|Marlins have Much to Prove||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on March 13, 2012
We've heard the question many times this offseason and we're going to keep hearing it until Opening Day: Are the new-look Miami Marlins the real deal?
The Marlins have been the talk of the offseason with their high-profile free agent signings and new ballpark. The team will have a $109 million payroll this season after never having a payroll over $60 million in its 19-year history.
The question of where this money is coming from has been a hot topic. Marlins ownership is expecting extreme revenue boosts from the new ballpark so it went all-in to sign talented players.
On paper, the Marlins are as good as any team in the NL. Gaby Sanchez and Omar Infante are rock solid on the right side of the diamond, while the left side of the infield featuring Reyes and Hanley Ramirez is arguably the best in the game.
An outfield of Logan Morrison, Emilio Bonifacio and Giancarlo Stanton (formerly known as "Mike") will be an exciting trio, especially offensively. John Buck will catch a talented pitching staff led by the flame-throwing Josh Johnson. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez join Buehrle and Zambrano in what could be a terrific rotation.
Pretty impressive, right?
Well, the question marks abound for the Marlins heading into the regular season. There are two major factors that may prevent them from their expected success.
First, the roster is teeming with personalities that may not exactly mesh well. Reyes and all his on-field antics will replace Ramirez at shortstop. Ramirez was initially upset with having to move to third base, but he seems content now. But tension may mount if Reyes doesn't play up to par.
In his brief time in the big leagues, Morrison has already gained a reputation of having attitude problems. How will he handle losing some of the spotlight to Reyes?
Of course, Zambrano is known more for his volatility than his recent performance on the mound. He's been known to fight with teammates, and based on the cast of characters the Marlins have assembled, these fights could be vicious.
New manager Ozzie Guillen, who is an intriguing personality himself, will have his hands full in keeping everyone on his team appeased. The talent is unquestionably there, but we'll find out shortly how the Marlins respond to adversity.
That adversity will also come in the form of the other teams in the NL East -- the second major factor facing the Marlins. The Philadelphia Phillies are still the team to beat in the division with their dominant pitching staff that only got stronger with the addition of Jonathan Papelbon as the closer.
The Atlanta Braves had an utter collapse to close out 2011, so they should be rearing to come out of the gate strong with basically the same roster featuring a young starting pitching staff and bullpen.
Watch out for the Washington Nationals this season. An electric starting staff with a healthy Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman will team up with a strong offensive attack led by Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse and possibly the game's top prospect Bryce Harper.
The New York Mets may not look great on paper, but don't forget that their former superstar - Reyes -- will be suiting up for the Marlins. The Mets will likely try to step up their play when facing their newest hated rival.
There are bound to be countless headlines coming out of Miami in anticipation for the season. It may take a while to determine if this publicity stunt will translate into winning ballgames, but nonetheless, the entertainment value of the Marlins is already sky high.