Every spring, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria makes the media rounds and lets everyone know that he expects big things from his ballclub, regardless of whether those expectations are realistic.
Last year, Loria said he thought the Marlins could win 90 games. They ended up losing 90.
But this year the Marlins are coming off one of the team's busiest winters, signing a slew of free agents with hopes of putting an exciting club on the field when the team opens its new stadium in April. Accordingly, Loria has cranked up the expectations to 11.
"My expectations are the same every year -- be successful and win," he said on Sunday when the team's full Spring Training camp opened. "We've got a pretty good club."
How good? Loria thinks this year's team is better than the 2003 Marlins, who only won a World Series. "This is the strongest (team) going in, and if we have some good health and good luck, we're going to be a hell of a team to contend with," he said.
"I think they're ready to jell into something special," he continued. Even though the division-rival Phillies are coming off a 102-win season and their fifth straight NL East pennant, Loria is undeterred. "I'll take my chances against any team," he concluded.
Loria's optimism has filtered down through the organization. Hanley Ramirez told CBS Sports Sunday that he will be "the best" third baseman in baseball this year, even though he's never played the position as a professional.
Meanwhile, utility infielder Greg Dobbs said this weekend, "I think we're the team to beat" in the NL East.
"If we can stay injury-free," he added, "we'll be in the postseason. There's no reason why we shouldn't We're going to win and we're going to get to the postseason."
Loria and the Marlins have a lot riding on this season. If the team struggles early, it risks playing games in front of a new set of empty seats in Little Havana. South Florida's notoriously fickle fanbase will simply not show up to a new stadium if that means watching a losing team.
Loria better hope his team does not falter the way it did last year, when a drastic slide in June sent the Marlins from 10 games over .500 to 10 games under in a matter of weeks.
The Marlins simply cannot afford a disappointing season in the inaugural year of Marlins Park.