If Saturday was any indication, the Miami Marlins will be playing in front of crowds of under 5,000 for most of the 2013 season.
Saturday, Marlins Park hosted Winter Warmup, formerly FanFest, an event during which fans can interact with and receive autographs from players. The name change, similar to the one that made the Florida Marlins the Miami Marlins, didn't produce great results.
Winter Warmup is a marketing campaign, a time that fans can get a glimpse of the ballpark, choose their season tickets, or buy season tickets for the upcoming season. Half an hour before the single-game ticket lines opened, there were four people on line.
Baseball fans will still come out to Marlins Park, but it won't be to support the Marlins. South Florida is full of northeastern and midwestern baseball fans that still root for their teams across the country, Contests against teams such as the New York Mets or Philadelphia Phillies will draw decent crowds, but those crowds likely won't be rooting for Miami.
In their first season at Marlins Park, tickets sold quickly. Key games early in the season had crowds of 20,000 people and above. Even as the season progressed, though, tickets continued to be sold. People wanted to see Marlins Park, and didn't care if the Marlins weren't winning.
After year one, owner Jeffery Loria's worst nightmare is coming true. He and the rest of the front office knew that they would need to put together a competitive team, because fans would stop coming out to see Marlins Park after witnessing all it has to offer at the end of year one.
Was the Winter Warmup turnout an indication of what attendance will be like at Marlins Park this season? Only time will tell. If the answer is yes, most cheers will be coming from the dugout.
-The Marlins know that it will be a challenge to win back the support of the fan base. Preisdent David Samson understands how angry the fans are. "I get it. I do. It's very unfortunate that it came to that," Samson said. "It was a very frustrating year from start to finish. I think people are disappointed because of payroll. I think that if we traded every player and signed other players making the same money, that would be totally different. It's just not the situation we find ourselves in."
-Although there have been several reports suggesting that many different groups are interesting in buying the Marlins, Samson claims that the team is not for sale.
-Miami signed Chone Figgins to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training late last week. Figgins has had several subpar years with the Mariners, but could be a candidate to win a spot on the bench and see time at third base.
-In addition to signing Figgins, the Marlins also signed Jon Rauch to a minor league contract. Rauch, listed at 6'11, is expected to pitch out of the bullpen as the setup man for closer Steve Cishek. Rauch has big league experience, including time within the division with the Mets.
-President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest is excited for a competitive month of spring training. Beinfest acknowledged the team's youth, but is hopeful for the team's future. "We're definitely down to the short strokes," Beinfest said. "If it's a guy or two [we add], I would say that'd be about it. ... We're pretty much there. I would anticipate this will be the group, and it's a relatively large group and a lot of opportunity. There will be some good competition in a number of areas."
-Miami right-hander Henderson Alvarez will be playing for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Alvarez initially was told he wasn't going to participate. "At no time did I say I wasn't going to take part," said Alvarez, who the Marlins acquired as part of their mega-deal with the Blue Jays. "Health-wise, I'm fine."
-At the Winter Warmup event, the Marlins were focused on the future, and made sure to introduce their young, talented players to Miami fans. "I think I understand where the fans are coming from with the upheaval, but it is time to turn the page," Beinfest said. "Organizationally, we have. My preamble to the staff [Sunday] will not include anything about last season. Generally, when I open things up with our field staff, we talk a little bit about the previous season and how the winter went. My plan is not to talk about it at all."
-After the November fire sale trade with Toronto, the Marlins will get their first glimpse of their new young players in spring training. "It is different than a year ago," said president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest. "I think that's all been well documented. What's happened this winter is well documented. I think we're ready to go in with a young group, and really get a chance now to see on the field what we have, and also get a good idea of maybe how far away or maybe how close our good young prospects are to the Major Leagues."
-Early last week, it was reported that a group headed by Jeb Bush wanted to buy the Miami Marlins from current owner Jeffery Loria. President David Samson, though, said that the team is not for sale. "This team is definitely not for sale," Samson said. "Jeffrey loves being the owner. We love Miami. We love this ballpark."
-Although he may not make the team right out of spring training, outfielder Christian Yelich is expected to have the talent and athletic ability to stay in the major leagues for a long time. "I was impressed by the way he handled himself,'' said Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who saw Yelich last year while managing in the FSL for Toronto's Class A Dunedin Blue Jays. He took note of Yelich's speed and "good at-bats."
-Miami manager Mike Redmond recently said that in his ideal lineup, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will be hitting third. "I'd like to see him come up in the first inning," Redmond said. "You think about other power hitters, Mark McGwire, he hit third."
Around The League
-Training camp is expected to help the Chicago Cubs put together a productive major league roster, according to several reports.
- Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez recently accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
-The Cleveland Indians signed veteran Jason Giambi to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
-Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants are expecting a good year, but displayed a different side at FanFest last weekend.
At Fish Stripes
- Here is a list of the Miami Marlins' top prospects. This is a must-read for Marlins fans everywhere.
- Miami prospect Avery Romero needs a new position.