In 2012, the re-branded Marlins rolled up to the Roger Dean Training Complex after making the biggest off-season waves in team history. Flashy new uniforms, star players and the fiery Ozzy Guillen all resulted in a lot of media exposure and hype surrounding the team. That year, as you can probably recall, the Fish finished last in the NL East.
Last Spring Training, the Marlins were coming off a promising campaign which could have lead to so much more if it wasn't for significant injuries to Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton. The club made some aggressive moves to set themselves up for a playoff push, and there was a great deal of optimism (and a fair number of reporters) around the training ground. Miami was even mentioned in the same sentence as 'World Series' by some experts. The Marlins failed to live up to their billing and missed the playoffs for the 12th straight year.
It was clear that a different approach to Spring Training was needed, and Don Mattingly has introduced just that. Before the 2016 Miami Marlins even took to the practice field for the first day of full-team workouts, the new skipper stressed the importance of putting in hard work to achieve success. This is still a young team, and they have a lot to prove to the rest of the league, and that is the focus as Spring Training starts to ramp up in preparation for the new season.
Although this time has high hopes for itself (doesn't every team?), outside expectations are that the team will find it difficult finishing ahead of the Mets or Nationals, or both. The lack of pressure on these young players will only help this team, whether it results in them playing with chips on their shoulders or just simply allows them to have fun on the field.
The distractions and commotion of past Spring Training seasons are gone; the biggest headline-grabber is new hitting coach, Barry Bonds. The nearly-as-quiet winter break has resulted in a lack of media attention for the Fish, and this will allow Mattingly to get to work as quickly as possible and implement his knowledge and guidance which he was brought to Miami for. These players know what they have to do this year: win, or the entire roster, including Mattingly, is at risk of being torn-down.
Don Mattingly has been brought in to coach and develop the budding talent that the Marlins posses. Spring Training is here, and he isn't wasting any time in figuring out what sort of team he has to work with in 2016. No media frenzy. No fuss. One thing is for sure, Mattingly is going to make these Fish work their tails off and play the game the right way.
This is the sort of direction and leadership the Marlins needed.