MIAMI - APRIL 09: Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Florida Marlins is hugged by owner Jeffrey Loria before commemorating his 2009 Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award before taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers during the Marlins home opening game at Sun Life Stadium on April 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Hanley Ramirez;Jeffrey Loria
With pitchers and catchers set to report to Spring Training on Friday, the Florida Marlins are busy reminding South Florida of their existence. The team held its annual media luncheon in Miami on Monday, where team owner Jeffrey Loria pronounced with his usual confidence, "I'll match my guys up with anybody."
Hopefully for Marlins fans, this year's team will live up to his high hopes.
As usual, Loria has high expectations for his team this year, despite the loss of All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla, now of the division-rival Atlanta Braves.
"We're going to miss Dan Uggla's power, there is no question about it," team president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told the media.
Referring to second-year phenoms Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison, each of whom have yet to play a full season at the top level, he added, "But I think we can manufacture some runs in other ways."
The team hopes Stanton and Morrison will shore up an offense featuring Hanley Ramirez, one of the top talents in the game. The pitching staff was bolstered with the addition of veteran free agent Javier Vazquez, joining young strikeout artists Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco at the top of the starting rotation.
Loria added that he thinks the team could top 90 wins and make the playoffs, "if we stay healthy." The team has only won 90 games twice, in 1997 and 2003. Those were also the two years they won the World Series.
That would be quite an improvement from 2010, when the team finished 80-82 and its bullpen blew 25 saves, the second-most in MLB.
If you ask Loria, the team has all it needs to contend. "We put this thing together in a way that the pieces seem to work well together," he surmised.
Marlins fans have heard this before, though, and you'll forgive them if they'll hold off on their enthusiasm until they get a look at this year's club.
David Hill is a Miami native and the cofounder of Marlins Diehards, a blog with perspective on the eccentricities of Marlins fandom.