July 8, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen (13) argues with umpire Manny Gonzalez (79) in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
When the Miami Marlins' front office made the decision to sign Reyes, Buehrle, and Bell, and trade for a Carlos Zambrano that had issues on and off the field throughout the 2011 season, they only had one thing in mind: Winning. With a new ballpark and several new faces, they felt there was absolutely no reason this team couldn't win consistently.
Another disastrous June put the Marlins in the basement of the NL East (just ahead of the slumping Phillies) after being tied for first place in the beginning of the month; however, when the Marlins begin the second half of their schedule on Friday, they will find themselves nine games out of first place, but just five games out of a wild card spot.
Miami begins the second half with a crucial four game series against the first place Washington Nationals at Marlins Park. The Marlins swept the Nats the first time they visited the Marlins' new home,as the team concluded the best May in franchise history on a positive note. A series victory could get the Marlins back in contention in the National League East.
Ozzie Guillen has also stressed the importance of having a healthy Emilio Bonifacio. Before going down, Bonifacio led the league in stolen bases and was getting on base consistently in the seven spot. Guillen has also said that the return of Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) is like "a mid-season trade." Oviedo may get the opportunity to close games, as Heath Bell continues to struggle.
A hot Justin Ruggiano will allow the Marlins to give certain players a day off (a Logan Morrison or Giancarlo Stanton), and quality starts from the starting pitchers may give the Marlins (at 41-44) the push they need to play postseason baseball.
-Miami had a rather inconsistent first half, mainly because of poor play in June. The offense was streaky and the bullpen pitched well, with the exception of Heath Bell at the back end. The Marlins were one of two teams in baseball that have only used five starters. Injuries hurt the team as well, with the most recent injury to Giancarlo Stanton causing concern.-Juan Carlos Oviedo took another positive step forward on Wednesday, as he threw 31 pitches over 1 2/3 innings. Oviedo will be eligible to rejoin the Marlins on July 23, following his suspension for using a false identity. With the struggles of Heath Bell, Oviedo may be pitching the ninth inning if Bell's struggles persist.
-Ozzie Guillen recently announced that he may go with a "closer by committee" after Bell's first half struggles. Bell blew six saves in the first half after blowing five in 2011. "I have to," Guillen said. "The players, the club, the fans, myself, himself, it's kind of hard dealing with this every other day. In the meanwhile, we'll try to figure out how to win games and we'll go down that road right now.
-Wednesday night's debut of "The Franchise" revealed quite a bit of information that was not immediately revealed to the public. Miami could have traded Stanton for Manny Ramirez a few seasons ago, David Samson admitted, and Heath Bell had a heated discussion with Ozzie Guillen after his consistent struggles. "It's one of my favorites pieces of footage that we've gotten in two years," executive producer Mike Tollin said. "It's an extremely frank head-on conversation between an embattled player and a very open and honest manager, who reaffirms his faith in his closer.
-Miami hasn't had many notable All-Star game moments, however some Marlins, such as Jeff Conine and Dan Uggla, have many memories from the mid-summer classic.
-Logan Morrison is good for the occasional home run, however he is currently trying to become more of a patient, contact hitter at the plate. Morrison has put in time with hitting coach Eduardo Perez, while chatting with Perez during games in between at-bats.
-The Marlins did not have a representative in Kansas City for the All-Star game after Stanton went down with an injury, which bothered team president David Samson. "I spoke to MLB. Cishek, Ruggiano, I think there were a lot of different ways that Tony [La Russa] and MLB could have gone. I think it’s unfortunate. I think that every team should be represented on the line in an All-Star Game."
-Josh Johnson will get the start against the Nationals on Friday night, as the Marlins begin the second half with a four game series against the division-leading Nats. Jordan Zimmerman will be on the hill for Washington.
-Outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who the Marlins traded for to get some outfield help after Bonifacio went down with an injury, has seen a lot of playing time due to his hot bat. Ruggiano hit a home run in each of the first three games in Milwaukee, and was the hottest Marlin at the plate in June. "I just try to take every at-bat like it’s your last,’’ Ruggiano said.
-Ozzie Guillen's two sons both do something that their father has shown he is never afraid to do: express their opinions. Guillen admitted that he raised both of his boys that way, teaching them to "not speak if they don't know, and not to lie." "Just go and say what you have to say and move on," Guillen says.
-Heath Bell, who the Marlins signed for three years this past offseason, has said that his weight is not the reason he has struggled. "I came into camp in shape, ready to go, just like I do every other year," Bell said.
Around The League
-Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays signed a three year, $27 million dollar contract extension on Thursday. Encarnacion is hitting .295 with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs.
-Ben Sheets will make his first start of the 2012 season on Sunday against the New York Mets wearing an Atlanta Braves uniform.
-Several teams might be trying to add pieces as the July 31 trade deadline nears, but some teams might be more hesitant with another wildcard spot up for grabs.
At Fish Stripes
-Would it still be considered a successful draft for the Miami Marlins if they failed to sign their first round pick? It appears Andrew Heaney is not going to agree to terms with the Marlins.
-Miami will now be using the "closer by committee" method to try and close out games. Who are the Marlins likely to call upon to pitch the ninth? See the candidates here.
-Here are the results from the 2012 Marlins draftees.