Wednesday, March 26, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Florida Marlins

A look back: The Marlins were predictable non-factors after the removal of Joe Girardi as manager last year. Not to say Fredi Gonzalez was bad as the manager, because he wasn't. But the Florida Fish simply were not as good a team as they were under Girardi. Plus, the Marlins' defense was atrocious last year. If that remains the case, the Florida fans (the few, the ashamed) will really have to be alert at all times.

Positives on the field: You have to love the Marlins' keystone combo of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. These two are easily the best players the Marlins still have now that Miguel Cabrera is in Detroit. There is a bit of other talent on the roster, notably Josh Willingham, Jeremy Hermida and Mike Jacobs. But overall, it's too young to really compete.

On the pitching side, Florida should have had better pitching than it did last year, but the young pitchers who showed so much promise regressed last year. Which season was the more telling? If it was the year under Girardi, the Marlins could surprise. If not, the Fish are in deep trouble, especially if Andrew Miller isn't ready to contribute.

Positives off the field: The Marlins finally got the ballpark figured out. They'll become the Miami Marlins upon completion. The only downside is that it robs me of the term "Florida Fish".

Negatives on the field: The Marlins are painfully young. The Marlins are always young. As such, they are never old enough to realistically compete with the better teams in baseball. There is too much of a question with too many areas. Well, there is one that isn't: The rotation is a weakness. Mark Hendrickson should never be in the top half of a major league rotation. Florida's young pitchers must prove last year was the fluke if the Marlins are going to do anything.

Outlook: How does this team have two World Series wins already? It makes absolutely no sense. But if the Marlins' past is an indication, I am badly underestimating Florida. This is the year before the Marlins are scheduled to win their third World Series. If the schedule holds up, Florida will compete. But that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Projected finish: 5th in NL East. Season opener is March 31 against New York at Dolphin Stadium.

Spring base: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Fla. The team shares the stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals and plays on the east coast of Florida.

Fan of the team?: Check out Fish Stripes, the Marlins fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip deviates from the pattern slightly to head up to Atlanta and the Braves, who have now missed the playoffs two years running.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Brooks and Dunn.

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