I’m not sure there will be a more interesting division to follow in baseball this season than the National League East. You could probably find a way to convince me that any one of the division’s teams could wind up making the playoffs — yes, even the Mets, though that argument might be tougher than the others.
I see no problem in arguing that the Miami Marlins will find a way in during their first season under the tutelage of Ozzie Guillen. They’ve got what appears to be a solid rotation that has pitched well in spring training. Their bats haven’t come alive, but certainly should when that lineup is healthy. The only thing standing in the way are the teams around them with the dynamic staff of the Phillies, a Braves team that was in the playoffs before a collapse down the stretch last year and an improving Nationals group. Hang on for the ride.
Ozzie Guillen joined 790 The Ticket in Miami with Dan Lebatard to discuss any surprises he’s seen as manager in Miami, Hanley Ramirez’s move to third base, why his hitters didn’t produce in spring training, his expectations in terms of victories this year and the new stadium in Miami.
Has there been anything so far that has surprised you as manager of the Marlins?:
“To be honest with you, it didn’t surprise me the way spring training went. I think it was enthusiastic and a lot of fun. I think the team is playing very well. We’re pitching very well. That’s very important for me. The hitting will come around. … There’s a lot of things going on right now, a lot of good things going on the last couple weeks and I can’t wait ’til the games start.”
How did you smooth over with Hanley Ramirez his move to third base?:
“That thing came from random people. It never came from Hanley. Hanley never said in the media or mentioned to anybody that he wasn’t happy. I talked to Hanley a few times in the offseason. I was very honest with him, very clear. I think we treated Hanley the way we should be treating him — with respect, with love, with a lot of communication. That’s what it was. I tell people in the offseason, ‘I want to see Hanley happy. I want to see Hanley with a smile on his face.’ And he has. That helps a lot. I think this kid has been playing great third base, has a great attitude.”
Can you take us a little more inside what those conversations were like with him?:
“First of all, I told him exactly, ‘You’re going to play third base. You’re upset or you’re going to play third base happy. You’ve got two choices. You’re not playing shortstop for us because we brought in somebody that’s going to help you.’ … We built this ballclub around him. Hanley is the manley. Everything comes out just to help him to win, to help him to get better. … Jose and him are very good friends. It helped a little bit, that situation. Everything so far is all good. … It seems like [he’s happy]. He’s playing well, playing like a pro. … You’re going to see a different Hanley this year. You’re not going to see Hanley happy every day. I don’t expect that, because we’re human. We’re going to be upset, we’re going to be tired and we’re going to be worried about something, but I expect him to be the same guy most of the time when he wears his uniform.”
Your lineup looks stout. Why hasn’t it been producing this spring?:
“First of all, we don’t have Morrison or Stanton … all spring training. We played spring training without those guys. We have the pitching, hitting for three weeks. Everybody was using the DH. That happens. I don’t worry about the hitting. The only thing I care about is the pitching and they pitched very well. The hitting, it will come along. I think we had a lot of good hitters in the lineup and hopefully they go out there and do the job.”
I guarantee no injuries this year, how many games do you win?:
“I want to win one more game than the guys in second place, that’s it. … I will take that. How many wins? I don’t know. I just want to get in the playoffs. I think this ballclub is ready to do it. … The talent is there. Hopefully they know what we want. I will take this ballclub against anybody. We have an unbelievable division. There are a lot of teams there that will compete, but I think if we do everything we’re supposed to do, we should be competing.”
What is your favorite part of the new stadium?:
“It’s a beautiful ballpark. I think the clubhouse is amazing. I think it’s very comfortable for the players. Moving out of the place that we was, everything is good. I think it’s great for the fans. I think they did a tremendous job. … I love it.” The old place was a dump wasn’t it?: “I wish I could say that on the air, but I can’t. To be honest, I think the ballpark out there wasn’t for baseball. … But they won two championships in the old ballpark and nobody noticed. Hopefully in the new ballpark we do the same stuff.”
Listen to Ozzie Guillen on 790 The Ticket in Miami here (Interview begins at 30:30)