Baseball is Back: Miami Marlins Edition

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It’s that time of year again, folks. The buzz of a busy offseason has died down, and all eyes are now turned to the real thing. Pitchers and catchers reported on Friday for the Marlins, officially kicking off what hopes to be an exciting season for these up and coming Fish. The preseason projections, power rankings, and Vegas odds all get tossed aside, because we know better than to rely on the past.

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Baseball is back. At this time last year, what were Marlins fans looking forward to? Not much, but there’s always room for optimism at the onset of a season. Casey McGehee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones were hardly A-class upgrades, but fans looked forward to seeing if they could all turn out career years and make things interesting. Some of that happened, and largely the whole baseball world was shocked by what the lowly Marlins were able to accomplish last season. Baseball’s lowest payroll, an injured Jose Fernandez, and “Clank” Jones playing everyday aren’t exactly recipes for success, but the team’s grossly talented outfield was able to cover up most of the larger issues.

This year? Dee Gordon, Mat Latos, Mike Morse and Martin Prado have fans excited again, in a way not felt since 2012. Playoff talk, and lots of it has resurfaced in conversations about the Marlins, and even being in the discussion is a real breath of fresh air for a team that lost 100 games just two seasons ago.

The sight of Jose Fernandez at camp this weekend shined further light on the day, and the Tommy John victim stated that he feels like he “never had surgery,” and is cautiously optimistic. The past shows that players don’t come back from Tommy John and immediately return to their old selves. As the rehabbing process comes to a close, fans will be asked to temper their expectations, because we may not see the Jose of old for a little while.

The difference with Jose, is that nothing he has achieved up until this point has been on a normal timetable. His tremendous success at the age of 21 was almost taken for granted, and many forgot that he never pitched an inning above A ball before being promoted to the show; largely on account of his utter dominance upon arrival.

Perhaps even more valuable than his “defector” sweeping curve, is the energy he sends pulsing around the clubhouse. His teammates will be even more overjoyed to see him pitch again than the fans, and his return could have a huge impact on the morale of a team that could be looking towards a playoff chase.

Given, a lot has to go right for the Marlins in 2015 for the franchise to see its first playoff berth since 2003. But every team, to some degree, needs similar fortune to get a taste of October. The improved Cubs, Padres, Reds, Mets and Pirates all face question marks of their own. The road to October baseball is never easy, and the season is never won at the winter meetings, or in a blog’s WAR projections.

That, my friends is the single most endearing aspect of being a baseball fan. We can sit around all offseason and occupy ourselves with making predictions, analyzing trades, and grading contract extensions, but on April 6 all of that goes at the window. And that’s just perfect.

So here we are, on February 22, already eagerly anticipating Opening Day. The rosters are set, more or less, and the pitchers are getting loose for what promises to be a long and eventful season. Hopes are high, and the radar guns are getting lit up by all 30 teams’ pitching staffs on the sunny fields of Florida and Arizona. As I sit here on my computer at six in the morning, I only have one thing left to say: The Marlins are exciting again, and here’s to hoping it turns out better than the last time baseball felt this good.

Follow Marlin Maniac on Twitter @MarlinManiac for all your Miami Marlins news, opinion and analysis!

Next: Two Marlins on Fangraphs Top 200 Prospects

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