This past Monday, the Miami Marlins added some serious pop to their roster by acquiring Jonathan Villar from the Baltimore Orioles and claiming first baseman Jesús Aguilar off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. Both players are known for pushing the 30-40 homer mark in recent years. For a team waiting for an impressive crop of minor-leaguers to become major-league-ready, the moves make a ton of sense.
Two days later, the Marlins announced plans to move segments of their outfield fence from center field to right-center field, closer to home plate — roughly five to seven feet closer depending upon the section. The Fish also revealed they'll replace the grass with a synthetic surface. Seeing that the Marlins have obvious needs in the power and stolen-base departments, those upgrades will be essential heading into a pivotal season in the franchise's post-Jeffrey Loria rebuild.
It's been a big week for the Miami Marlins and another step in the transformation of a franchise that needed a dramatic makeover following years of turmoil, fan distrust, irresponsible free-agent signings, a lack of salary-cap spending, and on-field failures. The Marlins have money to spend if the moves make sense. They have young players coming through the minor-league pipelines, some arriving this season.
It's clear the Marlins have organizational direction now and, most important, are concerned with what's best for the team, not the owner's wallet. That's new. And every detail, including the infield grass, reminds fans of that fact.
For years, Marlins fans and Twitter implored the team to move the fences in because everyone had grown sick of watching hitters spend 82 games a season fly 400 feet to center, when in other parks around the league, the same contact would have meant trotting around the bases after a home run. Everyone agreed the fence placement was a home-field disadvantage, the exact opposite of what the team, already up against the odds, needed.
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The Marlins finally listened to fans and the media and are now making the changes. Moving a fence a few feet might seem like a small detail, but it points to the fact that CEO Derek Jeter and his team are willing to make the logical crowdsourced move if it's for the good of the Marlins.
The team was talent-deficit in certain areas, and when it became clear Villar and Aguilar would be available, fans and local media immediately proclaimed adding both players seemed like a no-brainer. The Marlins agreed and jumped on an obvious move that would come at very little cost.
Listening to the fans has been a theme since Jeter arrived in Miami. He began his tenure by calling a season-ticketholder town hall he knew would involve a lot of venting. In the end, he took a lot of suggestions to heart and learned what fans hated about the old regime. And they have seen the changes.
The Marlins are listening when it comes to everything from the roster to the infield grass. It's time to stop scolding them for the prior ownership's failures and cheer them on for making all the appropriate changes. Soon enough, those changes will lead to a whole lot more wins and many more fans.