With no stadium deal, Marlins to explore move

MIAMI -- The Florida Marlins are cutting salary, and may
soon cut ties with South Florida.

Following years of unsuccessful attempts to secure a
baseball-only stadium in downtown Miami, the team announced Tuesday
it will look into relocation, which team president David Samson
said could happen as early as the 2008 season.

"There's no more fake deadlines or real deadlines," Samson
said. "This is about the Marlins trying to save its franchise. We
need a place to play after 2010 and we don't have one."

Samson said owner Jeffrey Loria's goal is to keep the team in
South Florida, but added that no deal will be struck for a ballpark
in the city of Miami. The Marlins said they received approval to
pursue relocation plans from the commissioner's office on Monday.

"I would love nothing more than to get this deal done," Miami
Mayor Manny Diaz said. "But I'm not going to put the taxpayers of
the city of Miami at risk."

Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., which both failed to land the
Montreal Expos before that franchise moved to Washington a year
ago, are likely to try to lure the franchise. Samson said another
possibility is building on land near Dolphins Stadium and owned by
the franchise's original owner, H. Wayne Huizenga.

"We are all very disappointed that despite the efforts of three
sets of owners, our office, two world championships, and a very
significant economic proposal from the current owners, that plans
for a new stadium have not been brought to fruition," Bob DuPuy,
baseball's chief operating officer, wrote in an e-mail to The
Associated Press.

"A new ballpark is an absolute necessity for the team to
survive economically and compete. The commissioner believes
strongly that Major League Baseball can thrive in southeast Florida
but only with a suitable facility. He remains hopeful that can
still happen."

The Marlins' lease with Dolphins Stadium, owned by Huizenga, is in effect until 2007. The team has a series of one-year options
that could keep it there through the 2010 season. Samson said the team will not extend its current lease at Dolphins Stadium under
any circumstances.

"No longer can baseball in South Florida be assured," Loria,
who was in Europe, said in a statement read by Samson. "It is now
clear to us that there will be no baseball stadium in the city of
Miami. So we must begin to explore other options."

Samson said some cities have called the Marlins to discuss
possibilities, including Portland, Ore., which moved quickly after
Tuesday's announcement.

"We made an introductory phone call," said Drew Mahalic, chief
executive of the Oregon Sports Authority. "Hopefully this opens a
dialogue with Portland and the state of Oregon as far as the
advantages of relocating a team here."

The Marlins have already had a busy offseason, with the hiring
of new manager Joe Girardi to replace Jack McKeon, plus a
still-not-finalized deal with Boston that would send pitcher Josh
Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston for three
prospects. A preliminary agreement on that deal was struck Monday.

Samson said other trades are being discussed, without offering
any specifics.

"Where there's smoke, there's usually fire," Samson said.

But he cautioned against describing the Marlins' payroll-cutting
as a fire sale, such as the one that occurred following Florida's
1997 World Series championship. The Marlins won 54 games the next

Samson used the term "significant market correction," and said
the team, which may have lost up to $20 million last year, with
only a $60 million payroll, would only spend what matches its
revenue. And that may mean more big names could go, including
Carlos Delgado, who's owed $48 million for the next three seasons.

"This is a deliberate effort by the Marlins to correct what
ails them," Samson said. "And what ails us is the amount of money

Gov. Jeb Bush and other top state lawmakers expressed hope the
team remains in South Florida.

"I'm more than happy to work with the ownership of the team and
the Florida Legislature to come up with a solution," Bush said.

The Marlins have lobbied for their own stadium since Huizenga
sold the team to John Henry in 1999. Plans for a 38,000-seat
retractable-roof stadium to be built next to Miami's Orange Bowl
came apart this spring.

That ballpark had an estimated cost of $420 million to $435
million, including $60 million in state funding. While money was
approved in April by the Florida House, the state Senate refused to
go along.

"There's a lot of people to blame," Samson said. "And they
know exactly who they are."