We start a weekend series with the Marlins tonight in their beautiful new stadium, Marlins Park. The Marlins are 33-36, sitting 4th in the NL East, 8 games back of the division leading Washington Nationals. They aren't exactly having the season they had hoped for when they signed those high priced free agents this winter, but there is a lot of baseball left to be played.
I sent off some questions to Michael Jong Manager of SB Nation's Marlin site, Fish Stripes.
Is the new stadium as nice as it looks on TV? When are fans going to revolt and tear down that monstrosity (I don’t know what to call it) beyond the outfield wall?
Yes, it is as beautiful as it looks. The Marlins took a fun approach in that they shied away from the oft-used "retro" stadium appearance in most new parks of the decade and went completely futuristic and colorful with the brand new Marlins Park. Everything about the stadium really does scream "Miami," from the gaudy colors of the walls to the local cuisine offered at various vendors to even The Monstrosity (it actually is what we call it) in center field. I think The Monstrosity is actually growing on Marlins fans, much like many other home run celebrations often do. It is hard to get mad at something you associate with positive events.
What do Marlin fans think of Ozzie Guillen?
It was a rough start for Ozzie Guillen and the fans of south Florida, what with the Fidel Castro comments coming at the start of the season. I imagine most fans enjoy the fire and the fireworks that he occasionally brings to the field, but if the team does not perform, they will ultimately turn on him as they'll turn on any manager of a losing squad.
The Marlins made a splash, in the off-season, signing three free agents to large contracts. How are Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell doing?
Jose Reyes has underperformed his expectations, but he has done well for the most part and is on his way up this season. Fans have for the most part given him a reprieve for his struggles in April and are seeing the results of his good work at the plate. Mark Buehrle has been your typical Mark Buehrle, and there is really nothing more you can say about that. He is who he has always been. Heath Bell's
tenure has been far more tenuous, as his horrific start to the season really polarized a number of fans who wanted to see him demoted from the closer role and others who thought he would get on the right track and start saving games for the Fish. In late May, he began looking a lot better on the mound, so that is a start.
Could we get a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to face?
may have taken over the role as the best Marlins starter with Josh Johnson teetering between good and struggling. Sanchez has really taken his game up a notch over the last two seasons, and this year may be the culmination of his improvements. His strikeouts are higher than ever, and he has solid control and has always been able to prevent home runs.
Johnson still has his magical anti-homer touch, but his velocity has been up and down all year. When his speed has been in the 93-94 mph range, as it was for two starts at the start of June, he has been his usual dominant self. When it has dipped to 92-93 mph on average, he has been a mere mortal.
If you've seen Mark Buehrle pitch against the Jays as a White Sox
player, you've seen the Mark Buehrle of the Miami Marlins
. Nothing has changed, as Buehrle is the same guy he was last season and really for the past six years.
Who is your favorite Marlin to watch? Who is your early season MVP?
My favorite Marlins player to watch is Giancarlo Stanton
, and after he broke a scoreboard in Marlins Park with a laser beam grand slam last month, it should be obvious to see why. He is an absolute monster at the plate in terms of power, and he is only growing and getting better as the year goes on. He is my early season pick for team MVP.
Anything else Blue Jay fans should know about the Marlins?
The Fish have been mired in a horrific month of June, going just 4-14 this month after posting a 21-8 record in May. If the Jays are looking desperately for a win somewhere, this series may not be a bad place to start.