You might be wondering why this writer is focusing on the Florida Marlins when everyone else in the world is focusing on the Padres, Giants, Twins, Yankees and Bay Rays. Well, the simple answer is that everyone else in the world is focusing on those teams right now. You can read a hundred articles on just those teams and the important baseball they are playing right now. So why add another 2000 words to the cacophony? The Fan would rather focus tonight on something nobody else is focusing on. Take the Marlins for example. "Please," Rodney Dangerfield shouts from somewhere. This is an open letter to the next manager of the Marlins, this Fan's second home team (for the three weeks spent in Florida every summer).
Dear Mr. Manager,
I don't know if you will be Edwin Rodriguez or somebody else. It could go either way depending on Mr. Loria. If that owner wants to go on the cheap for another season until your stadium is built, he might save a few bucks and bring Edwin Rodriguez back. Frankly, Mr. Rodriguez is a nice man and paid his dues. But this Fan isn't impressed. First, Hanley Ramirez, the best player on the team spent a month batting lead off. What a waste! Then, Ramirez was moved down to his rightful spot (before he got hurt) and Bonifacio became the full-time lead off batter. That's a sin that cannot be atoned for. Bonifacio is the least valuable player in baseball this side of Jason Kendall. But only Mr. Loria knows what he is going to do. The odds seem 50/50 that he'll go on the cheap or get himself a proven manager. Whichever it is, these words still apply.
First, Chris Coghlan is not your lead off batter next year. He had a nice 2009, but he didn't quite do the same job in 2010. He'd make a decent number 2 hitter or he may just be better off at seventh or eighth. Logan Morrison is your lead off batter. This guy has a .398 OBP so far this season and if you look at his minor league career, that is no fluke. The guy is an on base machine. You follow him in the line up with Gaby Sanchez (unless you put Morrison at first, which is his natural position). Sanchez doesn't have enough pop to bat clean up or fifth. Second in the order is a nice spot for him.
Then...and this is important...you bat Ramirez third and you keep him there. He is the prototypical third hitter with speed, power and a good on base average. He is your best player and third is where he belongs. The Fan would like to think that this season was a blip on this young superstar's bright future. He is still really young after all. After Ramirez, you plus in Stanton at clean up and you leave him there. He's your right fielder from now until 2020 and he will be a star.
Next would be Dan Uggla, if he is still on the team. The Fan's guess is that he won't be. But he had a great offensive season and after Mr. Loria and the entire Marlins organization was embarrassed by the union and Bud Selig for not spending the Yankees' money, pay the guy and save face. Bat him fifth and let him be. He'll produce for you enough to be worth the paycheck. Before we go on, though, let's talk about Uggla's position. Tell him that if he is going to get the money, he has to move away from second base. He's terrible there. He has a -0.9 dWar according to baseball-reference.com. And that was a better year than last year. Play him at third and move Coghlan back to second. You have Morrison in left and Stanton in right. You just need a center fielder. More on that later. The Fan knows that you have to deal with Uggla's pride. But remind him that he has a nice fat paycheck, so get over there and shush.
Let's recap, your line up so far 1-5 is: Morrison (lf), Sanchez (1b), Ramirez (ss), Stanton (rf), Uggla (3b). Looks really good so far. After that, we have a problem. Paulino is probably your best option behind the plate. He's good with the pitchers, he blocks the ball well and throws guys out. And he at least looks like a hitter when you don't play him 75 days in a row. You can bat him sixth. Bat Coghlan seventh as your second baseman. We still need a center fielder. Let's face it, you have nobody right now that can play that position. You are going to have to go get somebody. And let's be honest, anyone would be better than Maybin or whoever else you have. Why not try Scott Cousins? At least invite him to camp and see what he can do. He has to be better than anyone else on your roster. There, now your line up is set.
And the good news is that your starting rotation is all set too. Volstad, Sanchez, Johnson, Senabia and Nolasco are all under your control for next year. Sanchez and Nolasco are arbitration eligible, but you have to pay the piper some time. Johnson needs to trust his stuff and throw strikes. His pitch count gets out of control and he has to get the hook in the sixth inning far too often. Get him to throw strikes and you are golden. Same thing with Sanchez. Nolasco was simply unlucky this season. His 8.4 K/BB ration is outstanding...superb! Stick with him. It will pay off. Senabia looks like he can hold his own. Volstad needs to throw strikes too. His 60 walks are unacceptable. Trust your stuff. Pitch to outs. Make it happen. You are good enough to win.
With your line up and rotation all set, all you need to do is cobble together a bullpen. You have plenty of arms. You can figure something out.
So what do you need to figure out in Spring Training? How about the basics? Turn a page in the Buck Showalter book and stress responsibility and accountability. Make sure everyone knows where they are supposed to be an when. Tell Gaby Sanchez to stop trying to sacrifice bunt. It's a drag and he's got to stop it. Work their tails off until they have the basics down and can field a professional team. This team has the talent. It just needs the right encouragement, the correct line up and a tighter ship.
Again, if this letter finds its way to Edwin Rodriguez, then tighten it up, man. Fire them up and teach them to play the right way. Get Miguel Cabrera to talk to Hanley Ramirez about growing up and playing hard every day. Cabrera could teach him a lot so he can avoid some of Cabrera's pitfalls. You got a good team there, Mr. Manager, and it's time they play to their talent. In fact, it's well past time.