After a tumultuous career in Chicago with the Cubs, it was another new employee of the Marlins relocating from Chicago that helped Carlos Zambrano. It was Ozzie Guillen and he felt that Zambrano could use a climate change and that this would help him perform better.
So far it is working.
Zambrano entered tonight’s game against the Cleveland Indians with a 1.88 ERA and after another solid 7 inning performance, Big Z walked away with his 2nd win of the season and an ERA at 1.96. Hitters are only hitting .199 against him in 55 IP.
Meanwhile, Chris Volstad, former Marlins frontline prospect and top draft pick, was unpacked to acquire Zambrano this past offseason. Volstad was recently demoted to Iowa after going 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA. The Cubs have been defeated in all 8 of his starts thus far. Zambrano, who is owed about $16M, is still getting his check cashed by the Cubs which must be doubly troubling for the Cubs who realized he would not fit within their organization but may have pinned too many hopes on Volstad to replace him.
The Marlins are getting Zambrano at about a $2M price tag, basically Volstad’s paycheck, and are getting a frontline starter draped in the middle of their rotation without the pressure to succeed which may have hampered him in Chicago. His sinkerball continues to find effective work and Zambrano is pitching with ferocity and confidence on the mound.
A new name, a new game? The artist formerly known as Mike Stanton was struggling. He was putting up Albert Pujols-like numbers – that is the Angels version of Pujols. No home runs in 2012 despite a new ballpark, new manager, new uniforms, higher expectations, new teammates and a future as bright as the Miami sun itself.
Now, after seven games on this road trip, Giancarlo Stanton has 6 home runs. The power has awoken and he is mashing the ball. In fact, so strong is he that the scary thing is he is not even getting all of the ball – and he’s crushing it.
Last night he dropped one into the left field warehouse in San Diego. Tonight, he lifted a lined drive over the wall to left field – a laser that could have gone through anyone crazy enough to stand in the way.
So, what happened? Why is it clicking? Tom D’Angelo put together a very nice piece that discusses how moving his hands back has really helped Stanton stay back on the ball and get his timing right. Now, his swing is crisp and whispers about his health are dissipating.
Stanton had gone a career long 97 at bats without a homer until April 29th, which was at Marlins Park. Now 7 games into a 9 game road trip and he has hit 5 more home runs. He’s ripping the ball and doing it with more confidence. Ozzie Guillen isn’t sold on all the technical talk, but says he is quite simply swinging at strikes now. A 10 game hitting streak with 6 home runs is pretty impressive no matter how it is done.
Whatever is going on, Giancarlo is finally doing his best Mike Stanton imitation. He is hitting the ball and driving in runs and it is no coincidence that the Marlins are starting to win games more regularly again.
One month into the season and the Marlins’ closer role is still looking unanswered. In an offseason where lots of money was spent by the new-look Marlins, there was a conviction that the position for closing games was solved. Now, it seems, the Marlins are scratching their heads.
The Marlins have $27M reasons why they should be wondering if they made the right move. With his fourth blown save in seven opportunities, Heath Bell is looking more and more like a mistake. “We gotta do something. We can’t be waiting anymore,” Ozzie Guillen said to the press shortly after last night’s 9-8 12th inning win for the Marlins.
Being 0-3 with 4 saves and an 11.45 ERA is not what the Fish had envisioned when Bell was signed this past offseason. But it gets worse – his numbers, thus far, are in sharp decline.
Bell’s K per 9 innings ratio is down from 11.1 in 2010 to and 7.3 last season to only 5.9 this season. He has only 6 Ks in 8.2 innings but has 10 walks. He is not getting his first batters out and both sides of the plate are mashing him – lefties hit .308 while righties hit an appalling .409 right now.
Scouts are noting that he doesn’t look the same on the mound and that his velocity has begun to dip a bit. His location is off and he is struggling. The question is, can he correct this and emerge out of this funk as a consistent late game closer and will the Marlins be forced to scrap it and go in another direction? Judging by the trends of his numbers, it would seem that his walks are an anomaly or in the least, in direct correlation with control problems. He already has 10 walks while averaging about 26 per season from 2007-2011.
Ozzie’s let’s see and wait approach may only last a few more games – as it should. One of his strengths is his ability to make detached decisions while a manager like Freddie Gonzalez would give too many chances and cost his team games. Expect a short leash and possibly a change in the backend of the bullpen. You might see Heath Bell become one of the more expensive set up men in the league.
Looks like Showtime is going to spend some time this season with the Miami Marlins. It will be interesting to see our team through the lens of a national narrative, finding the story lines that will matter most to the national audience. It will be interesting to see what issues and views gain traction outside the local confines of South Florida.
This episode focuses on Ozzie’s return to the Marlins and what kind of reaction awaits him. Watch for yourself:
One of the reasons why Ozzie Guillen was hired for this team was for his candid personality and his ability to speak his mind. Good or bad, you know what you are getting with Ozzie Guillen. He doesn’t pull punches, he doesn’t hide his thoughts, he doesn’t mince words. He is the antithesis to anything the Marlins have had on their bench in all of their franchise’s history.
Yes, what he said was a mistake, but probably taken a bit more out of context than anything. Besides, if Cuban Americans are so up in arms over Castro, what better situation could they have asked for than a prominent Hispanic figure shining a light on an issue that is important to them?
Sure, Ozzie has gotten himself into hot water. And yes it is probably a very strong miscalculation on his part to praise Castro, in any shape or form, while going to work 81 days of the year in Hialeah, Miami, the epicenter of all things Cuban. It is the nerve center for the consciousness of Cuba and its relations to America. But that is just Ozzie being Ozzie, isn’t it? Isn’t that what we all should expect?
Yet consider if Guillen toed the standard party line, and was not supportive of Castro’s regime. That wouldn’t be news. Probably would be cut from his interview. Instead, because he gave Castro a light endorsement, saying he admired the dictator for staying in power for so long. Guillen stressed there was a bit of a misunderstanding, as it seems likely that he wouldn’t be supportive of his crimes against humanity but instead be more likely to admire the ability to have such a dominance over Cuba for so long. Cuban Americans should take note – it is impressive, although for the wrong reasons. It is a testament to how backwards things in Cuba are.
Now, consider how much this story is being discussed. It has reached a national level not only giving prominent exposure to Guillen and the Marlins, but also to the very issue of the political situation in Cuba. What is America’s foreign policy stance towards Cuba? Is it helpful? What exactly is going on in Cuba? In light of the recent world developments of the Arab Spring, Kony 2012 debacle, and the economic problems of Europe (and Greece), there is a need to create awareness on such issues.
They say there is no such thing as bad PR, and well, whoever said that are right. Guillen was brought into Miami to help usher in a new era of baseball. The people of Miami are talking about baseball, but also are talking about their new manager as if he has an obligation to support their wishes politically as well. To people outside of Miami, this may not be anything more than Ozzie being Ozzie, but then again to those same people they might not understand the diversity of Hispanics living here in the United States. Ozzie Guillen’s comments illustrate this to the rest of the country while also bringing into sharp contrast the diversity of Hispanic America. They may share the same language, but by no means do they share the ideas politically. Hispanics are very diverse, unique, and have a lot to offer the fabric of the American quilt.
There are those calling for Ozzie to be fired and there are those, Cuban Americans actually, who are supportive of Ozzie the player. They know his personality and understand the spirit of his comments even if they don’t agree with a positive depiction of Castro. Ozzie has apologized for his comments and is legitimately sorry for what he said. He may not have realized that his new community would react so strongly to something that may have passed under the radar back in Chicago. There, a strong Mexican population predominates whereas here in Miami, a stronger Carribean and South American population exists – namely the Cuban community which is based where he is now.
Ultimately, Ozzie will rectify this situation by focusing on managing games and winning games. He will probably develop a little more of a buffer when it comes to politics and his comments in the media. That said, we should all emphasize and protect the right to free speech because that is a fundamental right that we as Americans share. We may not agree with you, but we support your right to say it. We may not agree with Ozzie Guillen’s comments, but he has every right to say what he thinks. We also have the right to use his comments as a springboard to a greater discussion about Cuba’s political system and their effects on our fellow countrymen who live here and their relatives who are still back in Cuba. What Ozzie did was create awareness about the plight of Cuba and in shining a light on it, forces us to face this topic and have a conversation about it.
In the end, Cuban Americans should be excited about this opportunity and should also utilize this situation to try and bring some attention to it. The Marlins, if they play this right, can also put themselves in the heart of the conversation and take on a greater role within the community – not just being a baseball team based in Hialeah, but also being a public venue for their community while also illustrating its passion and its heart.