Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your 2007 N.L. East Preview: Florida Marlins

Some of the greatest lies told in history:
  1. "The check is in the mail."
  2. "I'll respect you in the morning."
  3. "I knew the Marlins would be good last year."

No, it's not. No, you aren't. And no...you didn't.

The Marlins were the most surprising story of 2006 after "Fire Sale II: Electric Boogaloo" that previous winter. Who dared to give the Marlins a chance to hang around the .500 mark one season after unloading the likes of Josh Beckett, Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre, and two players who were major Mets contributors in Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca.

But every break that the Marlins could have gotten in terms of the development of young players, they got. Hanley Ramirez was the Rookie of the Year without leading the rookies in his own team in HR's and RBI...that honor went to middle infield partner Dan "Rule Five" Uggla. Josh Willingham went .277/26/74 in his first full season. Mike Jacobs overcame a lousy first two months and an injury riddled last two months to hit .262 with 20 HR's (shows you how good those middle two months were). Anibal Sanchez went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA and a no-hitter to his credit (that's four no-hitters for the Marlins in their history, none for the Mets...just thought I'd throw that out there). Scott Olsen went 12-10 with a 4.04 ERA and almost killed Miguel Cabrera.

The Marlins' rookies were so good that the one rookie I thought would shine probably had the tamest season of them all.

The Marlins shored up their bullpen today by trading prospect Yusmeiro Petit for Julio Jorge (no, Anna...it's Jorge Julio) , who will be their closer. (It always scares me when former Mets are traded for each other...when another circle of life closes like that, the ramifications for Mets personnel and fans alike can't be good.) Sure, Julio was ineffective in New York, but he's a more seasoned option than Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom (see, more former Mets involved...very scary), who were the leading candidates to close before the trade. It improves the club, but it does so in a small market kind of way, as part of Julio's charm for Florida was his relative inexpensiveness, as they were also looking towards trading for Armando Benitez (that makes five former Mets used in context regarding another team in one paragraph. I think I just opened up a porthole to an evil alternate universe.)

The Marlins' surprise season made them the odds on "trendy pick" to win in 2007 until the Phillies got hot over the last two months of the season. The big "if", however, is what will happen to this team because of the ouster of Joe Girardi in favor of...well, technically Fredi Gonzalez, but to be real: Joe Girardi was let go in favor of "Not Joe Girardi". Girardi's rules and structure (and general "hard assness") kept a young team together through the end in the wild card race. Can Fredi Gonzalez do the same thing? Well, most managers would be silly to try to be his predecessor. It would also be silly to try too hard to be the "polar opposite" of his predecessor, and I wonder if that's what Gonzalez is going to try to do subconsciously to try to please his owner, Jeffrey Loria ("Sure Mr. Loria, go ahead and yell at the umpires for me...after all, it's your team!")

And don't count out Fire Sale III: Through The Olive Trees as long as Dontrelle Willis continues to be followed by rumors. But even after Willis' brush with the law this offseason, don't be surprised if it's Miguel Cabrera and not Dontrelle that finds a bus ticket out of town under his pillow one July evening.

Prediction: Fourth place, 75-87


Mike said...

I miss Jorge Julio if I can be honest. The most enjoyable part of Met blogging (at least til the trade) was keeping a Jorge Julio Counter, tracking his astounding K, BB, and HR numbers, and projecting them for the season.

I cried a tear when they traded him, even if my Met fan soul knew it was for the best.

Five days and counting. I'm getting antsy.

Mookie McFly said...

Besides the Mets winning the NL East again, the best thing to happen during the regular season would be for Florida to beat the crap out of Atlanta and Philly everytime they play. I think the Mets will take care of their own internal business but I hope Wash & Fla can win some games against those two teams...it would go a long way towards helping us out.

Mike said...

Well-said, Mook. That'd be great.

*62 said...

Good column, John.

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