"I don’t want to equate myself with Mr. Steinbrenner," the Marlins owner told interviewer Charlie Rose. "He has always been very gracious and kind to me and I have nothing but good things to say about George."
Fast forward nine years, and it's clear Loria, who turns 72 next month, isn't just emulating the old-school Steinbrenner Yankees. He's threatening to outdo them, at least when it comes to turmoil in the manager's office.
The Marlins are shopping for their sixth manager (including interim Brandon Hyde) in the past 28 months. That's reminiscent of the late Steinbrenner when he was changing Yankees managers the way most people change socks.
The Bronx Bombers employed five different managers in a 26-month period from 1988-90: Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Dallas Green, Bucky Dent and Stump Merrill. None of those teams finished higher than fifth in the AL East, which consisted of seven teams at the time.
That was nothing compared to the reign of King George from 1978-82, when he cycled nine different managers through a revolving door at Yankee Stadium: Martin, Dick Howser, Bob Lemon, Martin (again), Howser (again), Gene Michael, Lemon (again), Michael (again) and Clyde King.
The '78 Yankees repeated as champions, but the '81 team imploded in a World Series loss to the Dodgers.
Over the past 17 years, however, the Yankees have employed just two managers, both named Joe: Torre and Girardi. Not coincidentally, perhaps, they won five World Series in a 14-year period (1996-2009).
Sensing a trend here?
Here's what Marlins baseball czar Larry Beinfest said Tuesday when I asked him whether he valued stability in the manager's office:
"I do," Beinfest said. "I think maybe some of the instability has been a little bit of a detriment. I would never want to use that as an excuse, but we could definitely use some stability in the dugout."
"We’ve had a lot of stability in the front office, a lot of stability in ownership," Beinfest said. "I think stability in the dugout could be a benefit to our players, could be a benefit in just overall long-term communication between the whole organization and the dugout. Ideally, yes, it would be outstanding to have a manager down there for a number of years -- and winning."
Will the Marlins get it right this time?
Or will Loria keep channeling his inner Steinbrenner?