Marlins Signing Johnson Won't Bring Fans Back. But It's a Start.

Ivan BlancoCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 29:  Josh Johnson #55 of the Florida Marlins throws a pitch against the New York Mets on April 29, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Marlins defeated the Mets 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Marlins made sure they locked up this Josh before they'd have to trade him like the last one. What the Marlins managed to pull off in signing their disgruntled ace is nothing short of a miracle.

Of course, having the MLBPA bring the hammer down on the organization for not spending enough money no doubt helped push the deal through, but much credit has to be given to the guys who put the deal in place.

The grumblings that Johnson had wanted a long-term deal began around August, and the Marlins responded with a “wait and see” philosophy.

Well, they waited, and what they saw was a pitcher worth his weight in gold grow angrier and more frustrated as he was shunted for asking for too long of a deal.

The frustrations grew into outright anger when the same cash-strapped team took a shot at Cuban prospect Aroldis Chapman with a deal similar to the one Johnson requested.

Then came the piecemeal: Samson announced in November that he had every intention of starting Johnson on Opening Day ’10, but the elephant in the fish tank remained.

By this time last month, all hope of a long-term deal was thought of as dead, and the fan base shrugged in apathy.

So therein came the new deal: 4 years for $39 million – pricey for the Marlins, but a steal by today’s standards.

It was this same commitment to the value of the dollar that helped them land Hanley Ramirez on the cheap in 2008. Sadly, it’s what’s also turned the rest of the roster into a carousel since the new ownership came to town in 2002.

But the locking up of Josh Johnson sends a message to the fan base: We’re Serious. That $2.4 billion money pit we’re building isn’t intended to be a place for New Yorkers to gather when the Mets are in town. It’s for you, and for Ramirez, and for Johnson. Let’s Rock and Roll.

The team is also considering keeping Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla – two popular players who were rumored to be on the way out this off-season.

The fan’s vision of the Florida Marlins is of a team that’s broken its back to alienate its fan base. This sudden familiarity is all but familiar. It will take time for the Marlins to win back their fans, but if TV numbers indicate anything, they are definitely out there.

And this is the first step to gaining them back.