It is almost a given the Miami Marlins will finish ahead of the Mets this season, and that was even before the acquisition of Carlos Zambrano. If Zambrano is in shape, physically, mentally and emotionally, he’ll make the Marlins better. But, I’m not ready to put a Dream Team label on the Marlins. We’ve seen how well that works before.
However, the Marlins have made significant upgrades and you can guess the level of enthusiasm. Even so, there’s room for caution. Here’s why:
* A significant shoulder injury limited Josh Johnson to nine starts last season, and he’s clearly their most pronounced concern. Without Johnson, most everything else could be a moot point.
* Mark Buehrle is coming off his 11th straight season of at least 200 innings. That’s a lot of wear and tear, and one must assume his old team, the Chicago White Sox, know or suspect something.
* Zambrano has proven to be an out-of-control head case. He’s been the dangerous combination of an injured malcontent. Good for the Marlins that the Cubs are picking up nearly his entire salary. Zambrano is a gamble, but if things don’t pan out I wonder how he’ll respond, especially if Johnson is unavailable.
* Yeah, yeah, Jose Reyes can be an issue. Let’s not forget he went 0n the disabled list twice last season and all but shut down his running game during the second half. Reyes put up good numbers in his walk year, but we’ll see how motivated he is knowing he’s set for life. Reyes also has the burden of living living up to a $100-million contract. He’s always been sensitive, and at times moody and let’s his concentration wander. He’ll be under new found pressure. Let’s see how he handles it.
* One would have thought Hanley Ramirez wouldn’t have been an issue, that the Marlins would have ran the Reyes deal by him before writing the check. If Ramirez, who has always had some dog in him, is unhappy who can’t see him pulling a Santoni0 Holmes? It has to be a matter of time before he wants a new deal for himself.
* Ozzie Guillen is in a new home with high expectations, and moving with him is that big mouth of his. Guillen runs hot-and-cold on the likability meter. His act should play well in the beginning, but if the Marlins struggle, and he can’t connect with Ramirez for the greater good, it could get messy in that heat.