A lot can happen in one offseason, and the reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins are a perfect example.
The Marlins are kicking off 2012 with a complete face lift: a new name and a spastic jazzy new logo on their uniforms, a new skipper in Ozzie Guillen along with a few high-end acquisitions like Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Zambrano, all in a spankin' new, $515 million ballpark. Pretty exciting stuff.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals begin defending their title on Day One of their first season without long-time manager Tony LaRussa and one-time fan favorite Albert Pujols. The team will also have to do without staff ace Chris Carpenter as well for the time being due to nerve irritation in his pitching shoulder, but they've regained Adam Wainwright, who was dearly missed during his Tommy John surgery rehab. They'll have to replace 30-40 home runs in the middle of the order without Pujols, but guys like David Freese, Matt Holiday, and everyday first baseman Lance Berkman are being counted on to do just that.
Ozzie had a nice quote this week to sum up the outlook of the Marlins inaugural season:
"You can have a beautiful house with a beautiful view, but if the people living in the house stink, it ain’t going to be so beautiful."
The lights over Marlins Park will shine on players and fans Wednesday evening at 7:05pm ET with Josh Johnson getting the ball for Miami, facing right-hander Kyle Lohse for the Cards. The ceremonial first pitch is being thrown out by Charlie Hough and caught by Benito Santiago in honor of the Florida Marlins' inaugural game in 1993. University of Miami Health System representatives will throw out the first pitches, as well. And if you're interested in catching the ridiculous pre-game show, it will be streaming live on MLB.com.