Before the Dodgers' series opener against the Marlins in Miami and their first look at brad new Marlins Park, I asked Michael Jong of Fish Stripes some questions about the team from south Florida.
Q: How do you think Hanley Ramirez will be greeted upon his return to Miami? How far has his star fallen or how much did his reputation take a hit in the last two seasons?
Hanley Ramirez will likely be met with a mixed reaction, which is fitting given the mixed opinion of him among the Marlins fan base. Even when he was one of the elite players in baseball between 2007 and 2010, Marlins fans viewed him as a talented player who loafed and took his success for granted, and that subsection of fans resented him even as he played well. That group only got louder when he began to struggle, so his return is likely to be met with a good amount of booing along with a smaller, but not insignificant group of cheerers who appreciate Ramirez's legacy in Marlins history.
As for his stock, it has fallen significantly in less than two seasons. Ramirez already had a relative down year in 2010, and his struggles in 2011 and 2012 along with his potentially detrimental defensive play both at shortstop and at third base this year have really dropped his value, to the point that it is conceivable that his next two years will not be worth his contract. That's a far fall from the top-five player in the latter part of the last decade
Q: Were you happy with the return in the Sanchez/Infante deal with Detroit and the Mujica and Sanchez deals, in addition to the Hanley/Choate trade?
I analyzed both deals and saw that the Marlins got an appropriate return for the players they sent away. Jacob Turner was an elite prospect heading into 2012, and his in-season struggles have only dropped his status a bit among the prospect evaluators; he is still expected to be a good mid- to upper-rotation starter. As for the Ramirez trade, his stock had fallen so far that the Marlins would have had a hard time finding any takers offering a decent prospect in return. Given that the team wanted to save the money presumably for another free agent run this offseason, the fact that the Marlins got a fringe top-100 prospect in Nathan Eovaldi without surrendering anything else of value has to be considered a victory.
Q: How has the Ozzie Guillen experience been so far? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Ozzie Guillen's strengths and weaknesses are actually one in the same. He is a fiery, outspoken guy who protects his players from the media at all costs. He does this primarily by drawing media attention away from his guys and onto him, and I suppose some people could see that as a weakness if he causes too much of a spectacle. But amid one of the most disappointing and demoralizing Marlins seasons in team history, Guillen's actions and performance have more or less been on the backburner and have paled in comparison.
Q: From afar I know of Heath Bell's struggles this season in the first year of his deal. Aside from Bell, whom should the Dodgers expect to face out of the bullpen in this series?
Bell may actually be getting save opportunities soon given his recent success, though the fan response to that news is mixed at best. As for who else you might see out of the bullpen for the Fish, expect a dose of Steve Cishek if the Fish hold and maintain a lead into the late innings. The sidearming righty has continued his success from last year and has blossomed into the late-inning relief role, though his peripherals are not as impressive as his 1.74 ERA shows. Other names you will see include Mike Dunn, who is looking to rebound from an awful outing against Washington, and Ryan Webb, whom the team turns to typically in the seventh inning.
Q: How have you enjoyed the new ballpark so far? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of it?
The most enjoyable part of the stadium for me has to be the food. The Taste of Miami section now has four local vendors from Miami offering unique dishes that you just don't see anywhere else in terms of stadium food. From Cuban sandwiches to shrimp burgers, the Taste of Miami offers the best type of stuff you can get in terms of food at Marlins Park. But the stadium as a whole is actually fairly impressive. A lot of people give it flak for the home run sculpture in center field (lovingly nicknamed "The Monstrosity" at Fish Stripes), but the color scheme and even the sculpture are over-the-top enough to represent Miami without being absurdly tacky. Fans have certainly gotten used to it. Oh, and domes mean no rain delays, and air conditioning means no ridiculous hot afternoons or evenings at the park. Every visit yields pleasant weather within the stadium.
My least favorite aspect? The traffic trying to get to the park. It's located smack dab in the middle of Little Havana, right across the street from residential homes and a Walgreens. Those streets were not built for stadium traffic on a regular basis
Q: Can we have Mike Stanton?
The reliever? I think so, I don't think he's on any team.
Oh, Giancarlo Stanton? No, you cannot have Giancarlo Stanton.
I deserved that for using his old name! Thanks Michael for taking the time to answer some questions and giving us some insight into the Marlins.
I did the same, answering some questions from Michael as well, for Fish Stripes.
Game Time: 4:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket, MLB Network