Even when the Marlins still employed him as team president, David Samson, now a podcast host and frequent guest of The Dan Le Batard Show, was never afraid to speak his mind. Samson’s candor no doubt played a role in his swift dismissal upon the Marlins being sold to an investment group headed by Derek Jeter in 2017. Regardless, Samson’s front-office experience in one of the more chaotic environments in baseball—few teams have put out as many PR fires in recent years as the Marlins—makes him a fascinating interview, as evidenced by his riveting appearance Thursday on the local “Miami only” hour of Le Batard.
While his bluntness has made him a magnet for controversy (unsurprisingly, the outspoken 53-year-old was the first member of his tribe voted off Survivor: Cagayan in 2014), you have to admire Sansom’s transparency in addressing the Marlins’ multitude of failures during his time as president, none more glaring than Miami’s fateful 2012 season. That was the year they ditched their small-market identity, rebranding as the Miami Marlins (before they were called “Florida”) in hopes of bringing attention to the team’s new $634-million stadium in Little Havana. The Marlins bolstered their roster as well with the additions of Jose Reyes (more on him later), Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle, among other flashy signings. Miami also hired controversial manager Ozzie Guillen, who was later fired for remarks seemingly in support of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Many forget the Marlins were deep into talks with free agent Albert Pujols, offering the three-time MVP what Samson described as an “obscene” sum. In recounting the team’s failed courtship of Pujols, who went on to sign a 10-year deal with the Angels, Samson seemed to let slip that the former Cardinals star isn’t the age he says he is.
“We knew when we did the calculations for that deal that we didn’t care about 2019, 20 or 21. It was so far in the future that it didn’t matter,” said Sansom, recalling his negotiations with Pujols. “We knew he’d be unproductive, we knew that he was not the age that he said he was. We had all the information.”
“Did you just report flatly that Pujols is older than he’s always claimed to be?” asked an astonished Le Batard.
“There is not one person in baseball, not one executive, who believes Albert Pujols is the age that he says he is,” responded Samson. “The amount of fraud that was going on in the Dominican back in the day, the changing of names, the changing of birthdays, it would blow your mind.”
If Pujols is indeed older than his listed 41, that would certainly explain his precipitous decline, qualifying for the All-Star team just once in his last 10 seasons. An Instagram post by Pujols’ wife earlier this week alluded to his likely retirement after 2021, though the future Hall-of-Famer has yet to confirm whether this will indeed be his final season.
Many athletes, particularly those born outside the U.S. (making records harder to verify), have fibbed about their age including former Oakland A’s star Miguel Tejada (also of the Dominican Republic), who had claimed to be two years younger than he actually was. “I was a poor kid,” said Tejada after his lie was first exposed in 2008. “I wanted to sign a professional contract and that was the only way to do it.”
Along with the Pujols nugget, Samson also acknowledged the rivalry between teammates Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez in 2012, which apparently stemmed from Reyes replacing him at shortstop. In a conversation before the team signed Reyes, Ramirez insisted he was comfortable moving to third base, though Samson suspects that was not the case. “He said, ‘We’re fine. I’ll be your third baseman. Let’s go win. We’re okay, Samson.’ And I convinced myself that we were okay. And we never were okay.”
The simmering Reyes/Ramirez feud was largely kept under wraps thanks in no small part to Samson, who admitted the Marlins staged a scene to make the bitter rivals appear friendly with each other in The Franchise, a Showtime documentary series about the team’s 2012 season. “We pretended they [got along] on The Franchise,” claimed Samson. “We had them play video games together.”
Samson also claims Ramirez, who was ultimately dealt to the Dodgers that summer, demanded he be placed in a different batting practice group than Giancarlo Stanton upon the latter’s arrival in the big leagues. “He didn’t want to be shown up by Stanton,” said Samson.
None of that paints a particularly sunny picture of the Marlins or their doomed 2012 season—they finished at the bottom of the NL East for the second straight year. Miami was a surprise playoff team in 2020, albeit under unusual circumstances with expanded playoffs and a shortened regular season (just 60 games). Still, Vegas doesn’t seem especially bullish on the Marlins’ chances this year, pegging them as 80-1 longshots to win the World Series.