 12:07 AM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- The Florida Marlins gave new first baseman Carlos Delgado a contract worth $52 million over four years, nearly as much money as they want from the Florida Legislature to close a deal for a new ballpark.

So why didn't the Marlins pass on Delgado and put the money toward a stadium?

"We separate those two things," team president David Samson said Thursday. "You need a competitive team in a new stadium and building up to a new stadium. That's what fans deserve."

The Marlins gave Delgado the most lucrative per-season contract in franchise history, even though the team says it lost more than $20 million in 2004. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos said the deal reflected the sport's "fiscal insanity."

Florida owner Jeffrey Loria viewed Delgado's contract differently.

"It shows my desire to win," Loria said. "Everybody knows how I hate to lose."

The former owner of the Montreal Expos, Loria had a reputation for frugality when he bought the Marlins in 2002. But they won the World Series in 2003, when the payroll was $56 million, and it's projected to top $60 million for the first time this season.

"Everybody is saying, 'Where did he get the money?' " said pitcher Al Leiter, who agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract with Florida in December. "He got the money from his bank account. He's taking it from his wallet in the hopes he can maintain a good team, a playoff team, maybe another World Series down here, and have the support grow & to get a stadium."

The Marlins face a tough fight in their pursuit of $60 million from the Legislature, which has rejected the team's past pleas for state money to help build the ballpark. Senate President Tom Lee was angry that the Marlins talked with Las Vegas officials in December about a possible move there, saying last week, "I don't negotiate with terrorists."

Delgado's introductory news conference took place at Dolphins Stadium, the Marlins' home since their first game in 1993. Delgado said he's aware the team seeks a new ballpark.

"You have to deal with what's in front of you at the moment," he said. "For the time being, we're going to play baseball here and try to win as many games as we can."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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