Springtime Storylines: Are the Marlins the most interesting team in baseball?

15 Comments

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The new-look Miami Marlins.

The big question: Are the Marlins the most interesting team in baseball?

The Florida Marlins are no longer. We now have the Miami Marlins, complete with a new logo and uniforms, a quirky, new taxpayer-funded stadium and new skipper Ozzie Guillen, who has made a habit out of being a lightning rod for controversy. After years of fielding a team on the cheap, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria finally opened his wallet over the winter and while he didn’t lure Albert Pujols to South Florida, he was successful in getting Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell into the fold. The Marlins also made a deal with the Cubs in January for Carlos Zambrano, who ended last season on the restricted list after his latest personal meltdown.

Back from shoulder surgery, Hanley Ramirez is making the move over to third base to accommodate Reyes at shortstop. The 28-year-old reportedly had a tough time accepting the position change, but he hasn’t sulked yet. Just as the Marlins made the switch from Florida to Miami, Mike Stanton is now going by Giancarlo Stanton. At just 22 years old, he’s already one of the best power hitters in the game. And we also have baseball’s most famous tweeter Logan Morrison, who was demoted to the minors last season after clashing with management.

Win or lose, the Marlins should be the most interesting team in baseball this season. They certainly have the pieces in place to overtake the Phillies in the division, but they should also come with a warning label that reads, “contents may ignite or explode.” Showtime clearly sees the potential for great television, as they plan to feature them on the new season of “The Franchise.”

What else is going on?

  • Josh Johnson had a 1.64 ERA over his first nine starts last year before landing on the disabled list in May with a mysterious shoulder injury. No structural damage was ever found, but it was apparently serious enough where he didn’t make another start for the rest of the season. The 28-year-old right-hander hasn’t had any setbacks this spring, but it’s tough to count on him considering that he has logged more than 190 innings just once in his career. Anibal Sanchez has surprisingly made 32 starts in each of the past two seasons, but his injury history is also worrisome. The Marlins would have a tough time making a serious run if even one of them misses an extended period of time.
  • How is the new ballpark going to play? We need large sample of games before making an accurate judgment and this could be a very different stadium depending upon whether the roof is open, but the dimensions of the outfield are pretty big. The center field fence is 416 feet away from home plate while right-center field is 31 feet further away than it was in Sun Life Stadium. Only the fence down the right field line (335 ft) is closer than their former home. Giancarlo Stanton can hit home runs anywhere, but this probably means a favorite environment for the pitching staff and lots of triples for Jose Reyes.
  • No, I didn’t forget about the elaborate and unusual home run sculpture beyond the left-center field fence. We’ve talked about it so much over the past year or so that its debut is almost as anticipated as Stephen Strasburg’s was. As ridiculous at it looks, I think this gaudy hunk of metal will grow on us over time. Sort of like the episode of “Seinfeld” where that girl found George Costanza really irritating initially, but then he got stuck in her head. Co-stan-za!
  • Will people actually show up to the new ballpark in Little Havana? The Marlins have ranked last in the National League in attendance in each of the last six seasons, so I have my doubts. Of course, Loria hasn’t provided any reason for someone to want to come see the team. He has generated buzz this winter by adding some star power to the roster and he has been overt about attracting the Hispanic community, so the honeymoon phase should go well enough. But if they don’t win? Let’s just say I wouldn’t rule out another fire sale.

So how are they gonna do?

Best-case? Johnson throws 200 innings, Stanton hits 40 homers, Reyes stays mostly healthy and Hanley embraces the move to third base while bouncing back from his down 2011 campaign. If those things happen, the Marlins should challenge the Phillies for the division crown. However, I think there are way too many variables that could mess with that optimistic scenario. I have them in third place with around 85-88 wins, which puts them right in the mix for the second wild card spot.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 10, Braves 4: The good news: the game went on despite the bad forecast I was worried about yesterday. The bad news: I still didn’t go because (a) I am still sick with the crap I had over the weekend; and (b) in light of that it didn’t seem like a great idea to take a 200-mile, drugged-up round trip with the possibility of sitting in rain delays and getting back home after midnight to see it. So, bad news: I missed my first big league game of the season. Good news: I took more NyQuil and went to bed at 9:30 and slept until after 6, so maybe I’m on the mend. Not that most of you care about that. What you do care about is that Atlanta jumped out to a 2-0 lead and then the wheels fell off with the Reds tying it up on a two-run Scott Schebler homer in the fifth and then scoring five in the sixth, with Jesse Winker‘s bases-loaded single putting them ahead for good. Schebler would later single in another run. Jim Riggleman gets his first win as Reds manager. The game was played in front of the smallest crowd at Great American Ball Park in nine years — 9,463 — so maybe everyone else was home taking NyQuil too.

Yankees 14, Twins 1: Miguel Andujar homered and doubled, Giancarlo Stanton went 4-for-4 with a homer and Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam. Gleyber Torres got his first big league hit. Paul Molitor brought in outfielder Ryan LaMarre to pitch in the eighth and Tyler Austin hit a two-run homer off of him on his four-RBI night. One of them nights, I guess. Andujar is 15-for-29 with eight doubles, a triple and three home runs in his last seven games. That’s hot, my friends.

Indians 2, Orioles 1: Kevin Gausman pitched well — allowing only two runs on four hits over eight innings, including one inning in which he struck out the side in nine pitches — but Carlos Carrasco pitched better, allowing one run on six hits in seven and a third. Yonder Alonso‘s two-run homer in the second was Gausman’s only mistake, but it was a big enough mistake to give the Indians the win.

Athletics 9. Rangers 4: Marcus Semien led off the ninth inning with the game tied at 3. His homer gave the A’s the lead and his teammates piled on five more runs, all with two outs, off of Ranger relievers Kevin Jepsen and Jesse Chavez. Oakland has won seven of eight games and is now 12-11. Not bad for the consensus last place team in the AL West.

White Sox 10, Mariners 4: The White Sox had been losing badly and losing big of late, so putting up seven runs in the first two innings had to make them feel better, at least for one day. They started the game with seven straight hits. Jose Abreu hit two homers and had four hits in all, and six other Pale Hose had an RBI each. Yoan Moncada went 3-for-5 and scored three times.

Angels 2, Astros 0Tyler Skaggs tossed seven shutout innings and Justin Anderson and Keynan Middleton each blanked Houston for a frame to complete the shutout. A Kole Calhoun RBI single and a Justin Upton RBI double was all the scoring the Halos needed. The loss snapped Houston’s six-game winning streak.

Padres 13, Rockies 5: San Diego jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first but it was 4-4 after the bottom half of the inning. The Rockies scored once in the third but the Padres put up nine in the seventh, and that is usually too much to overcome, even in Coors Field. Carlos Asuaje homered and drove in four, Wil Myers had four hits and drove in two and Franchy Cordero, Cory Spangenberg and Matt Szczur each drove in a couple as well.

Dodgers 2, Marlins 1: Welcome to the big leagues, Walker Buehler. The Dodgers prospect made his big league debut and shut out the Marlins for five innings, striking out five while struggling a bit with his command. He didn’t get the win because Jaime Garcia was pretty stingy, allowing only one run over six, but Enrique Hernandez homered in the fourth and Cody Bellinger hit a sac fly in the eighth to give the Dodgers the win. The Dodgers remain hot, moving to 11-10 with their seventh win in eight games.

Giants 4, Nationals 2: The Giants beat the Nats thanks in part to a Mac Williamson two-run homer that flew 464 feet and another run he knocked in via a fielder’s choice. Buster Posey also singled in a run. All the Nats could muster on offense was a pair of sac flies. They were supposed to run away with the NL East but they’re in fourth place, 5.5 games out. It’s early, but no, that’s not what you want.