I went on the record about a month ago in predicting the "most likely outcome" for the 08 Marlins was another battle for the NL's worst record. I've said time and again that despite my Mayboner, Killa Cam (I know we're working on the nickname) is not ready for the bigs right now. And you may recall my work in booing every post about Samson.
But even I was struck by the pessimism -- and in some respects, outright venom -- in Jumpin Joe Sheehan's "Spring Training Preview" of the Marlins over at BP. I reprint it here for your perusal:
Where: Jupiter, Florida (Grapefruit League)
2007 record: 71-91 (5th, NL East)
New guys: Jose Castillo, Eulogio De La Cruz, Mark Hendrickson, Cameron Maybin, Dallas McPherson, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Jorge Cantu (NRI)
Gone guys: Armando Benitez, Aaron Boone, Joe Borchard, Miguel Cabrera, Byung-Hyun Kim, Todd Linden, Wes Obermueller, Miguel Olivo, Dontrelle Willis
Wow, he's still here? No one, really. Just seven Marlins remain from the 2005 team, and those seven combined for 249 AB and 38 1/3 innings that year.
Winter grade: C-
It's not that they didn't get good prospects in the Cabrera/Willis trade, or that they might not be better in a few years for it. It's just hard to see how dealing those two guys was a better idea than putting a team around them and trying to win. Improving the defense by aligning Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and Dan Uggla differently around the field would have been worth a couple of wins. Throw in bouncebacks by pitchers, an emerging Jeremy Hermida, and some low-end free agent pickups, and this team could have contended in the NL. The deal also sends the message that you shouldn't get attached to Hermida or Ramirez. Just put the franchise down already.
NRI to watch: The Fish have 29 NRIs in camp, because you can never have too many options to put a minimum-salary player on the roster in place of one making more than that. Early steroid suspendee Jorge Piedra can hit, and he might make a serviceable stopgap in center field, allowing Maybin to play most of the season in the minors. They be taking another defensive hit if he plays there regularly, so Alejandro de Aza or Alfredo Amezaga will have value as his caddy.
Job battle to track: Third base is a mess in the absence of Cabrera, with McPherson, Castillo, and Cantu all vying for the job. If McPherson is able to swing a bat, he's mildly interesting. None of these guys are good; they're barely third basemen, as the three have combined for 95 appearances at third base in the last two years.
One move to make: Send Maybin to Double-A for two months. If he proves he can play there--he's had 20 at-bats at the level--send him to Triple-A, where he's never played, for the rest of that season. The Tigers screwed up last season; the Marlins can't let that drive their handling of a player who is completely unready for the major leagues.
If the ownership doesn't care, and the fans don't care, and the municipalities don't care, why should we? You can point to the 2003 title, I guess, but like the 1997 one, it seems anomalous. For a decade now, the Florida Marlins have existed solely in the hopes of extorting taxpayer dollars for a mallpark. Everything on the baseball side is secondary. They are one of the rare "hopeless and faithless" franchises around.
In related news that I'm pretty sure is alright for me to promote, if you're looking for another preview of the 08 Marlins (and every other team; and tons of probably great content from tons of definitely great baseball minds/writers) that was penned at least in part by a certain FishStripes editor, may I suggest the Hardball Times Season Preview 2008. I have a feeling that even if Craig isn't much more positive about the prospects for the season, you won't feel as worthless for being a Marlins fan as Sheehan's preview tries.