Miami Marlins: It’s all new

Cookie Rojas

Versatile middle infielder for the Phillies and Royals, now a Marlins broadcaster on their Spanish-speaking network. Rojas, born in Cuba, played one year for Reds in 1962 before being traded to the Phillies, where he played his next seven. Hit .303 when he was an All-Star in 1965 (26th in MVP voting) and career-high nine homers in 1968, went to Cardinals in big Richie Allen/Curt Flood deal but stayed there only a few months before starting his second act with Kansas City. Rojas spent the last eight seasons (1970-77) of his career with the expansion Royals, and was an All-Star for four straight years from 1971-75. His All-Star Game home run in 1972 was the first by a non-American born player. He hit .300 for the Royals in 1971, and had season-highs in RBIs (69 in 1973), steals (18 in 1973) and doubles (29 in '73). Best MVP finish was 14th in 1971, with 15 points. Retired after 1977, having given way to young second baseman Frank White, with .263 average, 1,660 hits and .643 OPS. Managed 1988 Angels (75-79) and one game for the Marlins in 1996 (he won it).

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: Last spring, good-field, little-hit third baseman Matt Dominguez was to the Marlins as South Beach is to Miami: all the rage. Some of that was the Marlins’ desperate need for a third baseman, and some was the Marlins’ desperate need for a prospect. Dominguez caught almost everything and hit almost nothing and in the offseason the Marlins went after their third base problem the old-fashioned way: they spent money on it. Their new top prospect, Christian Yelich, is farther away from the majors, but he’ll hit more than Dominguez’s abbreviated .244. Yelich hit .312 and slugged .484 in the low-A Sally League, the same one in which Bryce Harper hit .318 and slugged .554. Yelich, like Harper, dabbled in center field but is less likely to stay there. He’ll be a couple of years and a few points of OPS behind Harper, but who won’t be?

What is this man doing here? The Marlins brought in two shortstops in the offseason: Jose Reyes and Nick Green. Which raises the question — if you signed the former, then why the latter? Reyes cost millions, and Green meal money; the latter is the one they spent too much on. Green has played for six major-league teams, but it will take an injury for him to make it seven. That’s because of how he’s played for those six — a lifetime .237 average and .305 on-base percentage in 1,000 at-bats. He’s been barely better in the minors — a .257 average and .319 on-base — but he should have a summer to improve on those numbers.

What he said:  Manager Ozzie Guillen on his team’s chances: “If I don’t screw it up, well be fine.” What he meant: “You can blame me for March. After that, it’s Hanley’s fault, or Reyes’ fault, or Logan Morrison and his tweeting, and Stanton and whatever his first name is or Kenny Williams. Or whoever the GM is here. I’ll manage good. Don’t blame me if they play bad.”

Outlook: The Marlins changed their name and approach over the offseason, and apparently didn’t put a lot of thought into either.

We’re guessing Giancarlo Stanton, the outfielder formerly known as Mike Stanton, put more thought into his name change.

The Marlins were nouveau riche, and acted like it. Spend first, buy what looks good and figure out how to display it later. It’ll all look good, the Marlins figured, in the new ballpark.

The Marlins spent $106 million on a shortstop (Jose Reyes) when they already had one (Hanley Ramirez), $58 million more on a pitcher (Mark Buerhle) who hinted at retirement several years ago, $27 million more on a 34-year-old closer (Heath Bell) whose OPS against is 91 points higher away from home.

And then traded for pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who had been so toxic in Chicago the Cubs are paying $15.5 million for Zambrano to pitch for the Marlins.

The Arab Spring might seem like a lovefest compared to the Marlins’ locker room if they get off to a bad start, but that’s standard operating procedure for Guillen, who was 58 games over . 500 and a world champion in his first three years with the White Sox, just three games over and a 90-gamer loser in his last five.

That’s about the level the Marlins have played at since they won the 2003 World Series. But what’s worse is they’ve been boring. Ozzie’s Marlins won’t be, and in Reyes, Ramirez, Stanton, Morrison and a healthy Josh Johnson, they’re on the way to 90 wins.

But there are a lot of spots where the Marlins are unconvincing: center field, second base, depth in the rotation and the bullpen, and help from the farm system. It may be chic to pick the Marlins to win — the Phillies are old and battered, the Braves young and stagnant — and maybe they will.

But they look like a wild card — no reference to Ozzie intended — at best.

Team song: David Bowie: Rebel, Rebel

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