Catching up with the Marlins: Marlin Maniac

To help kick start the second half of the 2010 season for the Nationals we sat down with Michael Jong from Marlins Maniac to discuss his team and our upcoming series. Topics discussed include the former blockbuster trade shipping away Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, Josh Johnson, and the clubs strategy moving forward this year. Check it out:

TNB: What are the Marlins missing to take the next step to be a true competitor for the NL East title?

The Marlins are missing a competent bullpen and a third or fourth starter at this point in the game. They do not have enough hitters who are simply going to outmash other teams, but they are enough above average that the team does not need wholesale improvements to the offense. Similarly, the pitching staff is good enough to create leads, but the bullpen is just bad enough to lose a lot of them. As to how they will get them, improvements will mostly have to come internally, so hopefully the team can spin some deals for their current veterans and receive parts for a future contending team in return.

TNB: Will the Marlins be buyers at the deadline?

All indications point to them not being buyers, as the team is too far out of the division race and would have to win the Wild Card against multiple difficult opponents such as the Reds and Mets. At this point, the team is unlikely to be in contention late in the season barring a ten-game winning streak of some kind. In addition, the Marlins have a few players who are heading into their final arbitration year or free agency, and it would be wise for the club to get what they can from them lest they walk away due to increasing salaries for nothing.

TNB: Josh Johnson has been amazing this year, tell us a little bit about what he brings to the table.

Josh Johnson has been the best starter in baseball this season in terms of performance. He is a new breed of dominant pitcher that we are seeing a lot more nowadays: the guy who has both electrifying strikeout stuff and the ability to induce ground balls. In the past, ground ball rates above 50% have been the markings of pitchers with better control and less of a power pitching game, but guys like Johnson and Ubaldo Jimenez are bucking the trend. Johnson brings an high-octane fastball in the mid to upper 90’s, a devastating slider, and a good changeup that induces grounders against lefties. In short, he is a difficult package for anyone to deal with, and a great package (on a cheap, team-friendly deal) for the Marlins to have.

TNB: A big part of the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit was Cameron Maybin…so afr he has not lived up to the hype…at this point what are the expectations for him?

Cameron Maybin is quickly falling through the cracks in terms of expectations. Right now, the team is hoping he can alleviate some of the critical strikeout issues he has, issues that are related to both contact and plate recognition problems. He will be given the opportunity to play, if only because the Marlins will have few other internal options in the next few years, but he is only a bad start or two away from being given up on as yet another tools-heavy outfielder who never developed the skills to hit at the big league level.

TNB: Lost in the shuffle of Strasburg and Heyward is Mike Stanton…What have you seen from him so far?

Mike Stanton has brought exactly what we expected. He has hit some towering home runs, but also has looked awful at the plate with his strikeouts. No matter how good you are, striking out over 35% of the time is going to make life difficult offensively, and right now that is Stanton’s MO. He is still extremely young, being only 20 years of age this season, so there is a lot of time to work on his strike zone recognition and contact woes. He’ll get every chance to work on this at the big league level this season. The power remains promising and indeed enticing, but he still has a ways to go before he is the player everyone wants him to be.

TNB: All-time favorite Marlins memory?

I started with the Marlins in 1997 when I jumped on the World Series bandwagon. I stuck around after the team was dismantled and went through my share of headaches as the Marlins struggled under massive payroll constraints. That’s why it was so rewarding to me when I was able to witness the 2003 Florida Marlins run through the NL and win the World Series after years of struggles and mediocrity. One of my lasting memories will be turning off the television when the Marlins were down 3-0 in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Cubs, then turning it back on just in time to catch the Bartman moment and watch the ensuing 8-run inning unfold. Of course, that lead to eventually seeing Josh Beckett blank the New York Yankees, tag Jorge Posada for the final out of the game, and celebrate in Yankee Stadium as the Marlins won in the World Series in six games. It was an amazing postseason.