The Miami Marlins have figured out a way to erase the embarrassment of poor attendance figures: Make fewer tickets available. Brilliant!
The Marlins have announced a sellout for their first game at their new ballpark, a contest against the University of Miami on March 6, reports the Miami Herald.
Of course calling it a sellout is a tad misleading, as the team limited capacity for the game to 10,000. For some reason, there are 15,000 seats available for the Marlins’ game against Florida International the next day. That matchup, not surprisingly, has yet to sell out.
To be fair (which takes the fun out of everything!) we’re talking about exhibition games here. Drawing 10,000 for a non-counter against a college team isn’t too shabby.
Smartly, the Marlins have kept the actual capacity of their new stadium on the smallish side – 37,000 – so with a pretty exciting team featuring the likes of Jose Reyes, Mike Stanton and Josh Johnson (and Yoenis Cespedes?), the Marlins ought to be able to claim some actual sellouts in 2012, at least during the early part of the season.
You can view progress on the completion of the new stadium here.
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Mike Stanton hit 43 homers between the minors and majors last season, including 22 long balls in 100 games with the Marlins following his call-up in mid-June, which has Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wondering if he can break the franchise record for homers in his first full season.
Gary Sheffield owns that mark with 42 homers in 1996 and no other Marlins hitter has homered even 35 times in a season, so Stanton doing age 21 what only one other player in only one other season could do during the team’s 18-year history seems pretty unlikely regardless of his immense power potential.
Looking beyond the Marlins, here’s a list of the most homers by a 21-year-old in baseball history:
Eddie Mathews 47 1953
Albert Pujols 37 2001
Hal Trosky 35 1934
Miguel Cabrera 35 2004
Jose Canseco 33 1986
Bob Horner 33 1979
Jimmie Foxx 33 1929
Andruw Jones 31 1998
Ruben Sierra 30 1987
Of all the great young sluggers in baseball history Eddie Mathews is the only one to smack 40-plus homers as a 21-year-old, and Mathews and Albert Pujols are the only ones to top 35 long balls at age 21. Stanton definitely has the ability to join them in 2011, but Marlins fans shouldn’t be disappointed if he manages “only” 30 homers in his first full season.
Florida’s bullpen makeover continues, as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Marlins have signed left-handed specialist Randy Choate to a two-year, $2.5 million contract.
Choate is a Type B free agent and Tampa Bay smartly offered him arbitration, so the Rays will receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds for losing a guy they acquired for nothing in 2009 and paid $700,000 in 2010.
None of which is to suggest that Choate isn’t plenty useful. A side-arming southpaw, he held left-handed hitters to a .202 batting average this year and a .217 mark for his career. However, he can’t be trusted versus right-handed hitters, as they’ve knocked him around to the tune of a .279 batting average and .800 OPS, which is how Choate led the AL with 85 appearances yet logged a total of just 45 innings.
Ricky Nolasco and the Marlins have been trying to work out a long-term contract extension all year, so it’s not surprising to see Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald report that the team is “gauging interest” in Nolasco at the winter meetings.
According to Spencer they’re also taking calls on closer Leo Nunez, but “are not committed to trading either” and “would have to be overwhelmed by any offers.”
Nolasco is under team control for two more seasons, while Nunez is arbitration eligible for the final time and will hit the open market as a free agent next offseason. It makes sense to deal Nunez, because his save total overrates him in the arbitration process and could lead to a 2011 salary of $5 million or so. However, dealing Nolasco would be a mistake unless the Marlins can get a significant return.
Nolasco has a mediocre 4.45 ERA in 716 career innings, but his secondary numbers have consistently been much better and he’s still just 28 years old. Among all pitchers to make at least 75 starts in the past three seasons Nolasco ranks fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio, eighth in strikeout rate, and 12th in wins. He’s very close to emerging as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that left-handed specialist Dennys Reyes will likely decide on his new team within the next 48 hours and will probably be choosing either the Phillies or Marlins “unless a new suitor emerges.”
On the other hand, John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse writes that the A’s and Mariners “seem to be going head to head” on Reyes.
Hmm. Whatever the case, it sounds like Reyes has multiple offers after posting a 3.55 ERA for the Cardinals this season.
He’s been a solid reliever for a while now, but it’s worth noting that Reyes’ usage under manager Tony La Russa was incredibly rigid, as he logged a total of just 38 innings in 59 appearances, and his 25/21 K/BB ratio has hardly impressive considering he was facing a left-handed batter 54 percent of the time.