JUPITER, Fla. -- New Marlins manager Mike Redmond cited an early goal as beating the rain on the occasion of the team's first full-squad workout, which they did, making the initial day something of a success. As the season gets going, it'll be smart for the upstart, downtrodden Marlins to keep their goals reasonable.
Better still, the fans did actually outnumber the media, as 37 hearty Marlins followers (some may have been family) braved the steady drizzle to watch this collection of talented fresh-faced kids, utility players, backup catchers, reclamation projects and minor leaguers. The roster looks somewhere between expansion and contraction, although their beautiful new downtown stadium means they are here to stay -- like it or not.
These early days are important, as most of the players are not only unknown to all but the most hardcore fans but even to each other.
One shining solitary star remains from the great selloff, and Giancarlo Stanton stood tall in a steady rain and explained that he already made his initial feelings about the dissolution of the core of the team known in a spicy spare tweet or two following the fire sale (he was understandably disgusted) and that "there's not going to be any pouting" from him.
"Its not going to linger or be something to cry about it all day," Stanton said. "I got whatever words there were out there, and let it be known. So now, [I'll] turn the page."
|More on MLB|
Eventually, Stanton struck a bit of defiant tone. Acknowledging they will be perceived as a "doormat," he said, "It's not going to be easy. But I'm not going to lay over and let everyone stomp on us."
It was a very mature, strong opening-day statement from a lovely young man who happens to be the most dynamic young slugger in the game. As to whether he currently likes his team, his organization and his organization's bosses, well, take your guess.
For some unknown reason he was asked if he would consider signing a long-term deal with the Marlins (as if there was any chance they have that much money and gall -- well, maybe the gall), and he coyly responded, "Well, I haven't been offered [one]."
In terms of hypotheticals, that's an all-time long shot considering the Marlins acted like they don't have two dimes to rub together all winter, trading off every big-name player save Stanton and every big-monied player except Ricky Nolasco, who incongruously makes $11.5 million and might as well have the word "Short Timer" enscripted on the back of his jersey. Because he'll surely be a goner by July or August.
Nolasco's one of the few recognizable players, anyway, as the Marlins will field one of the youngest (only 15 percent of the 40-man roster has had a 30thbirthday), cheapest, most anonymous teams on record. The over-30 set includes Placido Polanco, Greg Dobbs, Jon Rauch and Juan Pierre, who along with Redmond was a part of the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship team, still lives in nearby Parkland (so he heard all the negative feelings all winter) and will be the starting center fielder and important positive example for all the kids. Pierre, showing humor, affected a blank expression when asked if he knew many of the guys around him, indicating he did not.
However, Pierre, an upbeat a guy as there is, said he had been around for a few days and noted, hopefully, "These young cats can get after it."
Redmond spoke about how much "drive" he sees and how much "energy" he expects. But of course it remains to be seen how much "talent" they have following a winter gutting that was lowlighted by the 12-player trade with the Blue Jays that eviscerated the 2012 plan and sent stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson north to Toronto.
With what has transpired, the departed, while initially shocked (Reyes told writers Friday that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria advised him to buy a house in Miami two days before he as traded), are among the first ballplayers thrilled to be in Canada rather than South Florida. The backlash in Miami, where only winners historically draw, has been ugly. A picture was tweeted on Day 1 of the sale of single-game tickets showing three fans forming a jagged line outside glorious Marlins Park. (So they were up by 34 fans Friday, though the workout was free.)
Loria, who won a World Series his first season in Miami, is viewed as the villain, and he didn't make it to camp on the first day, which is when he normally makes his bold proclamations for his team. Last spring, with Ozzie Guillen, Reyes, Buehrle and Heath Bell all new, Loria was predictably effusive. All four are gone after a historically miserable 69-93 year, and word from inside the team is that Loria saw the lone real loss as Reyes, who incidentally didn't buy that house.
Stanton, striking the appropriate attitude right from the start, spoke about how much fun it was going to be getting to know the new guys. Though he didn't mention how he was going to feel once that was accomplished by the end of the week. It's a long season, which prompted Reyes to tell the writers across the state in Blue Jays camp that he feels sorry for Stanton.
If Stanton agrees, he wasn't mentioning it. "I play a game for a living," Stanton said. "I'm in the big leagues."
That seemed to be a theme of Redmond's opening words, that this is the big leagues, and looking around it's understandable why they might all need a reminder. Redmond, appropriately, told the story of how he broke in in 1998 under similar circumstances, was given an opportunity to prove himself as a catcher on a terrible team (though terrible probably wasn't the word he chose), and how he made a decent career out of his last chance, impressing enough people along the way that he now gets to manage a terrible team (again, terrible is not his word).
Indeed, this is the bigs, though it's hard to tell from the clubhouse, which is filled with kids and question marks. The rules state they have to take 25 north with them (technically, it's 75 miles south for the Marlins), but it's hard to imagine they can form anything other than a last-place club.
If Marlins people do know one thing, it's young talent, so presumably some or even many of them will likely prove better than expected and become bona fide big-leaguers. "We wanted to get back to have good young talent," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "We got away from that."
The operative word is young. They may well have a stash of prodigies here. It's just hard to see them gelling into a serious team anytime soon.
Chris Coghlan, a relative veteran who was Rookie of the Year only a few seasons back, nicely summarized what everyone was thinking when he said, "We got our work cut out for us, there's no doubt about it."
Besides Stanton, a scary hitter who won't likely see many hittable pitches, the best of what they have looks to be a few years away. That would include top pitchers Jose Fernandez and Justin Nicolini, outfielders Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Jake Marisnick and infielder Derek Dietrich.
As for what's here now, there are bits and pieces. Justin Ruggiano had a wonderful couple months in the outfield last year, Donovan Solano did much better than expected in the infield, Steve Cishek struck out a few folks late in games, Adeiny Hechavarria proved he can pick it with the Blue Jays, Rob Brantly could become a decent-hitting catcher, Jacob Turner, Nate Eovaldi and others may one day be very viable major-league starters, and Logan Morrison is back to provide humor and power (when healthy).
Morrison has a world of talent, but lately he has had more great tweets than hits. That's OK, the way things look at least in the near future, they're going to need some humor.