The Marlins, a young franchise, with two World Series titles on their resume, have to be excited for the future. Over the years they have been the subject of ridicule for their attendance numbers and low payroll. The fan base has witnessed not one, but two World Series teams get dismantled for financial reasons.
However, now more than ever, the enthusiasm behind this team is growing and here are the ten reasons why:
The Marlins have been trying to get a stadium of their own for over a decade and soon their persistence will have paid off when they open the doors to their new ballpark in 2012.
The ballpark is currently being constructed on the former site of the Orange Bowl. When completed the Marlin's new home will have a retractable roof, a natural grass playing field and 37,000 seats, including approximately 3,000 club seats and 60 private suites.
The retractable roof is the major selling point assuring all in attendance that the game will be played in comfortable conditions. I cannot stress enough how big a factor the roof will play in improving overall attendance.
That will not be the only thing that changes, with the Marlins expected to change uniforms and names. They will no longer be called the Florida Marlins which made no sense anyways since they aren't Florida's team. In 2012 be ready to cheer for the Miami Marlins in their brand new, state of the art ballpark.
Since 2002, the season the Loria group bought the Marlins, they have averaged a payroll of just under $38 million. Not exactly astronomical numbers when compared to the rest of the league, however, they have managed to stay competitive while also winning a second World Series trophy. Ask any Cubs fan if they prefer high payroll or low payroll but a World Series title? Certainly they would prefer the latter.
That is why it caught everyone in the league by surprise when the Marlins front office began to open up their checkbooks. The first domino to fall was their franchise short stop Hanley Ramirez, who in 2008, agreed to a six year, $70 million extension. The deal locks him up until after the 2014 season.
Then this off-season, seemingly out of nowhere, after talks of a long term deal had stalled; the Marlins announced signing Josh Johnson to a four year, $39 million deal. The deal is a bargain for a potential Cy Young award winner and arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now. It also assures he will be the opening day starter in the new ballpark.
The latest speculation is the Marlins front office is now prepared to offer long term deals to several players this off-season. Is this due in part to MLB forcing the Marlins to spend more, or Loria and Samson staying true to their promise of increasing payroll heading into the new ballpark?
Either way, it is encouraging to see stability for a franchise that has been so volatile over the years.
Acquired in a seven player deal from the Boston Red Sox, Hanley burst onto the scene with the Marlins in 2006 (Rookie of the Year Award).
Prior to the trade he was considered the Red Sox best prospect and with the Marlins looking to dump payroll they worked out a deal to acquire the talented shortstop.
Along with Ramirez the Marlins also received three more prospects; one of them Anibal Sanchez. The Red Sox in return acquired Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota.
At the time many criticized the Marlins organization warning against the end result. ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney had this to say:
"...there is always a larger price when you go about the business of conducting a fire sale in baseball, and the Marlins are barreling down that course."
Barrel down they did, and at full speed. One could argue however, in this case, the end result proved favorable for the Marlins.
Ask General Managers around the league who they would prefer starting a franchise with, and the top two players mentioned are: Hanley Ramirez and Joe Mauer.
Marlins fans should be ecstatic knowing they have one of those two players and he is signed past the 2014 season.
Hanley Ramirez's career numbers (as of August 13th) :
.312 BA/119 HR/372 RBI/186 SB
The ace of the Marlins rotation, and potential Cy Young Award winner, is now signed past the 2012 season. Since the departure of Josh Beckett, (through trade) the Marlins have been looking for someone to anchor their staff.
The only person that has demonstrated the ability to do so is Josh Johnson. Knowing they have that ace is very encouraging to the fan base and another reason Marlin's fans should be excited. With a career 3.12 ERA and .667 winning percentage who wouldn't be?
The rest of the rotation seems to be materializing as well, with Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez finally rounding into form. Couple that with the talented young arms in the minor leagues, and there is potential that come 2012, the Marlins will have a great pitching staff.
The Marlins picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. Since then, he has become a solid cornerstone for this franchise in the middle of the infield.
The defense could never compare to Luis Castillo, but offensively, there is no better second baseman in Marlin's history. In four and a half seasons he's driven in just under 450 RBI and is now the franchise's all time HR leader, surpassing Mike Lowell.
As recently as this past off-season, the growing speculation was that the Marlins would try and trade him in another cost cutting move. Now rumors are the front office have begun preliminary contract negotiations and hope to sign him to a multi-year deal.
Heading into the new ballpark without your franchise leader in home runs would not have felt right. The expectation is he will sign a long term deal and be a part of the Marlins for years to come; and for Uggla, the consummate professional- a dream come true.
Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton (no its not a typo) was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the second round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft. Coming into the 2010 season, Baseball America rated him the third best prospect in all of baseball.
For good reason, in the minors he hit a combined .274 BA, 89 HR, and 244 RBI in only 324 games.
He was called up to the majors this June, and despite a slow start, is now hitting at a .270 clip with 14 HR, and 39 RBI in 196 at bats (as of August 13th). He has the potential to be a 40+ HR, 100+ RBI guy for the next 10-15 years.
Barring injury I predict he will become the legitimate all-time leading home run hitter in MLB, and at only 20 years old, the future looks bright for both Stanton, and the Marlins.
**Little side note on Stanton: A couple years ago during the trade deadline the Marlins came close to acquiring Manny Ramirez. The reason the trade fell through? The Pirates wanted the Marlins to include Stanton in the trade. There were those who were upset back then that they didn't give up Stanton for Manny; now, everyone is humming a different tune.
Gaby Sanchez earned the starting job at first base from day one of spring training and has yet to relinquish it. Coming into Friday, (August 13th) he was hitting .291, with 12 home runs, and 53 runs batted in; numbers that have put him into the running for Rookie of the Year.
If Gaby's numbers are any indication of the player he will be over the next few years, then Marlins fans have plenty to cheer about; especially in this case since he is a native of the city and played college ball for the University of Miami.
Chris Coghlan as a rookie in 2009 put up outstanding numbers hitting lead-off for the Marlins. He hit .321 in 504 at bats and only struck out 77 times while taking home the Rookie of the Year Award.
This year Coghlan struggled in the early going but over the last few months had found his stride, and raised his batting average to .268 before tearing his meniscus. The injury was a definite setback for Coghlan and the Marlins.
However, the Marlins organization and their fans, should be thrilled to know they found a true lead-off hitter. Something the team had been lacking since Juan Pierre left.
Drafted by the Marlins in 2005, Logan Morrison has slowly made his way up the organization. His true position is first base, and years down the road, he may play the position again; but with the emergence of Gaby Sanchez, that will be put on hold for now.
Morrison is known for his discipline at the plate and was recently called up to play left field and bat second in the lineup. Originally the plan was to move Coghlan to third base but his unfortunate injury put a wrench in those plans- for now.
The future outlook at the top of the order is bright with two guys who know how to get on base leading the way: Coghlan and Morrison.
With Hanley, Uggla, Sanchez, and Stanton following them in the order, it's important to have guys who can get on. Logan Morrison is definitely capable of filling that role.
Matt Dominguez is a third base prospect for the Marlins. Rated the 64th best prospect in the majors, you should expect to see him in the future. At only twenty years old, the sky is the limit for this young slugger. The last two seasons in the minors have been a little disappointing but his numbers in 2008 are reason to be excited: .296 BA/18 HR/70 RBI in 88 games.
Kyle Skipworth, the Marlins hope, will turn into their franchise catcher. He has struggled in the minors to find his swing, but this year he demonstrated why he was drafted; hitting sixteen home runs. If he can become consistent at the plate the Marlins could see him catching opening day at the new ballpark.
Chad James is the Marlins first round draft pick in 2009. He is a left handed pitcher who was highly touted coming out of high school. If he can develop into the pitcher the organization projects him to be, then there is the potential he will be a mainstay at the rotation come opening day 2012.
Cameron Maybin, Chris Volstad, Sean West, Ryan Tucker, and Andrew Miller.
These guys do not necessarily get you excited for Marlins baseball in the future, but only because they have not lived up to their potential. However, they are worth mentioning in case they do happen to put it together.
Maybin is a five tool player who the Marlins hope can turn it around. If he does, expect him starting in center field when they open their new ballpark.
Volstad and West have been too inconsistent to warrant anything but an honorable mention. However, if they could demonstrate any form of consistency on the mound, then that would change.
Andrew Miller has hardly lived up to his potential. Acquired in the Miguel Cabrera deal from the Tigers, the Marlins had hoped he would bolster their rotation. Instead he has been a disappointment.
If he rediscovers the pitcher he once was coming out of college, then the trade will have been worth it. Right now though, he is more likely to become the next Jeremy Hermida.