MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Marlins will gather their staff for baseball operations president Larry Beinfest’s first meeting of spring training Sunday morning. In past years, his program began with a review of the previous season.
Not this time.
The Marlins are simply tired of hearing about all that went wrong in 2012 — and the fallout that followed. They changed managers, traded players, sliced off a huge percentage of payroll and are bracing to play in front of sparse crowds once again in a ballpark that has only hosted the team for one season.
So on Sunday, Beinfest will try to usher in a new beginning.
“It is time to turn the page,” Beinfest said. “Organizationally, we have. My preamble to the staff will not include anything about last season. Generally, when I open things up with our field staff, we talk a little bit about the previous season and how the winter went and my plan is not to talk about it at all. I think it’s kind of done. I think we need to talk about our young players, talk about the 2013 Marlins and move forward.”
Really, they have little choice.
The Marlins are starting over in many respects, with a new manager in Mike Redmond, a slew of new players — so many that even a veteran like Juan Pierre, who is returning for his second stint with the franchise, acknowledged Saturday that he spent some time leaning backward to check out the names on the backs of the jerseys of teammates he was meeting for the first time.
“When spring training starts, it’s a rebirth,” Marlins president David Samson said. “And we’re starting over. We acknowledged our mistakes and we’re starting over and we’re happy it’s time now.”
The starting-over process really started last summer, when the Marlins traded away Hanley Ramirez, the first step in a salary purge. After the season, Miami sent former NL batting champion Jose Reyes, former NL ERA leader Josh Johnson and left-hander Mark Buehrle to Toronto. Their opening-day payroll in 2012 was $112 million — this year, it will be about two-fifths of that.
Samson, who spoke for nearly an hour about a variety of topics — including what he called erroneous reporting and perceptions about funding matters for the $515 million ballpark — said when he met with fans on Saturday, the conversations were positive.
“One fan at a time. That’s what we do,” Samson said. “That’s what we tell everyone. We literally understand the frustration. It’s hard.”
Players are aware of the frustration as well. Many, including Giancarlo Stanton — who was not at the team’s event for fans at the ballpark on Saturday, though the Marlins expect him to report to camp in time for the first on-field, full-squad workout on Friday — took to Twitter to express their disappointment when the trade with Toronto happened.
Logan Morrison, one of the team’s more prolific tweeters and now the team’s new first baseman, said it makes no sense to enter the new year resentful over anything.
“My take on it is I don’t give a (bleep) about it because I can’t control it,” said Morrison, who’s still recovering from knee surgery but aiming for a return before opening day. “So that’s my take. I’ve got a job to do and it doesn’t change my job description. I’m going to play first base on this team and I’m going to do my best to fill every role that is presented to me, whether it’s hitting behind or hitting in front of Giancarlo — because he’s still on the team.”
Redmond, who’s replacing Ozzie Guillen as skipper, was all smiles on Saturday.
The former Marlins catcher was brought aboard by Miami about a month after last season ended — and not long before the big trade with Toronto took place. He said he’s as eager for this spring training as a manager as he was for any as a player.
“The last couple months have been torture, getting the job and having to wait so long to finally get on the field,” Redmond said. “It’s exciting to be here, to get around the players and the coaching staff and to realize that we’ve just got a couple days now to wait before we actually get on the field and start focusing on baseball. I’m ready to get going.”
And even though it’s almost certain that the Marlins will face low expectations, that won’t be the case internally, Morrison said.
“You can’t replace hunger,” Morrison said. “A dog’s No. 1 motivation is food. He won’t sit for you when you first get him unless you have a treat or shove some food in front of him. That’s what we have to do. We have to be hungry. We have to be willing to give up things that other teams aren’t willing to give up. It won’t be that hard. They’ve got their contract. They’re happy with their families and things like that. They’re secure. We’re still fighting.”