By Cliff Corcoran
It should be pretty clear by now that the Miami Marlins don't care what you or any of their fans think of them. After all, could a team concerned about its public perception really trade five of its best players less than nine months after opening a new publicly-funded ballpark? No it could not. So maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that the Marlins didn't think about how it would look when they threatened to sue two long-time season ticket holders over an unpaid invoice for $25,292 after being unable to resolve the fans' complaint about an advertising sign obstructing the view from their seats.
According to a report in the Miami New Times, which, as we've seen, has little regard for Marlins ownership, Jan and Bill Leon have "paid tens of thousands for front-row season tickets [to Marlins games] since 1998." When the Marlins opened their new ballpark, the Leons, "made what they thought was a verbal agreement" for a two-year package "with the option of changing seats after the first year." The Leons received front row seats near the lip of the outfield grass down the third base line and were quite happy with them until the Marlins added the sign seen on the left here. The Leons claim that the green padding atop that sign blocks their view of the near-side of the field and hides the approach of foul balls which skip into the stands.
The Leons asked for the obstruction to be removed or for their seats to be relocated further down the third base line. The Marlins claim to have offered the Leons "numerous opportunities to move to a different seat location," but the Leons were not satisfied (I suspect because the available alternative locations were all significant downgrades from sitting in the front row behind third base), and refused to pay for another season in their obstructed seats.
Up to that point, this was an unfortunate situation, but hardly newsworthy. The Leons had every right to be upset about their outstanding view being ruined. The Marlins appeared to make a good-faith effort to remedy the situation. The Leons were not satisfied by the alternatives they were offered and chose to opt out of their ticket plan. The Leons are, sadly, far from the first long-time season ticket holders to be screwed by their team moving into a new ballpark. All the Marlins had to do was let them go.
Instead, the Marlins had their lawyer send them a letter "formally demand[ing] payment" for the 2013 season with the threat of pursuing "any and all appropriate legal and equitable remedies . . . under the law, including but not limited to pursuing you for the full amount currently outstanding and owing to the Marlins, plus all interest charges and applicable collection costs and legal fees." That letter, dated March 8, gave the Leons 20 days to pay up. The Leons, already bitter about both their obstructed view and the Marlins' fire sale, have no intention of doing so.
VIEW THE LETTER HERE Now, I'm willing to believe that, despite claiming to have only made a verbal agreement with a sales rep, the Leons may be legally obligated for the coming season. The thing is, the Marlins don't have to hold them to that. All they had to do was let the Leons out of their "Premium Seat Agreement" and we never would have heard a word about it. After all, how hard could it be to find someone to spend $300 per game on a pair of front-row seats to see the 2013 Marli . . . ohhhh. Now I get it.