It hasn't been a good week for the Miami Marlins here at The Outside Corner.
Some might argue that we've been picking on them, between our End of Season Post-Mortem and Hope for the Hopeless articles featuring the Marlins. But those were entirely based on timing, with Miami becoming officially eliminated from playoff consideration this week. Going into Friday's play, the Marlins have the worst record in the National League (and second-worst in MLB) at 52-86.
Marlins fans were already having a rough enough time just being Marlins fans. The team's owner is Jeffrey Loria, arguably the most despised person in baseball. Loria assured this season's last-place finish by trading nearly all of his good players — including shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Josh Johnson — to the Toronto Blue Jays over the winter. That was after Miami taxpayers paid 80 percent of the $634 million cost for Marlins Park.
But now the Marlins have pissed off Miami native Jonathan Vilma, who was a star linebacker for the University of Miami Hurricanes and now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Vilma's dissatisfaction has nothing to do with the product that the Marlins are putting on the field. His issue is with how the team is treating his product off the field.
Vilma and the Marlins are suing each other over the management of a concession stand at Marlins Park tied to the linebacker's barbecue restaurant franchise, called Brother Jimmy's.
According to the Marlins, Brother Jimmy's broke a sponsorship agreement with the team by failing to pay $75,000 in fees. The Marlins also claim that the company didn't give 60 days notice to terminate their arrangement for the 2013 season.
On the other side, Brother Jimmy's says it never had a sponsorship agreement in place with the Marlins. Yet the restaurant allowed the team (and Levy Restaurants of Chicago, which runs the ballpark's concession operations) to prepare and sell food at a discount under the Brother Jimmy's name at Marlins Park. The restaurant claims that the Marlins did such a poor job with its food, however, that the concession stand had to be shut down.
Additionally, Brother Jimmy's says that the Marlins sold their sponsorship agreement based on expected attendance figures of 28,000 per game. Miami has the second-worst average attendance in MLB, averaging just over 19,000 fans. (The Marlins rank last in total attendance.) Brother Jimmy's also maintains that the team promised 40 non-baseball events for their concessions, but those events were never held.
No word on whether this problem developed because the Marlins sold their top food concessionaires to other restaurant franchises in their ballpark and used unproven concession worker prospects to prepare and sell the Brother Jimmy's menu.
As you might expect, Brother Jimmy's is concerned about the bad experience with the Marlins giving the overall business a bad name. Vilma — who started Brother Jimmy's with fellow University of Miami linebackers D.J. Williams and Jon Beason — even took to local sports talk radio to give his side of the story.
"We did voice our concerns and we actually personally went there, we went to the games and we wouldn't let them know who we were, we'd go and taste our own food and we'd tell them look, 'this food is not to our standards,'" Vilma told The Kup & Crowder Show on 560 WQAM.
"It hurts us as a business because if for the first time a fan goes to Marlins stadium, they taste Brother Jimmy's, they say 'this food is terrible,' and all they're gonna remember is the bad food and or service that they got at the Marlins stadium and we expected better than that."
Unfortunately, Vilma did unwittingly admit to a mistake in judgment during the interview.
"We expected something similar to the Yankees, where they put out a good product, what they sell you and what they market to you, what you're paying for is what you're gonna get."
Expecting a Yankees level of performance from the Marlins? Clearly, Vilma is a football guy.