I just got back from a few hours of talking Marlins baseball at the annual media luncheon for the team. While this function is normally filled with your regular "excited about the season" talk, today was a lot different.
First of all, this offseason was like no other for the Fish. Plus, some news happened today in baseball concerning the team. So, here are a few of the notes from our conversations with Ozzie Guillen, Larry Beinfest, David Samson, Mike Stanton, Josh Johnson and Gaby Sanchez. Here's the link to the video of some of the interviews, and then some of the notes below.
-The Marlins confirmed they'll be the focus of the Showtime series "The Franchise" for the upcoming season. The team seems to embrace the attention and thinks it can only be a good thing for the season.
-Larry Beinfest did not seem particularly disappointed Cuban slugger Yeonis Cespedes signed with Oakland. While he wouldn't talk about specific contract details, Beinfest said the team did everything in its power to show Cespedes he was wanted. They don't feel like they missed out. They tried to get someone they wanted and he decided to go elsewhere. End of story.
-Beinfest added that Emilio Bonifacio will start in CF and they're not currently looking at another bat. He says pitching health will be a key in determining what kind of moves they'll make once the season starts.
-Beinfest also likes a line-up that has the speed of Jose Reyes and Bonifacio on top, followed by Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Omar Infante and John Buck.
-Team president David Samson made it clear the team did not mean any disrespect by making the No. 5 available to Logan Morrison. That number had been retired since the inception of the franchise in honor of the team's first president Carl Barger. Samson says the organization did not take the matter lightly and they would only make the change for a special circumstance. With Morrison wanting to wear the number in honor of his late father, Samson and owner Jeffrey Loria felt the change was fine. Plus, it also allowed the club to honor Barger with a special plaque at the new ballpark. Samson said he knows how vital Barger was and is to the franchise's history.
-Josh Johnson says he's healthy. Yeah, I know you've heard this all before, but Johnson says things are different this year. He feels this offseason he worked on a program that will keep him healthy for the long haul. He fully expects to be ready for the upcoming season.
-First baseman Gaby Sanchez says he breathed a big sigh of relief when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. Sanchez knew he could be traded, but it would have been a huge shock to have to make a move. Remember, Sanchez also played his high school and college ball in Miami. He joked that he wouldn't have known what to do.
-Mike Stanton says he's ready to be a leader on and off the field. He thinks he can build off his first full season and provide even bigger things in 2012. To his credit, he looks as strong and fit as always. Simply put, the kid is a beast and should be an MVP candidate in the National League.
-Stanton added that the expectations won't change a thing in how the team approaches the season. They don't mind people paying close attention and they want to get the new ballpark opened up with a bang.
-Ozzie Guillen was not shy about having high expectations for the team, as well. He said he fully expects his team to win. He thinks they can win the NL East.
-Guillen says he fully expects Hanley Ramirez to come in with a chip on his shoulder and make the transition to 3rd base. That said, Guillen says this season isn't just about Hanley, instead it's about making sure 25 players are in it together for the team.
-Guillen says Bonifacio would have been his starting CF, even if the team had signed Cespedes. He says the Cuban slugger would have had to earn a spot on the team.
-Guillen made it clear he knows this team has big personalities, but he isn't worried about managing egos. He's ready to handle whatever comes his way, but as long as the team is winning, the process doesn't matter.
-All Guillen asks from his players is to respect each other. That will be his simple rule to the team. They don't have to like each other, but when they have the Marlins uniform on they need to play together for one goal.