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Big-Spending Marlins Finally Embracing Miami

Marlin Jose Reyes (AP Photo)

I know the Marlins are a small market team. I know they do what they can with young players and then jettison them instead of paying them. I know no one wants to play for them. I know they have a horrible stadium. I know they have horrible uniforms. As long as I’ve cared about sports, I have known all of these things.

Not anymore.

Between the Jose Reyes signing (six years, $106 million), the Mark Buehrle signing (four years, $58 million), and the Heath Bell signing (three years, $27 million), they have already committed $191 million to free agents this offseason. Combine this with the aggressive manner in which they pursued Albert Pujols (ten-year offer) and C.J. Wilson (six year, $99 million offer), this offseason’s two most attractive free agents, it is obvious this team is willing to spend.

This isn’t the team that didn’t want to pay Dan Uggla last year.

They are exploiting their biggest asset: Miami’s culture. Given a choice, most Caribbean baseball players (which is many of them) would prefer spending time in Miami to just about every other MLB city. New York, LA, and San Diego can provide a similar experience in some cases, but none of them have Miami’s flare. Moreover, when the money is comparable, most ballplayers will choose Miami over just about anywhere else.

It makes sense that they are finally taking advantage of the built-in advantages Miami provides. Miami is only a sports town when its teams are winning. There are better things to do than watch losing teams, so Miami fans are about as frontrunner-y as you can get. The Marlins will never have a home field advantage in that sense.

However, no MLB city is more entrenched in Latino culture than Miami. It is in many ways a Caribbean city, and none of the other 29 teams are close. The organization is embracing this, between the new uniforms, the rebranding of the team as the Miami Marlins, and the hiring of Ozzie Guillen. They are starting anew as they move into a new stadium, and you can tell they’re trying to be an entirely new organization. Who were their top targets as free agency began? Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols, arguably the two most exciting Latino players in baseball.

Superficial changes do have an effect on a team’s success. When the Tennessee Oilers became the Tennessee Titans and promptly went to the Super Bowl, it felt like their new uniforms refreshed them and gave them a new attitude. This organization could very well go from being “the hapless Florida Marlins” to being the “Latino Miami Marlins.”

As long as Pitbull isn’t involved, this sounds like a fine strategy.

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