For the eight frustrating years following the team’s 2003 demolition, the Marlins “rebuilding” stage seemed to drag on. We saw players come and go, we saw teams rise to the challenge and almost make the playoffs, and we saw teams fall into the the cellar of the NL East. All Stars Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, and Dan Uggla trickled away from this team at their peak years, and currently the remnants of the 2006 powerhouse potential are the pillars of Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco. Fortunately, newcomers Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, and Mike Stanton have risen to the challenge, and are building around those pillars. This offseason, the front office took initiative and reeled in gigantic talent. And now, a team formerly characterized by their stacked farm system, the Marlins have made an impression in the financially-fueled baseball market. However, was the approach too careless?
Preparation for this pivital offseason became apparent a year ago when the Marlins acquired John Buck and Omar Infante to fill major voids in their depth chart. And Miami wasted no time getting going once the 2011 season concluded, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Beuhrle, and Heath Bell at the Winter Meetings. Recently, the Marlins made headlines by trading for Carlos Zambrano. These new Fish are ready to swim in a shiny new pond, nearing its completion in downtown Miami. But like what happened to the NBA’s Miami Heat in 2011 and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles the same year, it seems all too real a possibility that these new players will not fulfill the Marlins quest for wins.
Unlike basketball and football, baseball’s individual players are more distinguishable from the team due to the nature of the sport. Baseball is in every way a team sport, but there is more individuality to it than football or basketball that makes this kind of complete-team makeover possible. The aspect that is most concerning in the Marlins’ case, though, is the characters of the players in the clubhouse. Hanley Ramirez has had his fair share of problems, from arguments with Dan Uggla to behavioral issues with Fredi Gonzalez. The addition of Jose Reyes, a character similar to Ramirez, might be a good thing for Hanley, but it could also backfire. Reyes and Ramirez are good friends off the field, playing together on the Dominican Republic national team. But the fiery personalities of these two talents might clash rather than bond.
As we know very well, Logan Morrison is certainly not a quiet character. He was able to control himself with the media these last two years, but I am worried that once he reaches his All-Star potential, Morrison will feel that speaking out is his right and duty, not a privilege to be used sparingly. Although he is a naturally-raised Marlin, Logan’s growing presence might effect the clubhouse the same way the new personalities do.
In addition, the Marlins traded for Carlos Zambrano in early January. Zambrano’s controversial behavioral history makes me scratch my head over the decision of adding him to a roster already full of hot personalities. But it is clear now that the the person responsible for the team’s pursuit of Zambrano was manager Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen was announced as Miami’s manager before the season ended in September. His fiery temper is similar to that of Zambrano’s, which has allowed a bond between the two. As they are friends off the field, Zambrano has been known to call up Guillen to discuss various problems. As long as the new manager can keep Big Z in check, and the rest of the team happy, this year has a nice outlook. But to put it simply, Ozzie Guillen will make or break the Marlins in 2012. He might just be the cohesion of this team, but it is also possible that he is the spark that will ignite a disaster.
To make matters worse, the Marlins have been filmed for “The Franchise,” a Showtime series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at an MLB club’s season. Last year, the San Fancisco Giants were chronicled on the show after their championship season. In my opinion, reality TV is the last thing the Marlins need. With any misfortune, Showtime will be filming a circus of acts and personalities rather than a winning baseball team.
Aside from television, my main concern is that the personalities in the clubhouse will cause a divide. If Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, and Ozzie Guillen are all in their own separate hemispheres, the Marlins will not be able to function. Fortunately, the companionship of Reyes and Ramirez, and the friendliness between Zambrano and Guillen are more likely to boost the team than destroy it. Piled on top of the temperamental personalities and risky reality TV are the questionable landmarks at the new park.
Marlins Park in downtown Miami is over 97% complete–complete with features like no other ballpark. First off, the unique home run feature in left-center field might be more of a distraction than a novelty. Many teams have home-run traditions at their stadiums, but no other park has a structure this flamboyant. Also, aquaria have been installed in the ground-level wall behind home plate adjacent to the first and third base dugouts. The tanks are protected by bullet-proof glass and will house a variety of small, tropical fish. These Miami novelties will arouse interest, but will hopefully not become the label of the franchise.
In the past, the Marlins have had their fair share of internal conflicts, but the current roster was custom-built by Miami’s management to make this team of top talent become Miami’s top entertainment. Hopefully the hype surrounding the inferno of personalities, and the interesting features of Marlins Park, will not turn that entertainment into an uncontrollable reality TV subject, but rather a winning baseball team.