By Johnny Russo – 3/12/2010
Youth in baseball is something every team wants but few teams have.
The Florida Marlins have always had youth on their side but their win-loss record has never been the record to match. Last year the Marlins posted 87 wins. That is the third most wins in franchise history. The only Marlin teams to record more wins in a season were the two World Series Championship teams back in 1997 and 2003.
Last year, Florida was the surprise team of the National League, staying in the playoff race until the end of September. Ultimately the team fell five games short of the wildcard and six games short of the division.
This year the Marlins came into spring training with big expectations for themselves. Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan said, “We are excited another year of camaraderie, another year of everyone to come together and continue to improve. This year our goal is to get to the playoffs and win the World Series.”
The Marlins are looking to challenge the three-time reigning division winner Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East crown. The Phillies have the experience of winning a World Series back in 2008. They also went to last year’s Fall Classic before losing to the New York Yankees in six. However, the Marlins have fresher and young players. All three Florida starting outfielders have not yet seen their 30th birthday.
To show more youth on the Marlins side, center fielder Cameron Maybin and left fielder Chris Coghlan have not even blown out 25 candles on a cake. Yet, an attractive aspect of having a young team is the benefit of having a low payroll. Last year, the Marlins’ payroll was just below the forty million dollars mark. It was easily the lowest payroll in the league. This season the Marlins will have one of the lowest payrolls if not the lowest in baseball, even with the contract extension of ace pitcher Josh Johnson.
Although the payroll will be a low one, the Marlins have seven of the eight returning position players including the elder statesman of the team, Dan Uggla. Uggla just turned the big 3-0 on March 11th. Uggla said the team is not as young as everyone thinks. “Most of us have been with the Marlins for about three, four years now and rather than cleaning out and getting new guys, they brought most of us back. We are not as young as everyone thinks we are. We brought most of the team back and we are ready to go.”
Uggla is one half of the Marlins middle infield combo. His counterpart is 26-year-old shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, who is the face of the young franchise. Together Uggla and Ramirez are one of the best up the middle combos in baseball.
But if anything will lead the Marlins to the promise land it will be their starting pitching. The staff anchored by all-star Josh Johnson has an average age of 25. Marlins Manager Freddi Gonzalez said it will be the pitching that will lead the way, rather than the big time hitters. “I think if anything our young pitchers going through that the experience level should be able to carry them over to this year. We should be a little bit better.”
Late in October, Gonzalez became the winningest manager in Marlins history recording his 242nd win. However, Gonzalez says it does not mean a thing. Uggla disagrees and believes that Gonzalez is a great manager for the young club. “Freddi is great. Even as good of a manager he is, he is a better man. You can go to him at any time. He just brings a lot of positive energy to this ball club.”
Gonzalez will have to bring a lot of energy to fire up these Marlins, as they start their quest for a playoff berth opening day on Monday April 5th vs their division rival the New York Mets
By Johnny Russo – 3/12/2010