MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Even though it’s the middle of February, pitchers and catchers report for spring training on Monday and the Miami Marlins are preparing for what could be a historically bad season in 2013.
The Marlins have grown tired of hearing about the fallout from the fact the team changed managers, cut payroll by getting rid of nearly every decent major league-caliber player the team had, and are now facing what could be a record low for attendance in just the second year of Marlins Park.
“It is time to turn the page,” Marlins baseball operations president Larry Beinfest said. “Organizationally, we have. My preamble to the staff will not include anything about last season. Generally, when I open things up with our field staff, we talk a little bit about the previous season and how the winter went and my plan is not to talk about it at all. I think it’s kind of done.”
The Marlins management is trying to put a good face on what looks like, on paper, one of the worst teams in recent Marlins history. The Marlins are starting over with a new manager, new players that fans don’t know, and trying to instill confidence into an organization that has repeatedly failed.
“When spring training starts, it’s a rebirth,” Marlins president David Samson said. “And we’re starting over. We acknowledged our mistakes and we’re starting over and we’re happy it’s time now.”
Most of the mistakes in the past have come due to decisions made by team owner Jeffrey Loria. The Marlins have suffered because Loria has no proven record of making good personnel decisions, which are typically left to the baseball staff in most organizations.
The starting over process began last summer when the Marlins began to disassemble the 2012 team in midseason as the losses piled up. The team traded away Hanley Ramirez and later traded star shortstop Jose Reyes, along with star pitchers Josh Johnson and left-hander Mark Buehrle.
The goal was simple, Loria didn’t want to have an inflated payroll unless he could get immediate results. When the results didn’t come, Loria decided to blow up the franchise, regardless of the public relations firestorm it would create.
In South Florida, the Marlins are at the bottom of the sports ladder behind the Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, and Florida Panthers. The Marlins, once world champions, also have created massive problems for the other pro teams in the area.
The Dolphins are asking for help paying for improvements to Sun Life Stadium. Because of how bad the taxpayers were fleeced for Marlins Park and the subsequent burning down of the team by Loria, the Fins have run into a firestorm seeking any public money to help remodel Sun Life.
The Marlins held their annual fan fest on Saturday and it featured a lack of fan interest this year. According to the Palm Beach Post, a total of three people were in line to buy single-game tickets with less than a half-hour to go before they went on sale Saturday.
Samson said when he met with fans, the conversations were positive.
“One fan at a time. That’s what we do,” Samson said. “That’s what we tell everyone. We literally understand the frustration. It’s hard.”
Players are aware of the frustration as well. Many, including Giancarlo Stanton — who was not at the team’s event for fans at the ballpark on Saturday, though the Marlins expect him to report to camp in time for the first on-field, full-squad workout on Friday — took to Twitter to express their disappointment when the trade with Toronto happened.
Logan Morrison, one of the team’s more prolific tweeters and now the team’s new first baseman, said it makes no sense to enter the new year resentful over anything.
“My take on it is I don’t give a (bleep) about it because I can’t control it,” said Morrison, who’s still recovering from knee surgery but aiming for a return before opening day. “So that’s my take. I’ve got a job to do and it doesn’t change my job description. I’m going to play first base on this team and I’m going to do my best to fill every role that is presented to me, whether it’s hitting behind or hitting in front of Giancarlo — because he’s still on the team.”
And even though it’s almost certain that the Marlins will face low expectations, that won’t be the case internally, Morrison said.
“You can’t replace hunger,” Morrison said. “A dog’s No. 1 motivation is food. He won’t sit for you when you first get him unless you have a treat or shove some food in front of him. That’s what we have to do. We have to be hungry. We have to be willing to give up things that other teams aren’t willing to give up. It won’t be that hard. They’ve got their contract. They’re happy with their families and things like that. They’re secure. We’re still fighting.”
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