They live, as quietly as cloistered monks, among us. They wash our dogs, write our blogs, prepare our taxes, and, you know, do other things people do for a living. They are Florida Marlins fans. They do exist -- 600 at a time.
OK, so Miami doesn't have the most rabid fan base. And until that Britto-smeared retractable-roof spaceship lands in Little Havana, the Marlins play in an eerie concrete cavern where baseball romanticism goes to die. Nonetheless, the firm known as Loria, Beinfest & Ramirez ain't looking half-bad this year, despite a payroll equivalent to A-Rod's annual protein shake budget.
This time last year, Riptide predicted the Marlins' final win-loss record to within half a game -- we guesstimated a rain-cancellation-shortened 87-74 finish, and the team actually ended up 87-75, in the playoff hunt until the past week or so.
We're probably about to squander that psychic cred. Because while Tim Elfrink, who wrote last year's baseball preview, is a thoughtful sort of fellow, I'm a knee-jerker -- the type who bets on horses based on their names. And since it was a very quiet off-season, which is the best type of off-season Marlins fans can hope for, I'm feeling optimistic.
Florida held on to franchise savior Hanley Ramirez, and ace Josh Johnson, who is only 25, is a Cy Young winner in the making. The front office even actually parted with some cash to keep slugger Dan Uggla. It will be stud Chris Coghlan's first full year in the majors, and much-hyped Cameron Maybin will be Opening Day center-fielder. At the very least, it should be a very intriguing season.
Sure, the bullpen is most likely going to be godawful, but hey, shut up.
As always, those stat-crunching simulation jockeys over at Baseball Prospectus be hatin'. They say the Marlins will finish 80-82. I'm putting Riptide's money on 89 wins, a hard-fought wildcard berth... and a first-round playoff ouster. Hey, my naiveté has limits.
Here's the projected Opening Day lineup:
1 LF Chris Coghlan
2 C John Baker
3 SS Hanley Ramirez
4 3B Jorge Cantu
5 2B Dan Uggla
6 RF Cody Ross
7 1B Gaby Sanchez
8 CF Cameron Maybin
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The all-righty rotation:
1 Josh Johnson
2 Ricky Nolasco
3 Anibal Sanchez
4 Rick VandenHurk
5 Chris Volstad
The closer is slated to be Leo Nuñez -- but if you can accurately predict who'll be pitching nine innings come September, you need to go buy a trifecta and start a 900-number hot line immediately.