The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
1. The end of rainouts: Let's ignore the fact that Jeffrey Loria and Co. managed to swindle the local government into a sweetheart of a deal to fund the stadium, Marlins Park sure is purdy. The retractable roof also means Marlins fans will no longer have to risk sitting through an hour-long rain delay during one of South Florida's signature summer late-afternoon storms, and the view of the Miami skyline through the glass panels beyond the outfield wall is superb to boot.
2. Giancarlo Stanton: Most of America has caught up with the Marlin we lovingly refer to as Senor #Monsterdong (named for the hashtag of choice among Marlins fans on Twitter to describe one of his epic tater tots). Even in the spacious confines of Marlins Park, Stanton could easily smack 40 home runs this season. If the Marlins can lock him up long term (and reports this spring suggest that he is the next item on the team's to-do list), South Floridians will rejoice. Fact: Stanton's home runs will soon be approved by the FDA as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
3. Dave Van Horne: One of the best-kept secrets in baseball broadcasting, DVH has been calling the Marlins' radio broadcast since 2001. His signature "up, up and away" home run call is understatedly joyful, the perfect encapsulation of his style. Van Horne previously called games for the Montreal Expos. It might seem like a waste that the two fan bases that love him are among the smallest in baseball, but at least his greatness has been recognized on a much bigger scale. He won the Ford C. Frick award in 2011.
4. History: The Marlins haven't even been around for 20 years, but with two World Series titles under their belts, it hasn't exactly been a struggle to root for the Fish since 1993. Both titles were somewhat soured by fire-sales (especially the post-'97 dismantling, which started only a few weeks after the World Series ended — at least Jeff Loria had the decency to wait until 2005 to start breaking up the 2003 World Champs), but we won't complain.
5. Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill: Some of their recent deals have been a bit puzzling (like sending Cameron Maybin to San Diego for a pair of relievers), but the two have done more with less than any other front office in baseball over the past decade. To wit: turning Antonio Alfonseca into Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell into Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.
6. The starting rotation: With the offseason acquisitions of Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, the Marlins have a starting five that ranks near the top of the NL. Ricky Nolasco has lost some of his luster since a breakout 2008 season, and Zambrano is a reclamation project, but the rotation has a high ceiling. Josh Johnson is a Cy Young candidate (provided he can stay healthy), and Anibal Sanchez and Buehrle are solid performers. They may not match Philadelphia's rotation, but could still be plenty good enough to get the Fish into the playoffs.
7. That monstrosity in centerfield: We know, the new arcade-like sculpture designed to go off every time a Marlin hits a home run is tacky and in poor taste. But that's kind of the point. Have you ever been to Miami? The town is full of bright colors, fake breasts, and superficial people. The home run structure could not be a more accurate artistic representation of our community (that is, unless you add a few square grouper to the marlins and flamingoes).
8. Twitter! Between Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) and Ozzie Guillen (@OzzieGuillen), the Marlins have two of the most epic tweeters in baseball. Their tweets get them in trouble from time to time, but I think every other baseball blogger will agree that their loss of perspective from time to time is everyone else's gain.
9. Hanley Ramirez, the most unlikable All-Star: It seems fitting that the Marlins' centerpiece can be such an unlikable train wreck at times. Hanley Ramirez is a reflection of the team itself. Like the Marlins, Hanley pairs streaks of brilliance (like his 2009 batting title) with dumbfounding pratfalls (not only did he spark a clubhouse uproar by accidentally kicking a batted ball into the outfield and loafingly jogging after it, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2011 by going all-out on a popup in shallow leftfield). His often surly demeanor (at various points in his career he's taken on multiple managers as well as Mr. Marlin himself — Jeff Conine) makes him a pariah in Marlinland, especially when he is struggling at the plate. When he supposedly demanded a trade after the team signed Jose Reyes this winter (a charge which Ramirez now adamantly denies), more than a few Marlins fans wished the team would grant him that request. But Miami is a city defined by sports villains (see the 1980s Hurricanes football teams and the current Wade-James-Bosh edition of the Heat), so it somehow makes sense.
10. The joy of anonymity: This could change if fans actually show up to the new stadium, but Marlins fans (at least, those of us who stick around for the lean years) never have to worry about a crowd. We have to deal with strangers telling us "I've never actually met a Marlins fan before," but I'd rather have my existence questioned than my fellow Marlins fans being called a scourge, a la the Yankees and Red Sox. Sure, we have to deal with a horde of fairweather fans from time to time, but they tend to jump ship in a hurry, so they are only a minor inconvenience.
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What are your favorite things about being a Marlins fan?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs
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