Florida Marlins 2003 Season PreviewBy Paul Wysard
When catchers pass 1,400 games played behind the plate, conventional wisdom says a critical corner has been turned. Availability and offensive productivity decline; those backstops begin to play other positions or move on to part-time roles with other teams. Is this true? Yes, almost always, as the following review of six well-known receivers from the 1920s through the 1980s will show.
In Florida, "Pudge" therefore has something to prove, and several of the young pitchers may well provide tools with which to do it. A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Brad Penny are at the edge of dominance, and having the perennial all-star with them has to help. The rest of the staff is not quite as impressive. Mark Redman could fit in nicely as a southpaw starter, but live-armed Carl Pavano has been a question mark for years. Closers Braden Looper and Vladimir Nunez traded that role back and forth last summer and if neither can seize the day, Tim Spooneybarger might --- inspired by feeling dumped by Atlanta.
Cliff Floyd, who provided both production and protection, is gone from the batting order, but Rodriguez could fill that bill, meshing with solid hitter Mike Lowell and budding slugger Derrek Lee. Some Marlins believe Lee is ready for a 30-HR, 100-RBI season.
Speed and contact hitting have been virtually doubled with the addition of center-fielder Juan Pierre. It's not at all a stretch to see him and second baseman Luis Castillo both at .300+ with 100 runs and 50 steals. Juan Encarnation is a balanced player in right field, Todd Hollandsworth is not awesome in left. And someone needs to light a fire under so-so shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Veteran reserve infielder Mike Mordecai and catcher Mike Redmond will be helpful off the bench.
Projected Lineup: This is difficult to call and seems to be in flux. For example,
there is talk of Encarnacion batting second. Following is a good possibility:
Prediction: Since the championship team was scattered six years ago, the whole Florida situation has reflected a case of "the blahs." There's no flair there. One cannot blame the fans, who need some inspiration. A star turn by Rodriguez, a jazzy slap-and-run game, power from Lee, and the emergence of a couple of the starters toward 15-16 wins could provide escape from the doldrums. But the division is improved in many ways. Florida will be better but will finish last.
Leave feedback on our message board.