MIAMI GARDENS, FL: A sign counting down to the final game at Sun Life Stadium between the Florida Marlins and the Washington Nationals in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Florida Marlins aren't just changing a few things about themselves. They're practically turning into a whole new organization.
All things considered, the Florida Marlins have been reasonably successful. Since their birth in 1993, they've won just 48 percent of their games, but they've won at least 75 games 12 times, and six times have finished over .500. That's already pretty good on what's often been a shoestring budget, but there's also the fact that the Marlins have twice made the playoffs, and twice won the World Series. There are a lot of teams that would love to trade their last 18 years for Florida's.
So maybe, based on that, the Marlins don't seem like a team that needs to completely re-invent itself. But re-invent itself the Marlins organization will, to the point where it might be barely recognizable in a few short months.
The list of changes upcoming or already made is a long one. I suppose we might as well begin with Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie Guillen has taken over as the Marlins' new manager, replacing Jack McKeon. Guillen is something of a baseball celebrity, and baseball celebrities don't belong with the Marlins. Or at least, they haven't in the recent past. Guillen was a splash, and regardless of what you think of him as a manager, he's a high-profile guy certain to generate a lot of interest.
The name is changing, from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins. The change becomes official this Friday. The Marlins have been playing in a suburb of Miami, but now they're moving into the city itself, and this is a part of an entire re-branding scheme.
They're moving into a new stadium. A new, awesome-looking, baseball-only stadium, which will be way better than the petrified pile of crap in which they were playing before. Used to be that the Marlins' home ballpark was one of baseball's most embarrassing embarrassments. Come April the Marlins could call home one of the better parks in the league, save for the occasional peculiarity.
They're getting a new logo. Another component of the re-branding, the Marlins' new logo has leaked early and drawn heavy criticism from all corners of the understanding-and-by-no-means-reactionary Internet, but if nothing else the logo is a departure from the old one.
And of course, with a new name and a new logo come new uniforms. The uniforms haven't leaked yet, like the logo has, but they'll be revealed on Friday, and they should also represent a significant departure. The Marlins' uniforms aren't just getting tweaked. They're getting overhauled.
But for me, there's one change that stands out from all the others. It's significant that the Marlins are getting a new look. It's significant that the Marlins are getting a new home. But it's more significant that the Marlins are getting a new approach. From the Miami Herald blog on Monday:
The interest in Reyes and Cespedes would seem to indicate the Marlins are prepared to increase payroll well above the $80 to $90 million figure some have projected.
You've probably noticed that the Marlins are everywhere right now. They've been linked to Jose Reyes. They've been linked to Yoennis Cespedes. They've been linked to Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and C.J. Wilson. They've been linked to Mark Buehrle. They haven't just been linked to free agents - they've been linked to the most expensive and desirable free agents on the market.
And this is the Marlins we're talking about. The comically frugal Marlins. Since 1999 - which is as far back as I bothered to go - two teams have had an Opening Day payroll less than a quarter of the league-average Opening Day payroll. Those teams were the 2006 Florida Marlins, and the 2008 Florida Marlins. Those weren't their only tiny payrolls; those were just their most extraordinarily tiny payrolls. The Marlins have been associated with not spending money, because the Marlins haven't spent money.
And now the Marlins are looking to spend money. A lot of it. They're not going to crack the upper tier or anything, but consider that $80 - $90 million range quoted above. Last season, 17 of the 30 teams had an Opening Day payroll below $90 million. Come 2012, the Marlins might end up in the middle of the pack, if not a little above.
That is just a huge change. Based on the rumors, the Marlins aren't just going to look different to the eye - they're going to re-define the way they're thought of by the public. It wasn't all that long ago that the Minnesota Twins had very little money invested in their on-field product. This season, they had a nine-figure payroll. The Twins aren't thought of like they were, but their process was more gradual, where the Marlins are looking to make more of a leap. The Marlins could change minds in a hurry.
Ultimately, the Marlins aren't changing everything. Much of the roster will stay the same. The front office will stay the same. Ownership will stay the same. It's not like the new, improved Marlins aren't going to have anything in common with the old Marlins.
But the Florida Marlins are basically being replaced. The team and the organization that have existed will cease to be what they were, and become new things. My inclination is to say that this is an exciting time.