Originally written on The Victory Formation  |  Last updated 3/5/12

15 years ago, the Miami Marlins, then known as the Florida Marlins, went on a crazy spending spree to help bring a World Series to South Florida. They were in the 5th season of their existence, and owner Wayne Huizenga wanted a championship before he got rid of the team that was not earning him squat. Though they would finish 9 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, the Marlins did earn the Wild Card spot and eventually would win the World Series in 7 games on Edgar Rentaria’s bases loaded single off Jose Mesa. The Marlins celebrated their title on the field at Joe Robbie Stadium, and Huizenga was already busy beginning the fire sale. The next year, a completely new cast of players, with the exceptions of Luis Castillo, Cliff Floyd and Rentaria. Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Bobby Bonilla, Devon White, Moises Alou, and Gary Sheffield were gone by May. No big names were left. The Marlins would win another World Series title in 2003, but with only one notable free agent signing, that of Ivan Rodriguez. They were a roster made up mostly of farmhands and afterthoughts. The Marlins did not get involved in free agency, at least big spending. They have been a very thrifty team since they won the 1997 title.

That was until this past offseason. The Marlins are moving into their new stadium equipped with the ugliest home run celebrating acid trip in all off baseball, and an aquarium behind home plate. They also brought back their former third base coach from the 2003 World Series team to manage them, Ozzie Guillen. Many believe that Guillen played a bigger role with the 2003 team than manager Jack McKeon did. Over this past winter the Marlins welcomed closer Heath Bell, All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, and starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. They did attempt to land Albert Pujols, but Pujols opted for less money with the Anaheim Angels. All these moves were made to bring the fans to their new home in Lil Havana, at the same location as the old Orange Bowl. It is a garbage location in a part of town that isn’t exactly fan friendly, and the Marlins needed to highlight their season with names and obviously wins. Especially since nobody attended Marlins games at the old JoeRobbieDolphinProPlayerLandSharkSunLife Stadium.

The Marlins are also bringing talent back from last years team. Most notably Mike Stanton in the lineup. The 22-year-old outfielder is a budding star for the Marlins. His first full season in the big leagues saw him mash 34 home runs. He does need to show a little bit more discipline, as his OBP is a little bit on the low side for your big bat in the middle of the order. He was only 21 last year, so expect to see the strikeouts go down, as he did swing at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. But when he does put wood on the ball, it is pretty successful, with a respectable .314 BABIP. Remember he played in a cavernous stadium, so many a fly balls were chased down deep.

The most intriguing player on the Marlins has been and probably still is Hanley Ramirez. He is a special talent with a special bad attitude at times. More often than not, his volatility has led to erratic play the last couple of years. Ramirez had a terrible 2011 season, the worst of his career. Though he showed signs of improvement in the 2nd half, he would have an injury that ended his season. The Marlins are hoping that he can return to his 2009 form, where he was one of the best players in all of baseball. But that will be a challenge, as he makes a move to playing 3B this season, as Reyes will be taking over short. Ramirez has stated that he was hard at work with the change once the Marlins opted to sign Reyes, so keep an eye on Hanley as he learns the new position and how it impacts his focus at the plate.

Marlins rotation is rounded out by Rickey Nolasco, Anibel Sanchez and Josh Johnson. Teaming with Buehrle and Zambrano, they could have serious success. Johnson is the ace of the staff, when he is healthy. Health has always been a concern with Johnson, and will be again as 2012 begins. Johnson battled shoulder soreness for much of 2011, and shoulder injuries are always the scariest when dealing with a pitcher. Elbow injuries take long to recover from, but shoulders have a tendency to linger. But if Johnson is right, he and Buehrle could end up being a great 1-2 duo at the top of the Marlins rotation.

That leaves us with Ozzie Guillen. He is quite the character. Outspoken as anyone will ever be, but what sometimes gets lost in Ozzie’s craziness is just how good of a baseball mind he is. He worked his way up to become a manager, and won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005. He had to deal with an organization that had bad move after bad move while he was there, but managed to keep the team competitive and afloat while he was there. His impact on young players cannot be understated, and he might just be the right guy to straighten out Ramirez, and you can rest assure that Jose Reyes won’t ever take a play off while Ozzie is on the bench.

A prediction on the Marlins? Competitive, but expect a slight fade in August. Still, this squad is an improvement from last year. 81-81. Fan attendance tops 2 million for the first time since Livian Hernandez was throwing strikes 3 feed wide of the plate.

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