5 Reasons the Miami Marlins Will Avoid 100 Losses in 2013
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After all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Miami Marlins in 2012, the final product fell flat on its face. The crew from Showtime's The Franchise followed the team in the early stages, and the opening day festivities were more of a show than the game itself.
From the Hanley Ramírez saga to new manager Ozzie Guillén's Fidel Castro comments, the first part of the season was a bona-fide disaster. Despite a stellar May that put the Fish near the top of the NL East, it was all downhill from there.
As the on-field performances dropped in quality, the roster was gutted and attendance at shiny new Marlins Park plummeted. In the end, the Marlins were fish out of water, finishing an abysmal 69-93, 29 games behind first-place Washington.
Guillén was sent packing, and all the team's expensive signings were shipped off as well. After such a major debacle last season, and the removal of most of the team's talent in the offseason, it could be reasonably expected that the team drops even further down the standings.
However, this might not necessarily be the case. Here are a few reasons why.
Juan Pierre returns to the Marlins this season.
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It may seem odd to think that a team that just traded away the likes of Mark Buehrle and John Buck, two respected longtime faces in the game, can turn to veteran leadership to turn things around.
This is especially true when you consider the vast abundance of youth on the roster, a gaggle of prospects brought in by cost-cutting trades over the years.
One familiar face sticks out on this roster, though: Ricky Nolasco.
Acquired in a 2005 trade that shipped Juan Pierre out of town, the right-handed starter has been the one guy to weather the storm of all the exits. Not only will be be the ace, but he will also be turned to as the emotional leader of the pitching staff.
Speaking of Pierre, the speedy outfielder makes his return to South Florida, 10 seasons removed from his World Series campaign. The former fan favorite should see plenty of time in Marlins Park's spacious outfield and brings an uplifting attitude to the clubhouse.
Additionally, the club has retained elder statesman Greg Dobbs and brought in the likes of Michael Wuertz, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jeff Mathis (Toronto trade) and Placido Polanco (free agency). Thirty-year-old Justin Ruggiano also sticks around, hoping to continue off his breakout season.
Not to mention another former player they brought back…
Mike Redmond (and His Staff)
Mike Redmond takes over as Marlins manager.
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Mike Redmond may not have been a full-time player during his tenure with the Marlins, which included the 2003 World Series run, but certainly stood with his personality and work ethic (via USA Today).
That intensity will certainly be a key aspect that needs to be brought out as a way to right the wayward Marlins ship.
Additionally, his insight as a longtime Major League catcher will be huge for youngster Rob Brantly, who impressed in his short spell at the top level last season.
Joining Redmond as a new member of the Marlins staff is former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez, who replaces the somewhat ineffective Eduardo Pérez.
Also exiting the staff was pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who has been replaced by Chuck Hernandez. But third-base coach Joe Espada and first-base coach Perry Hill have both stuck around to keep some familiarity with the club amongst Redmond's assistants.
Giancarlo Stanton doing what he does best.
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The artist formerly known as Mike Stanton (not to be confused with this guy) decided to use his given name before the season, but the one thing that didn't change was his performance on the field (via ESPN).
He missed nearly 30 games due to injury, yet still bested his 2011 mark by smacking 37 home runs, and his .608 slugging percentage was best in the league—better than former Marlin and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
Assuming a continued progression in his overall skill set, and that he plays just about every game (as he should), 45-plus home runs almost seems like a conservative estimate.
Though he doesn't have a truly fearsome presence around him in the lineup, good contact hitters like Pierre and Polanco will be around and, if placed ahead of Stanton in the order, will provide the 23-year-old ample opportunity to make an impact.
Of course, power is not the only thing this man possesses. His football-playing days in high school gave him otherworldly athleticism, and his defensive range and powerful arm showcase just that.
He might not be the fastest player out there, but is certainly capable of reaching 10 steals if managed properly; he converted six of eight attempts last season.
But he can't do it all by himself…
The Exuberance of Youth
Donovan Solano emerged as a legitimate every-day player.
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It may seem odd to think that a team based largely around young players will have a big season. But as this franchise showed in 2006, you can do a lot with youth. That season saw Hanley Ramírez take Rookie of the Year honors, with Dan Uggla not far behind in third.
Additionally, a great young pitching staff featured five 10-game winners, all 24 or younger, and a no-hitter (rookie Aníbal Sánchez). Joe Girardi won NL Manager of the Year as the team finished 78-84. This was five games worse than 2005, but monumental considering the makeup of the team.
Ramirez's shortstop role will likely be taken up by Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired in the Toronto trade. The Cuban-born infielder showed good stuff in a couple months with the Jays last season after a successful spell at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Uggla's spot at second base is firmly in the hands of Donovan Solano. He may be 25 now, but Uggla was 26 in 2006. The Marlins' latest import from Barranquilla, Colombia (remember Edgar Rentería?) stepped up in a big way in the absence of Emilio Bonifacio and should hold down a spot for a long time.
The 2006 team featured "veteran" Miguel Cabrera in his last season for Florida; Logan Morrison (and his Twitter account) is similar in terms of being one of the more tenured names on the roster. Set to move to first base full-time, he will be entering his fourth season as a Marlin.
And remember, Stanton is just 23. He will feature in his usual right field spot, with Pierre in left and Ruggiano in center. A Polanco-Hechavarria-Solano-Morrison infield backs up veteran ace Nolasco, with his battery-mate Brantly. Emerging talent Steve Cishek is the favorite to take over at closer.
Last Season Is Behind Them
Marlins fans were certainly unhappy last season.
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A season full of humongous expectations for the Marlins was dismantled fairly early on as the club slumped to its worst finish since 2007. Their 93 losses were tied for the fourth-highest total in the National League, behind the Rockies (98), Cubs (101) and Astros (107).
And yet, things could have been a lot worse. After a mediocre April, the Fish surged through most of May, winning seven straight and nine out of 10 to start the month en route to a 21-8 finish and just a half-game behind Washington for the NL East lead.
But a dismal June saw the club lose six straight games on two separate occasions, and the free-fall was on from there. After the All-Star break, they failed to string together more than two consecutive wins for the rest of the season.
Hanley Ramírez and Aníbal Sánchez were among players dealt mid-season, with still more moves to come in the offseason, including the Toronto salary dump and the dismissal of Guillén.
But with the polarizing stories of Guillén and Ramírez now out of the way, the focus can now turn back to baseball. This team may look nothing like last year's, but maybe that is a good thing.
A new manager and some good veteran additions should stem the tide of bad fortunes for this club as they try to inch back to levels reminiscent of 2003.