MIAMI (CBS4) – The Florida Marlins may not win it all this year, but their target, much like the Mayans, has been 2012. The reason is simple; they open a new retractable roof stadium, and need a quality product to bring in fickle South Florida fans.
Just to put it in perspective; more fans have bough season tickets for 2012 than for 2011.
The Marlins have laid the foundation for their franchise to emerge from the doldrums of being run on the cheap by its owner. The team has multi-year deals with Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco and has promising stars Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison.
But, before the team can start looking ahead to 2012, there’s the business of 2011.
The Fish will be counting on the arm of Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, and former Yankee Javier Vazquez.
Johnson is the ace and would have been a Cy Young candidate if he hadn’t missed some starts. He posted a 2.30 ERA in 183.2 innings pitched in 2010. Combined with Nolasco, the Marlins have a one-two punch that has gone 75-38 over the past three years.
Vazquez could be gold if he can regain the form he used to have. Sanchez posted a 3.55 ERA in 2010 and is looking to follow in Johnson’s footsteps as another young stud in the Marlins rotation.
Volstad, another monster at 6’8″, went 12-9 for the Fish in 2010. He had 102 strikeouts in 175 innings pitched.
When it comes to the offense, the Marlins will certainly miss the power of Dan Uggla. He was traded to NL East rival Atlanta Braves. But, the Fish are counting on Mike Stanton to help provide the power Uggla used to display.
When he’s healthy, Stanton can hit the long ball with the best of them. He smacked 22 homers in 100 games. Gaby Sanchez hit .273 with 19 homers in 2010. Behind them, Morrison hit .283 in only 62 games.
Then there’s Ramirez, who had an up and down year that included a public spat with then-manager Fredi Gonzalez. While Fredi has moved on to take over the perennial-power Atlanta Braves, Ramirez remains with the Fish.
Ramirez hit .300 last season with a .475 slugging percentage. He also contributed 21 homers and 76 RBI’s in 2010. If Ramirez can recapture his 2009 form, then the Fish will be sitting pretty. In 2009, Ramirez hit .342, had 24 home runs and 106 RBI’s.
Last year, the Marlins finished 17 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. All the Phillies did was add star pitcher Cliff Lee to an already stellar rotation. The Phils now have a virtual murderer’s row of Cy Young talent, which will make overtaking them very difficult.
But, the Marlins are used to being overlooked and are happy to be looking up at the Phillies.
“That’s fuel for us,” Stanton said. “If everyone’s talking about you all the time, then you kind of get lackadaisical and kick back. It’s sometimes good not to be that team everyone’s gunning for until it’s too late.”
The Marlins may not make it to the playoffs this year with the Braves and Phillies in their way. Fish fans are used to this considering the last time the Marlins were in the playoffs was in 2003.
As the 2011 season starts, the Fish will look to improve their talent and bring along the star talent still in the Marlins farm system. All of it will be done with one eye on the current season, and the other focusing on what will be in 2012.