19 years of baseball, 19 years of proud traditions and 19 years of excellence are just a few ways the Marlins organization can be described. Once known as the Florida Marlins, the “Fightin’ Fish” have relocated to the former site of the beloved Orange Bowl in downtown Miami and shaved off the “Florida” from the title, uniform and logos alike. The Miami Marlins will make their debut in their brand new stadium, fresh uniforms, stylish colors, outspoken manager and new outlook in the 2012 season.
On Nov. 11, owner Jeffrey Loria unveiled the new colors and uniforms for the Miami-bound club. What was once a mediocre teal, black and white squad had now freshened up their look with the addition of red-orange and yellow to an “M” rather than the “F” of years past. The Marlin will remain, but with a fresh new look. The same could be said for the uniforms as well. They will display the word “MIAMI” on the front of both their home and away jerseys, which is a rarity among most professional teams in sports. What first appeared to me as idiotic colors have now grown on me as I find myself coming to like the display of the new “M.” It just takes time to adjust to the change of scenery and look.
The Marlins will also enjoy the luxury of having their own ballpark. For the first 19 years of their existence, the club has had to share their park with the Miami Dolphins and even Miami Hurricanes. Their concerns, ideas and interests always took a backseat to those of the other squads. Now, they can run things the way they would like and hopefully bring in some fan base to the busier and more convenient area of downtown Miami. The retractable roof park will be great for avoiding the long rain delays that haunted nearly every game of their season and be a great addition to the “beautiful Miami skyline” as Loria proclaimed. FINALLY!
Due to the relocation and changes surrounding the club, the park among other things will look to spark a lot more interest and therefore money into the club. If that is the case, the Marlins will look to be shoppers on the market for high name free agents such as Albert Pujols, Mark Buerhle and Jose Reyes. Also, what once was an empty crowd of 15,000 in the 70,000+ seating Sun Life Stadium, the Marlins hope to haul in over 30,000 a night in their 37,000+ vicinity.
Every sports fan should be happy for this club. No longer will they live in the shadows of the Dolphins and be second to any demands of fans and/or events. For a team that has prided themselves in building from the ground up and garnered two World Championships in their first 11 seasons of existence, they deserve to indulge in a few high name free agents of their own. In fact, they have been the lowest in payroll among the league in 15 of 19 seasons. Also, for a team that works their tail off night in and night out to finish over .500 nearly every season, they should have some fans in the seats and some national coverage on them as well. This is the time of the Miami Marlins. Like the Tampa Bay Rays from a few seasons ago, the Marlins have a chance to show off their new look in 2012, as well as the homecoming of sorts for newly acquired manager Ozzie Guillen.
Most critics will say that the Marlins cannot expect to turn things around overnight with all the hype surrounding their new this or new that. If you think closely, the Marlins have not treaded far from success in years past. They have finished either second or third in their division five times over their 19-year existence. That is saying a lot when they have played alongside the great pitchers of the Atlanta Braves and the recent domination of the Philadelphia Phillies. They seem to find themselves right at or above 80 wins nearly every year.
In order to solidify their lineup that already contains All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, 22-year-old slugger Mike Stanton and youngsters Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison, the Marlins will need to add some speed to the top of their lineup and hopefully another on-base man. When looking at their starting rotation that has young slingers such as Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson, the club will need to add possibly a crafty lefty and/or an experienced right-hander to even think of contending with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in 2012.
With the recent rumors of the Marlins talking to Reyes, Buerhle and Pujols, it seems as if they are trying to fill those exact voids. Reyes would add a spark to the top of the lineup, get on base and steal, steal, steal. Mark Buerhle would add a crafty left-handed veteran that would fit great with the division and new manager Ozzie Guillen. Buerhle played in Chicago with Guillen and would be critical when the left-handed sluggers in the form of Utley and Howard come to town out of Philly. Finally, Pujols would add the MVP threat on the field and at the plate that any team would want. Imagine leading off with Reyes, having Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Mike Stanton hitting back-to-back in the middle of the lineup and the crafty lefty of Mark Buerhle on the mound for a young, improving defense and bullpen. That would be a scary team to face, no matter who you are.
While many say the pitching staff of the Marlins has yet to hit its stride in means of competing with the rest of the National League, I argue that one or two dominating pitchers in the rotation and a few solid guns in the bullpen could lead any team to World Series title. Look at the Cardinals of this year and the Giants of the year before. The Cardinals were without Adam Wainwright and the Giants depended highly on Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum to accompany their solid offenses in their quest for a world championship.
When others ask if the offense is ready for a big opportunity like this, I tell them this: Hanley Ramirez is not going to have another down season like a year ago. He is going to come out strong and be the All-Star we remember him to be. Also, Mike Stanton’s numbers continue to get better and better. He is soon to be hitting .280, 50 homers and over 120 RBIs. His walks will continue to increase as his numbers do as well. The league is scared of him. If you put a Jose Reyes and/or Albert Pujols in a lineup that does not have many weak spots when healthy, you have an offense close to, if not better, than that of the Cardinals or Rangers from this season.
Finally, with a bullpen extremely taxed from a year ago due the key injury to starter Josh Johnson and an array of other injuries, the Marlins hope to re-sign Javier Vasquez (if he does not choose to retire) and possibly add a few bullpen arms to help the workload on guys such as Leo Nuñez, Clay Hensley, Edward Mujica and Michael Dunn.
All in all, if the new-look Marlins find a few arms and a couple of bats with the raise in payroll this offseason, they could find themselves in contention with the rest of the NL East and league to follow up the line of firsts and inaugurations that will accompany the Miami Marlins in 2012.