What the heck happened to our lovable scamps of the NL East? They used to play in an indeterminately named (I stuck with Pro Player) Stadium, they used to have no salary worth speaking of, they used to wear bright teal and have a roster seemingly solely constructed of middle infielders. And then, 2012.
They move into a new park. It's called "Marlins Park" and three of the four subcategories for History are "Struggles and Possible Relocation," "Financing and Lawsuit," and "SEC Investigation." Soooo, that's great. There's also the great big beautiful abomination in centerfield. That may be removed because left-handed hitters can't see over it.
I mean, I suppose this is worth tut-tutting. Removing teal for some aqua-and-orange combination certainly is. But in a way, I enjoy the Florida team turning heel. I cannot be alone, I hope, in seeing a distinct parallel with this strange turn for the franchise. The Florida Marlins to Miami Marlins escapade can be seen elsewhere in Mario's reimagination as something far weirder and more sinister [via wikipedia]
...he was not really a villain, and they did not consider this during development. They focused on his behavior, which alternates between good or evil... [They consider] Wario to be a reckless character, who uses his strength to overwhelm others... [They] described Wario as manly, and said he was "so uncool that he ends up being extremely cool". Because of this, he wished for Wario to come off as macho rather than silly, and requested that the art designers emphasize his masculinity. Wario was chosen as the star of the WarioWare series because the developers felt it was the best character for the franchise, in particular for frequently acting stupid.
And yup. There you have it.
So how did they get from "Oh geez, I hope we get a wildcard!" status to "Fuck it, we're going for the championship!"? As we've mentioned; huge contracts, new ballpark, aquariums, pitch-to-contact, uniforms that are Civ-5-meets-the-Giants, and other such bizarreness. Even the mascot has gotten into the act.
This is no longer the team I've previewed in 2011, 2010, and 2009. However, we will still judge them the same way. Without the teal, without Quilvio Veras, I no longer know with what I root for this team. I'll do the same breakdown as always, though. My prognostication skills have not improved, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume all the pitchers are terrible, because they always prove me wrong when they end up being so. Projected lineups and rotation are per, uh, FantasyCPR.com because jeez, nobody does those anymore.
In terms of history, the Marlins have never won their division. They have won the 1997 World Series (don't tell anyone from Cleveland!) and 2003 (tell everyone from New York whilst making rude gestures!). Tony Perez, el cierto perro grande, was their first manager. Their current manager is Ozzie Guillen, who is the best human being in baseball. Former South Bend Silver Hawk Joey Cora is the bench coach and former Red Name of the Decade Nominee Randy St. Claire is the pitching coach. Ozzie says wonderful things and will be entertaining. So will this team. Perhaps no manager and team were ever better combined in one hyper-masculine, reckless, foolish combination that is so uncool they might actually be cool (Ozzie's twitter is so "Oh my God this is my dad, isn't it?" that you barely realize that it's a real person in charge of a real multimillion dollar team). But he can't control much.
Giancarlo Stanton changed his name to make this easy on us. There's no ex-Reds on the 40-man roster. Austin Kearns is an NRI with a Spring Training Invite which, if you're over the age of 22, is incredibly depressing. That's it. We're moving on. Let's look at the rotation. I hate you, Ray King.
This could actually be quite dangerous. A lot is dependent on Josh Johnson, but there's the potential for a real evil 1-5 if everything goes to plan. But c'mon. Nothing ever goes to plan. Which could be the Waaaarlins true plan. I just don't know anymore (stats are W-L/ERA/IP from 2011).
Josh Johnson (3-1/1.64/60.1): Yeah, well, obviously they'd like about 150 more innings from him. But he's been real good from 2009-2010, and in his age-28 season, he may have everything behind him or he may be a living wreck. He has no name recognition, but he could have a 7-win season or throw six innings and I wouldn't be surprised either way.
Mark Buerhle (13-9/3.59/205.1): Since his rookie year, he's pitched 11 years, pitched over 200 innings each year, and has averaged 4.2 WAR a year. His peripherals ain't too sexy, but he works fast, works hard, and is generally the sort of old-school dude who you build a staff around. His contract may hurt in a few years but I see nothing wrong with it this year. He's been one of my favorites for a while and I'm just glad he's not in a Cardinals jersey.
Anibal Sanchez (8-9/3.67/196.1): Stuck a lot more dudes out and walked a lot fewer than years past. He'll also be entering the ol' age-28 season so maybe he turned it around. Or maybe he's lucky. I'm not sure myself, but he's a damned dangerous #3 starter.
Ricky Nolasco (10-12/4.67206): One of, it not the most, unlucky pitchers of this millennium. His FIP the past 4 years? 3.77, 3.35, 3.86, 3.54: his ERA those four years? 3.52, 5.06, 4.51, 4.67. So either he's due for an absurd turn-around or he just made a really strange deal with the devil and is living with the consequences.
Carlos Zambrano (9-7/4.82/145.2): Look, I realize how easy it is to make fun of him. I really do. But if he falls off the face of the Earth completely, well, there's guys like Hand or Sanabia to take his place. And if he doesn't? He can still be a force to be reckoned with. It just remains to be seen, I suppose, whether Guillen or us will be doing the reckoning. Perhaps Ozzie's Venezuelan connection will help but, then again, if logic or theory was useful in the Carlos Conundrum, if would've worked by now.
Heath Bell got a lot of money to be the closer so, uh, hope that works. Age aside, there's no reason why not. Juan Oviedo is still around, but now he's not Leo Nunez. Choate and Dunn were solid lefties, Ryan Webb is great in Out of the Park, and Gary Glover is an NRI who is still somehow still kicking it.
The pitching could be a serious strength. I'm not sure how the new ballpark is supposed to play. They have some power arms both in the rotation and in the bullpen and if everyone does what they're supposed to, they could become a force. Thankfully, they won't. There's enough wildcards here to remain interesting while still being generally powerful enough to shutout any team on any night. Burke Badenhop, the last of the Honkballers, has left the premises. Dang.
Tomo Ohka All-Star:
Big Carlos held the Reds to a .223/.324/.348 line, which surprises me because I felt like they beat up on him all the damn time. Maybe because I remember him absolutely losing his shit to Eric Milton.
This was a pretty meagre outfit last year, even with Giancarlo Stanton doing things few others have ever done. I'd like to think Jose Reyes will be a difference maker, but looking at this, you're still hoping for a few career years to reach mediocrity. That'd be one thing if you can rely on the pitchers, but I'm not sure these guys can. Stats are (avg/OBP/SLG/PAs).
1) Jose Reyes (.337/.384/.493/586) - SS: Last year's batting champ still only played in 126 games. He hasn't crossed 140 since 2008 and now that he's 29, I don't think he's gonna start now. He's a damned good ballplayer, don't get me wrong, but he's not gonna be there every day. It'll be interesting to see how the Marlins handle him, but if "Just do your thing, bro" is their decision, well, that ain't a bad decision.
2) Emilio Bonifacio (.296/.360/.393/641) - CF: The Pope had a career year last year, his first time starting full-time. He played all around the diamond and although he can, he fills the biggest hole in centerfield. He set a career high in literally every category last year, so I'm a bit skeptical of a repeat. But if he can put up a .330 OBP from the 2-hole, I think the Marlins would be happy.
3) Hanley Ramirez (.243/.333/.379/385) - 3b: The
Once and Future Red made all of our "haha, he'll totally play in Cincinnati one day!" jokes a bit more uncomfortable last year. If you know if he'll be happy/competent at third, if you know he'll be healthy, if you know he'll be back...congrats! You know more than anyone else! Isn't it exciting to have all of these open-ended questions for your #3 hitter? Shut up! Of course not!
4) Giancarlo Stanton (.262/.356/.537/601) - RF: I am sorry for doubting you I am sorry for doubting you /bows down /starts speaking in tongues. There's really no reason why he shouldn't keep getting better and start being the most terrifying rightfielder in the National League. He struck out 166 times and there's a chance he has a hole in his swing, but if not, well, that insane contraption in center is going to be spinning a lot this summer.
5) Logan Morrison (.247/.330/.468/525) - LF: Had a weird year last year. He walked a lot less and hit for a lot more home runs (2 in 287 PAs in 2010, 23 in 525 in 2011). I'm not sure whether the .390 OBP or .330 OBP is the real Logan, but if it's the first (and arguably, even if its the second) he oughta be hitting #2. He's a great twitterer and seems like a decent dude, so let's hope for the best from the big lug.
6) Gaby Sanchez (.266/.352/.427/661) - 1b: Finally turning into the high-OBP everyday firstbaseman that the Warlins wanted him to be. He's no rockstar, but he'll be a solid 2-3 WAR player. This is fine if the Warlins are expecting lots out of the left side of the infield. If Gaby starts getting at-bats at #3, though, watch out.
7) John Buck (.227/.316/.367/530) - C: Had a good year once. Once. I mean, yeah, dude seems to call a good game and everyone likes him, but he has a career .303 OBP and shows no sign of improving that. It's easy to forget how great the Reds' catchers are, and then you see this guy and realize he's considered a decent backstop and yeah... By the way, if he's not called "Uncle", there's no God in baseball.
8) Omar Infante (.276/.315/.382/640) - 2b: Well, he plays every day. Seems to have a decent glove. Can hit for average. He doesn't take a walk and doesn't show any chance of starting, so may as well enjoy the defense and hit him 8th. Was worth 3.4 bWAR last year, though, so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about (this is probably true).
Brett Hayes is the backup catcher and is just a not-quite-as-good Buck, which, oy. Bryan Peterson is the utility outfielder and gets on base. I don't know who anyone else is, and y'know what? You shouldn't worry about it either. It'd be cool if Austin Kearns gets ~300 PAs, though. He seems swell.
Bill Hall All-Star:
Just get by Stanton, Reyes, and Ramirez and you're fine. Earsy hits .309./.363/.415 against the good guys which, if he did against everyone else, may have kept him in Cincinnati (but, well, at least Bray donates his hair to charity, I guess (still a bit bitter)).
Jim Edmonds All-Star:
Words should really be spilled to discuss how much of a uncool dude Jeffrey Loria is. He bought the Expos and then demanded they leave. When the Montreal owner refused to spend taxpayer money, Loria sold the Expos to the MLB and then literally used that exact money and no cent further to buy the Marlins from John Henry (who then bought the Red Sox). This is so comically shady they should have all worn comically large moustaches and black hats while doing it, and it's not even the worst thing Loria has done.
They probably have a maximum potential of 86 wins or so, but the NL East is tough and the only team they're definitively better than is the Mets. I would say they'll be more in the 78-82 win range and sit in the middle of the East. But at least they'll be in a better place doing it.
Which Inevitably Doomed mid-2000s Reds Draft Pick Does This Team Remind Me Of?
He's a big right-hander from Texas! He's named after Nolan Ryan! He seems polished, and he'll be up with the big league soon enough! Oh well...
After years of demanding results after cheapness and failure, Jimmy Bowden decided to go with the can't-miss reliever. Of course, he managed to miss. He was brought up in September of historically-incompetent 2003 after just a month in the minors, for no good reason. He was hittable, wild, and cost too much. All of the expectations and all of the high-ticket expectations couldn't compare to a guy who just couldn't do what was asked of him. And much like Wario himself, Wagner was chaotic evil (with a lifetime 4.3 bb/9).
Expectations are fun and games, but they don't bring home championships. I think that the good people of Miami are going to learn the same sort of thing this year.