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DeFranks: Hope for Marlins lies in new ballpark, new roster (Mar. 20)

Matthew DeFranks | Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The hope is that it works.

Although, for the last 10 years, hoping is just about all the formerly Florida, now Miami Marlins have been doing. They hoped they could land Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols. They hoped staying mediocre could draw a crowd. They hoped the Braves, Mets and Phillies would all fall at some
point.

And now, they are hoping a new uniform, a new name, a new manager, a new lineup, a new pitching staff and a gorgeous new ballpark can finally produce a winning team and an adoring audience.

The Marlins have hovered around .500 recently, neither seriously posing a threat to make the playoffs nor bottoming out in the cellar. And star shortstop, er, third baseman Hanley Ramirez has a lot to do about it.

The one-time National League batting champion struggled a year ago, hitting just .243 ­­­­- over 60 points lower than his career average – while driving in only 45 runs.

And so came change. Enter Jose Reyes.

The addition of Reyes, the oft-injured yet electric and exciting shortstop, forced Ramirez to move to third base and ensured one of the speediest and talented left infields in recent memory. Reyes was even viewed as a consolation prize after Miami failed to land Pujols.

The top third of the Marlins lineup now looks like this: Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Ramirez. Each one of them has the ability to wreak havoc on the base paths. Not to mention they are protected by sluggers Logan Morrison and Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton.

Maybe their bats still can’t compete with Atlanta’s or Philadelphia’s pitching but they are much closer than before with just one addition.

And then the arms began to arrive. Enter Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano.

Buehrle was added to solidify an already decent rotation anchored by flamethrowing right-hander Josh Johnson and the steady Ricky Nolasco. The longtime White Sox lefty should fit in nicely into the Marlins staff – even if his 14-million dollar salary is not worth it.

Bell, an All-Star closer with San Diego, is supposed to add depth to Miami’s bullpen that ranked in the top 10 in Major League Baseball in most categories. While that was with stud reliever Leo Nunez (now known by his real name Juan Carlos Oviedo), the rest of the middle-relief and set-up men should be just fine with Bell at the back end.

The always frugal and never free-wheeling Marlins were suddenly a big-time spender in the league. There are now six Marlins on the roster making over seven million dollars ⎯ four are new additions.

Zambrano’s success with the Marlins hinges on just how well fellow Latin sparkplug manager Ozzie Guillen can control him.
Guillen fits in with Miami. Guillen fits in with the Marlins. Or so it seems.

His loud firecracker of a personality and Hispanic background are perfect for the South Florida city home to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. His colorful style plays right into the glitzy, glamorous nature of Miami.

And so does the Marlins’ new ballpark.

On the outside, it is majestic, white and silver surrounded by palm trees and the unique Little Havana community. A simple drive around the new park leaves you gawking at the size of the new retractable roof while almost veering onto the other side of the road (but for real, this happened).

So will it work?

I can only hope.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.