Saturday, March 5, 2011

Principles and Love

Hey all! I know it's been a while since I blogged here. As I had mentioned on my main blog, I had quite an eventful few months. Aside from setting my personal life in order, I have also concentrated on first updating "The Gift of Gab." However, something came across my mind the other day, and I felt it would find a better home on this blog instead.

I am one of probably a couple of hundred real Marlins fans in the South Florida area. When the Miami-Dade County and City of Miami politicians voted to use tourist tax dollars to build the new Marlins stadium (which will be opened in April 2012), I was ecstatic! The location of the new stadium would make it easier for me to attend baseball games (especially when I move to my new apartment once I am married). So, I vowed that I would finally become a Marlins season ticket holder once that stadium opened.

However, late last year, I hit a snag in my "relationship" with that team. It was uncovered that ownership (Jeffrey Loria and David Samson) had lied about profits they had made during the debates and discussions to build the stadium in the area where the Orange Bowl formally stood. I felt betrayed. Long story short, I told myself that as long as this ownership group owned the Marlins, I was not going to pay to see another game again!

A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to the FIU - Biscayne Bay Campus library to find a primary source book for an upcoming research paper. As I was making my way back to West Kendall on the 836 (Dolphin Expressway), I noticed the progress the Marlins stadium had made. I am not going to lie: I got excited again. I was a like a little kid excited for baseball season to come around (if little kids were allowed to be driving on an expressway in Downtown Miami). It made me want to go see professional baseball, and now as the Marlins season is almost upon us, the question is:

Should I allow my love for baseball to overcome the principles I have about honest business dealings?


Should I allow my conscious to control all my decisions, even when it means sacrificing something I love?

It may seem childish to you, the reader, that I call my fanaticism for the sport "love." But I can't think of another word to describe. Sure, it may be slower and more cerebral than other sports are, but something about the game makes me smile, no matter what team is playing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

When You Deal With the Status Quo...

I know I should have done this earlier, but here are my expectations for the Fish this year as compared to last year.

'09 Starting Rotation

Ricky Nolasco
Josh Johnson
Chris Volstad
(The rest were used
Andrew Miller
Rick VandenHurk
Sean West
Anibal Sanchez

2010 Starting Rotation

Nate Robertson

Result: Improved

The starting rotation is improved for two reasons that may seem minor, but will be a factor in the long run. Not only am I expecting a 2008-like season from Nolasco, I think the addition of Nate Robertson does 3 things for the rotation. 1) Adds veteran and postseason experience; 2) Eats up innings (which most of the rotation failed to do last season to spare the bullpen); and 3) Adds a lefty into the rotation that isn't named Miller.
The second reason I feel more confidant about this year's rotation is the depth and insurance that the team has in the bullpen and in the minors. In case one or two of the starters struggle or get injured, our first insurance policy comes in the form of Clay Hensley. He had an awesome spring and was going to be a part of the rotation had the team not traded for Robertson. I don't think he would be a superstar, but I think he can post some solid numbers, giving you six innings of work and probably an ERA in the mid to upper 3's. I am also confidant in Rick VandenHurk's abilities as a starter this year. His great spring showed me that his command is finally catching up with his stuff. We'll see how he does in the minors.

'09 Bullpen

Leo Nunez
Matt Lindstrom
Dan Meyer
Kiko Calero
Renyel Pinto
Brian Sanches
Brendan Donnelly
Burke Badenhop

2010 Bullpen

Nunez - closer
Jose Veras
Tim Wood
Clay Hensley
(Sanches on DL for now)

Result: Same

I think the bullpen, as a whole, will perform just as they did last year down the stretch. I think they can have success if the rotation eats up enough innings early in the year and does not tire the bullpen out. In order to achieve greatness, Leo Nunez has to show that he can be a bona-fide closer and not give us the same performance as last season. Am I hinging this on Nunez's shoulders? You bet.

'09 Lineup

1 - Chris Coghlan ( Emilio Bonifacio)
2 - Nick Johnson (John Baker)
3 - Hanley Ramirez
4 - Jorge Cantu
5 - Dan Uggla
6 - Jeremy Hermida
7 - Cody Ross
8 - John Baker/Ronnie Paulino (Cameron Maybin)

2010 Lineup

1 - Coghlan
2 - Maybin
3 - Ramirez
4 - Cantu
5 - Uggla
6 - Baker/Paulino
7 - Ross
8 - Gaby Sanchez

Result: Improved

While I think the loss of Nick Johnson is a loss, I think having Coghlan up the entire year will do this lineup a world of good. Additionally, a lineup that does not include "Hermida" in it makes me a very happy camper. There is a lot more depth than last year, as well in case one of the questionables - Maybin, Sanchez, or Ross (because of injury) - does not pan out. Michael Stanton's spring got me all giddy about the fact that he might be called up this year sometime around the All-Star break if he is needed. If Sanchez does not work out, look for Logan Morrison, the team's first baseman of the future, to get a shot. Another option, if Sanchez were to struggle or get injured, would be letting Brian Barden play third base and moving Cantu over the first which would help the infield's defense.

'09 Bench 2010 Bench

Wes Helms
Ross Gload
Brett Carroll
Alfredo Amezaga
Emilio Bonifacio

2010 Bench

Mike Lamb
Brian Barden

Result: Declined

The main reason why I don't feel that this bench is as strong as last year's is the loss of Ross Gload. The combination of pinch-hitting Gload versus right-handers and Helms against left-handers worked wonders, and both of them enjoyed success. Now, if Mike Lamb can show that he can be every bit a threat against righties as Gload was, then we can maybe bring the bench to at least the level it was last year. And while I hope Bonifacio can be a valuable replacement for Alfredo Amezaga, I just have not seen enough to make me believe that will happen. Let's hope that I'm wrong.

'09 Infield (Defense)

C - John Baker/Ronnie Paulino
1B - Jorge Cantu (Nick Johnson)
2B - Dan Uggla
3B - Emilio Bonifacio (Cantu)
SS - Hanley Ramirez

2010 Infield (Defense)

C - Baker/Paulino
1B - Gaby Sanchez
2B - Uggla
3B - Cantu
SS - Ramirez

Result: Same

I had to use "same" since I believe this year's defense will be an average of last seasons' starting defense and the season-ending defense. What on earth am I talking about? I think that this year's defense is better than the one that started off last season (with Bonifacio in the starting lineup) and worse than the one that ended the season (with Nick Johnson). We'll see how this goes. You never know, maybe Gaby Sanchez will surprise me with great defense. If Opening Day is any indicator, however, I think it will be a long season of defensive blunders.

'09 Outfield (Defense)

LF - Jeremy Hermida (Chris Coghlan)
CF - Cameron Maybin (Cody Ross)
RF - Cody Ross (Jeremy Hermida)

2010 Outfield (Defense)

LF - Coghlan
CF - Maybin
RF - Ross

Result: Improved

Why do I foresee improvement? It's simple, no Hermida. Hermida was embarrassing in the outfield, and the fact that he's gone, alone, improves this outfield. While Maybin did not have a good debut at center this year on Opening Day, I think his speed will help the outfield overall. The team basically has a centerfielder in centerfield and in rightfield.

Overall projection: Improved. However, the Phillies and the Braves have also improved dramatically. I don't foresee a playoff appearance, but I doubted their playoff potential in 2003, as well. Let's hope I'm wrong!

Monday, January 25, 2010

When Fans are Blinded by Money...

Being a Marlins fan is usually a roller-coaster of a ride to be on. I mean, after all, a Fish fan has to put up with the uncertainty of how next year's roster will look like offseason after offseason. Luckily, for us fans who are luckier than Cubs fans, but aren't as lucky as Red Sox (for the last five years) and Yankees fans got a break to start 2010.

Major League Baseball confonted the Marlins management (i.e. Jeffrey Loria and David Samson) about their "frugality" in player salaries. While the Marlins deny any wrong doing, financially, they quickly signed Josh Johnson to a long term deal and declared that the majority of the 87-win team from last year will remain intact, which will raise player payroll to $45 million. So, fish fans started going crazy, excited about next season. Even David Samson believes that the Marlins will bring a World Series championship to South Florida this year.

Knowing this, I feel like I'm the only Fish fan who remains skeptical. People tend to think that raising player payroll itself so that you can bring back the entire team helps win a championship.

I am on the minority that hoped Dan Uggla would be traded. Don't get me wrong, Uggla is a great player. However, when you are working with a limited budget, you have to think about where the team's weaknesses lie. Offense is not one of them, and while losing Uggla would lower the team's power numbers, I feel Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, and Cody Ross could supply the lineup with enough power. Dumping Uggla's salary could help the team fill some gaps in the opening day roster.

For instance, I am not comfortable with the rotation after Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. I think the Marlins could try to ink (or trade Uggla for) a number 3 starter to plug in between the two beasts at the top and a combination of Anibal Sanchez/Chris Volstad/Rick VandenHurk/Ryan Tucker/Burke Badenhop filling out the last two rotation spots. Another area that worries me? The bullpen. Kiko Calero and Brendan Donnelly are gone. So the bullpen will have to be carried by Leo Nunez, Renyel Pinto, Dan Meyer, and Brian Sanches (who I actually do believe to be an asset along with Meyer). I think adding a proven, veteran arm into this mix would help these pitchers continue to grow, and help give Nunez some competition for the closer's spot.

Lastly, this team is missing one piece of the offense. I don't know which position will be filled, but I think a left-handed bat who can hit at least .270/15/75 would suffice. Right now the opening day roster looks like this:

SP - Johnson
C - John Baker/ Ronnie Paulino
1B - Cantu/Free Agent/Minor Leaguer
2B - Uggla
3B - Cantu/Bonifacio/Free Agent/Minor Leaguer
SS - Ramirez
LF - Chris Coughlan
CF - Cameron Maybin
RF - Ross

So, dumping Uggla's salary could help net the Marlins a veteran, solid hitter and fielder to play either first base, second base, third base, or one of the two corner outfield spots (and moving Coughlan to his first position at second base).

But, I do trust Larry Beinfest to make the best with the payroll he is given. There are still two full months before Spring Training ends. However, as of right now, I'd rather keep my expectations low and not be blinded by the increase in payroll. That way, I won't become too disappointed if or when the Marlins do not make it to the postseason. They do have to get past Roy Halladay and the Phillies, after all. So, at the very best, maybe the Marlins can compete for a wild-card.

But like I said, I think skepticism tends to work towards my favor when it comes to the Fish.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When Your Star Begins to Fade...

If you follow me on Twitter, or on Facebook, you should get the idea that my opinion of Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida is very low. I remember his first big league at bat back in September of 2005, and how he made a big splash by opening his career with a pinch-hit grand slam. We all thought that this former first round pick would continue that dominance throughout his playing career with Marlins.

I remember his 2006-2007 seasons, how they were ravaged by injuries which hurt his potential. However, I also remember his great second half in 2007, which resulted in his (still) career highs in hits, homeruns, RBIs, and batting average.

And judging by the numbers alone, Hermida looks like a fairly solid player on paper. Sure his batting average is at a not-to-write-anything-home-about number (.257) and he strikes out a lot (86 K's as of 8/6/09). However, his on base percentage is pretty good at .337, which means he might be a good table setter (according to stats alone).

So, why all the animosity?

It just seems that whenever he comes up with the bases empty, early in the game, or in other low-pressure situations, Hermida hits a double, or hits a solo homerun. Meanwhile, late in games or in high-pressure situations, he strikes out, or worse, hits into a game ending double play (as he did on Tuesday against Washington). No matter where he hits in the lineup - second, sixth, seventh, or eighth - fate has it that he will land in a high pressure situation, and fail to come through.

What makes things worse, now, is that Hermida is of no value to this team, nor to any other team. If Beinfest wants to dump him, now, he will get very little, if anything in return.

Let's hope Hermida starts swinging the bat soon - maybe not to salvage the season, but to increase his value and bring in someone who can get the job done more consistently.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When the Tide Turns...

It's amazing what two weeks can do in the game of baseball. About two weeks ago, I posted a blog about how I thought the Florida Marlins were finished. I thought their season had already gone to shambles. I predicted them to finish with a record around the .500 mark.

Little did I know that a fire was about to spark under this team. Little did I know that two weeks after writing that blog, the Fish would see themselves in 2nd place in the National League East, and only half a game behind the first place (and much hated) Philadelphia Phillies (if the Phillies lose their game tonight, the Marlins would jump to first place).

One could say that this jump to second place is an anomaly, that the Marlins are in this position because circumstances have made it so. The Phillies and Mets, after all, are struggling through an assortment of injuries to their lineups and pitching staffs. However, one has to speak highly of a team that finished Interleague play against the four-way battle that is the American League East at 10 wins and 8 losses.

On top of that, Andrew Miller is finally skirting his long-awaited potential and, since his return from the Disabled List on May 16, has an ERA of 3.90 and has struck out twice as many hitters than he has walked. Elite? Not at all. Solid? You bet. And Dan Uggla, whom I spoke so poorly about in that blog that was written fifteen days ago, still needs to work on his batting average, but is second amongst National League second basemen in homeruns (second only to...Chase Utley. The Marlins could still use his bat this season, but this offseason, it should be Larry Beinfest's mission to dump Uggla's salary and strikeouts. Who should he trade for? I'll leave it up to him to decide, I trust his judgement.

Making a long story short, perhaps it was too early for me to write the Fish off. I admit I threw in the white flag too early. But the time has come for the Marlins to buy, rather than sell. ESPN's Buster Olney stated that Marlins are currently looking to shore up their bullpen (cue the parting clouds, the blinding light, and a resounding "Hallelujah!"). Sports Illustrated reported some names the Marlins may be interested in acquiring. Heath Bell of the San Diego Padres and George Sherrill of the Baltimore Orioles would be good fits, but I fear that trading for one of these relievers would come at too high of a cost. Another option not mentioned in the article could be former Marlin and current Cleveland Indians reliever Matt Herges who is quietly putting together another solid season. His arm would help stabilize the Marlins bullpen at a low cost.

If the Fish were willing to deal one of their top of the line prospects (which I doubt they would), here is an idealistic trade scenario:

The Marlins could part with one or two of their prospects (Gaby Sanchez could be included in this package) for Sherrill and a player I think the Marlins would benefit from having on their team: infielder and Marlins-killer Ty Wiggington. Sure, he's having a down year in comparison to his usual output, but it will definitely be an upgrade at third base over Emilio Bonifacio. His salary is not too steep, he is a versatile player (he can play any infield position), and the Marlins would have him under contract for 2010, as well.

Whatever Larry Beinfest ultimately chooses, you can bet that he'll take the best production possible, at the lowest cost possible.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When Things Get Uggla....

The Marlins, at this point in time, have to consider themselves sellers. They are not playing like the 11-1 team they started off as, nor are they playing like the implosion that occurred after that hot start. I figure the Marlins to finish somewhere between 78 to 85 wins, and I would consider that a great season at this point.

That being said, I think it's time for the Marlins to dump some unneeded luggage from the sinking ship. The problem is, which team would be willing to take on this luggage? I'm speaking of course about Dan Uggla.

Uggla does not fit into the Marlins' plans for a pitching, speed, and defense oriented team. He is the second-highest paid player on the team, and has shown a .214 average to show for it. There is no way the Marlins an afford to commit to him any longer. There is also no way the Marlins can get any top-of-the-line prospect. I would like to see Beinfest trade the slugger to a team in need of a homerun hitter who gets on base a lot (.339 on base percentage) despite the amount of strikeouts it would cost. In return, perhaps the Fish can reel up a middle reliever who could remain with the team at least for the next two to three seasons.

Other than lack of productivity and high cost, why trade Dan Uggla? Look at the starting lineup. Out of the eight position players, four of them are second basemen, three of them, obviously, not playing their first position.

1) Jorge Cantu is a second basemen who has done a good job at first base. His presence in the lineup is important, so one would hope the Marlins stick with him.

2) Emilio Bonifacio is a second basemen who is playing the hot corner. Not only has he not produced with the bat, but his defense is sub-par. I hope that after seeing the Bonifacio-at-third experiment, the Marlins might reconsider their long term plans with him. At best, I project him to be an Alfredo Amezaga type of player - very useful off the bench (although I don't have a problem with Amezaga being in the starting lineup everyday).

3) Chris Coughlan is a second basemen who is stuck playing left field at the moment. Moving Uggla would move Coughlan - whose bat has finally lit up - to his normal position. By doing this, the Fish can bring up an outfielder.

Cameron Maybin needs to be on the Major League roster. He had his struggles earlier this season. But the Marlins, who will not be in the playoffs this year, can afford to let him work through his struggles in the big leagues this year. This move would not only improve the outfield defense, but it would give the offense more speed. These two factors would help the Marlins move in a direction that led them to the World Series Championship in 2003.

This season has been a disappointment for many Marlins fan. But, when things get ugly, it's time to keep your eye on the future, and not salvage a sinking ship that cannot be repaired by October.

What do you think? Are the Marlins buyers of sellers? If they're buyers, who should they try and acquire? If they are sellers, who should they dump?