Don't You Just Want to Pinch Their Cheeks?

Baseball teams are like children. When they're small, they're kind of cute to look at, but they walk funny, they talk funny, and they make messes for other people to clean up. When they get just a smidgen older, they can actually, you know, do stuff — and still be super fun to watch. When they mature … well, nobody wants a kid with wrinkles. The Florida Marlins exemplify this cycle. They were cute when they were born in 1993; they made us proud when they won their first World Series in 1997; after that, the team got dismantled and sold off. Soon, the cycle started all over again: The Fish won their second World Series in 2003, then got picked apart, and began again last year with a roster of rookies. By this logic, 2007 is the year to pay attention — when the team will combine its still-youthful enthusiasm with a dose of experience, and churn its way up in the standings. Brand-new manager Fredi Gonzalez is the boss of a team whose veterans are 25-year-old Dontrelle Willis and 23-year-old Miguel Cabrera (whose pay this year went up from $472,000 to a big-boy salary of $7.4 million). Last year's rookies — like Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez — will become this year's senior employees. Although the Marlins played an exhibition game against the University of Miami Hurricanes last week, spring training begins for real Thursday, March 1, against the Baltimore Orioles. The team plays every day this week at 1:05 p.m., with a double-header Wednesday, March 7 (against the Orioles at 1:05 and the Dodgers at 7:05) at Roger Dean Stadium.
Thu., March 1


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