(This is a guest article by Stephen Lombardo)
It is unlikely for the Marlins to make news in January. Usually they handle their in-house business around this time of year. Trying to keep guys like Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson are priority number one for this so called small market team. However, this past week, the players union and the Florida Marlins have reached an agreement for this cellar dweller franchise to up their payroll. I guess the one big question can now be asked; did baseball just wake a sleeping giant?
For as far back as we can remember, the Marlins are a draft and trade team built on their pitching and a few scattered all stars in the lineup. Just look at their championship teams. The 1997 team had up and coming stars like Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria, Moises Alou and a few others, but they won because of their pitching. With the likes of Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, and Livan Hernandez anchoring their rotation they were obviously good enough to go all the way. The same argument can be made for their 2003 campaign. This team supposedly won by accident. Or did they? Once again they did it with budding stars on the field like Juan Pierre, Derek Lee, Mike Lowell, and Luis Castillo who was there for both titles. Yes they had the leadership of Ivan Rodriguez, but that wasn’t why they won. They won again with a rotation that when healthy went five deep. Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, mid-season call up and phenom Dontrelle Willis, and yes Carl Pavano, were the biggest reasons why the 2003 Marlins won the World Series.
The one consistency with this franchise is their ultimate decision to break up their championship roster a year after they won the title. The riches to rags story of the 1998 Florida Marlins is well chronicled, and the 2004 Marlins just were not the same team that won a title over the vaunted New York Yankees the year before.
The obvious reason why this always happened is whom ever the owner was up to this point never wanted to spend the money to keep the team competitive year after year. Instead they would invest in other parts of the franchise that better interests them. However, if you have watched this team in the recent years, you can see that a new crop of starting pitching and young stars are on the rise in Miami again.
With the recent news that the Marlins are being forced to up scale payroll, what will that mean for the rest of the league? The Marlins have a strong foundation of starting pitching (Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez) to go along with one of the top five players in baseball (Hanley Ramirez), and the reigning Rookie of the Year (Chris Coghlan). Not to mention one of the better power teams this side of the Phillies in the National League. With this forced upgrade in payroll, we would all be wise in assuming that they will nail down some if not all of these players to keep a strong foundation. Furthermore, the players union is now making them a player in free agency. Imagine next year’s Matt Holliday in the lineup with Hanley Ramirez. Sounds scary for the National League because it is scary for the National League. Isn’t this perfect timing with the opening of their new stadium in 2012? I guess we could say that there’s a chance there will be something hotter in Miami than just the weather come Julys in the future.
Stephen Lombardo is a recent graduate of St. Johns’ University, with experience working for the Staten Island Yankees. Previous experiences also include working at CBS during the NCAA tournament in 2009 and writing for a fantasy baseball website. To learn more about Stephen connect with him on LinkedIn.