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Three reasons the Florida Marlins should contend for a World Series Title in 2011
Eliza Tabor is quoted as once saying, "Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal: it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it."
Fans of many of the teams in Miami, such as myself, are probably hoping, like I do, her statement proves correct in regard to their beloved franchises and programs, for there has been quite a bit of disappointment when it comes to South Florida.
There isn't a Miami Dolphins fan who isn't feeling sorely disappointed in how the 2010 season went, and suffered even greater disappointment in how the team's owner, Stephen Ross, conducted himself over the past two weeks of the offseason.
The Miami Hurricanes football season went so badly they fired head coach Randy Shannon at the end of it without a second thought.
Fans of the Florida Panthers have dealt with so much disappointment over the past decade even the hiring of hockey genius Dale Tallon was met with quite a bit of skepticism.
Those, like me, who root for the Florida Marlins felt the bitter sting of disappointment in how the 2010 season played out as well.
Coming into that season, there were high hopes for a young squad many thought could challenge the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East title, but those hopes were dashed as Marlins fans watched their beloved squad implode; with manager Fredi Gonzalez being replaced by former Triple-A New Orleans affiliate manager Edwin Rodriguez on June 23rd.
The season culminated with the Marlins having allowed fan-favorite Cody Ross(notes) to get away, with fellow fan-favorite Jorge Cantu(notes) being traded, and with former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan(notes) being injured in a freakish shaving cream pie accident. All of that, along with an 80-82 record and another missed chance at the playoffs left a bad taste in the mouth of Marlins fans; at least it left one in mine.
Yet, all of those calamities, as well as the loss of perennial All-Star second-baseman Dan Uggla(notes) in the offseason, haven't seemed to destroy the Florida Marlins, and certainly haven't destroyed the hopes of their fans.
Those fans can only hope the disappointments the team suffered in 2010 have strengthened their resolve to come out on fire and do well this upcoming season. They can only have faith those letdowns have tempered their backbone and created a steel-hard desire to achieve success. They can only trust those failures have intensified their willingness to work as hard as they can to be their best.
Hope for this young team is reasonable, too. They're young, but as talented as any the Marlins have ever fielded, and there are three distinct reasons the Florida Marlins should contend for a division title their final season in Sun-Life Stadium before moving into their new retractable-roof ballpark for the 2012 season.
As they always seem to, the Marlins have a great young rotation featuring superstar pitcher Josh Johnson(notes), one of the faces of the franchise. They've also recently acquired Javier Vazquez(notes) to shore up the rotation that includes the likes of Ricky Nolasco(notes), Anibal Sanchez(notes), and Chris Volstad(notes). Waiting in the wings for any of those pitchers to falter, or suffer injury, is standout sophomore hurler Alex Sanabia(notes), whose rookie year was impressive to say the least.
The Fish's bullpen should be very good as well, with the additions of Mike Dunn(notes), Ryan Webb(notes), Edward Mujica(notes), Dustin Richardson(notes), and Randy Choate(notes), all relievers with experience. Added to Brian Sanches(notes) and Burke Badenhop(notes), Miami's new relief pitchers should comprise a sterling 'pen. The closer's role will be up for grabs, with both Clay Hensley(notes) and Leo Nunez(notes) pushing each other to see which will be the most dominant; both of whom many teams would like on their squad for the ninth inning.
While youth can be a two-edged sword, I'm of the opinion it's going to benefit the 2011 Marlins. Florida has three players, Gaby Sanchez(notes), Logan Morrison(notes), and Mike Stanton(notes) who, if they can avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump" could become some of the best in the game at their respective positions.
There's also a chance sterling prospect Matt Dominguez(notes) might actually impress enough to take over the third-base duties from a very capable veteran Wes Helms(notes). His defense is certainly major-league, and the only question is whether his bat can handle big-league pitching.
Then, of course, the Marlins two biggest position player stars of the past few years not named Dan Uggla, Chris Coghlan and superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez(notes) are still young enough I could be their father, so it's easy to see Florida will be well-served with youth on their roster this coming year.
More than any player, the hiring during the offseason of Perry Hill as infield coach is something that should pay major dividends for the Marlins this upcoming season. He's been incredibly successful in that job both with Florida from 2002 to 2006 as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009. His leadership should help the Fish to immediately improve on their dreadful defense of the past few years.
In 2010 the Marlins ranked fifth-worst in the majors in errors, and have ranked near the bottom of the league for the past few seasons in that category; as well as fielding percentage. Hill should be able to turn that around, especially with the addition of Omar Infante(notes) at second-base. Sure, Florida gives up power at second going from Uggla to Infante, but Omar's defensive brilliance will quickly have fans forgetting Dan (at least I hope it does).
The Marlins defense should do well with Coghlan moving to center field as well. While Chris has never played the position, he's so talented and fast I can't imagine him having a problem becoming a mainstay at the position for the Fish over the coming years.
Hill will also be able to count on a talented young All-Star catcher in John Buck(notes) rounding out the defense up the middle. While there's a chance lefty catcher John Baker(notes) could get some playing time once he returns from Tommy John surgery, Buck's job will hardly be in jeopardy after the Marlins signed him to a three-year $18 million deal. Buck is the best player the Fish have had backing up the plate since Ivan Rodriguez(notes).
There's always a chance the Florida Marlins could suffer the same kind of disappointments and frustrating freak incidents they did last year, but I truly believe the three reasons I've stated, pitching, youth, and defense, should have the Florida Marlins challenging for a World Series title this coming year.
This Florida Marlins fan would love nothing more than to see them enter their new digs in 2012 with that championship trophy in hand.
Eliza Tabor quote taken from Fines Quotes
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