And so it begins.
A new era of South Florida baseball kicks off tonight when the Marlins lay to rest the “F” and introduce the “M” as the new, and soon-to-be-improved, Miami Marlins. For those interested in seeing the chest-thumping, peacock-preening of owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson, be sure to tune in to the South Beachified circus live on the internet at 9 p.m. at www.floridamarlins.com.
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The unveiling may be somewhat anticlimactic since bits and pieces of the “M” brand started leaking on the Internet back in August. First, we got a glimpse of the new technicolor logo on the cap, which many experts and fans wretched at considering how untraditional it is. A good friend said it appears the Marlins are trying to lure the gay community with the rainbow splash of colors. (And before anyone comments, know that said friend is gay and liked the supposed unintentional nod to the gay community.) Well, thoughts of any misdirects to help keep spoiler bloodhounds on the wrong trail were laid to rest when the logo started appearing inside the stadium. Then an image showed up of the real-deal cap from a store shelf in the Marlins-merchandise-hotbed of Buffalo.
When images of the new home-run feature in center field began floating around, it all but assured traditional branding was out the window for the new Marlins. Then, this morning’s leaked photos via SoFlaMarlins.com of Marlins players wearing the new brand (allegedly), sealed the deal: It’s Rio Carnival time in South Beach for the new Miami Marlins!
So, with all the fanfare surrounding the new manager, new stadium, new logo, new uniforms and new brand – the first ever for a team relocating a mere 10 miles – the only thing I really care about as a Marlins fan is the product on the field. Winning is what will interest fans more than anything. And after tonight, the dramatic (yawn) buildup to the new brand will be nothing more than forum fodder. No matter how much you like or dislike the new brand, it’s here to stay (for a few years, at least.)
Rebooting the brand is a blip, while reshaping the team for long-term success is all that matters. So, beginning tomorrow, all eyes will focus on the field and the team Ozzie Guillen will guide come opening day. What’s most exciting is the genuine intention and effort the Marlins are making to mold the product on the field into something, well, new for Marlins fans: a perennial winner.
While the rest of the baseball nation thinks the Marlins are a joke and not to be taken seriously when it comes to payroll, Marlins insiders and beat reporters have been saying for months that interest is sincere when it comes to the big-three free agents. Jose Reyes visited South Florida earlier this week, Albert Pujols is reportedly visiting today and Prince Fielder is sure to be invited.
How real is all of this baseball fans? AM-790 The Ticket’s Jorge Sedano posted on Twitter yesterday that an inside source says signing Reyes is “almost a done deal” and that talks about acquiring A’s pitcher and hometown product Gio Gonzalez are underway.
Now, this is exciting. Screw the new logo and uni’s!
Add to that, Mark Buehrle kicked the tires earlier this week and his connection to Ozzie may help sway him to don the orange and blue … and yellow … and black next season. The Marlins also appear to be frontrunners for the services of soon-to-be-free-agent Cuban defector and hitting machine Yoenis Cespedes. South Florida’s Latin community and the fact Cespedes shares an agent with Marlins shortstop (or, potentially, third baseman) Hanley Ramirez give the Marlins and inside edge. (If you want a sneak peak of Cespedes, this 20-minute marketing video displays the goods, albeit to one of the worst soundtracks ever!)
While Marlins fans are drooling over the prospect of Pujols or Fielder swinging for The Clevelander pool in center field, it may be a wiser move for the Fish to spread the money around and secure a few players for the same money. The Marlins payroll topped $57 million in 2011 and word on the street is it’s expect to be in the $80 million range for next season. I think the number will be closer to $90 million, especially if they want to nab Pujols or Fielder.
The Marlins biggest offseason concern is pitching. Will Josh Johnson be dominant again and available the entire season? Who follows him in the two and three rotation spots? Who’s going to close? Those are the biggest question marks on the table and the biggest obstacles to a future playoff-contending team.
The good news? Signing any of the top three provides options to trade players that can help sure up the pitching staff. Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Matt Dominguez and Chris Coghlan are all on the table depending on who gets signed, and all are young players who will get attention on the trade market.
Consider this wish-list lineup for next season:
And a starting rotation of:
Not bad. The bullpen looks solid with the exception of the player-formerly-known-as-Leo-Nunez, Juan Carlos Oviedo. Until Oviedo’s immigration matter is cleared up, the Marlins have to be thinking Plan B, which very well could be giving Steve Cishek a shot at the role during spring training or going off the board and signing someone like free-agent closer Joe Nathan to an incentive-laden contract.
The good news for Marlins fans is that the death of the “F” allows the franchise to forge a playoff-caliber team. They will always be the Florida Marlins to me and many other fans, but the transition to a new ballpark, new brand and new revenue streams will be more than worth it if the product on the field contends for championships. I can hear the buzz in South Florida all the way in Seattle. And being a Marlins fan, that’s something to be excited about.
Follow me on Twitter @CelebratetheF