Florida Series Preview: Chatting with Marlins Maniac’s Ehsan Kassim
The past couple of days, Rays Colored Glasses has coordinated with fellow FanSided blog, Marlin Maniac, which as you probably figured out, covers the Miami Marlins (and does so extremely well), to exchange a few questions with one another and learn a little bit about our in-state rivals. I talked with Marlin Maniac editor Ehsan Kassim, and his responses were quite amusing.
Robbie Knopf: We all know that the newly-renamed Miami Marlins had themselves quite an offseason. We saw the Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell signings, the Hanley Ramirez controversy, Ozzie Guillen inserted as manager, and then there’s the matter of the enigmatic Carlos Zambrano. Which offseason signing are you most excited about? Do you think Ramirez can keep up the mature stance he’s taken regarding his move to third base? (Bonus question: is there any prospect in baseball feeling worse than Matt Dominguez right now after the third base job that seemed to be his for the taking like year is now something he may never get in a Marlins uniform?)
Ehsan Kassim: The Marlins were extremely busy this off-season. It was the most excited I ever remember being for free agency. Not even Lebron James “taking his talents to South Beach” had me more on the edge of my seat. As for the most exciting, I have to say Jose Reyes. He was second on my Marlins wish list, C.J. Wilson was actually number 1. I like the addition of Reyes because of his talent. If he can stay healthy, Reyes is immensely talented. He can swipe bases and hit for a good average. He won’t ever walk much, so his OBP is not ideal, but I will take his overall talents. Because of his friendship with Hanley and his talent, he is probably the only player in the MLB that could have moved Hanley from SS. That is great news for the Marlins. Ramirez sucked at short anyways. I keep hearing how talented of a fielder he was, I would love to punch those people in the face. I digress, Reyes friendship and the excitement he bring to the Marlins are going to be so much fun to watch. He is the best thing that ever happened to Hanley Ramirez.
As for Matt Dominguez, I feel bad for him, kind of. He is still going to have a great shot to make in somewhere. Best case scenario for both him and the club would be that he finds a way to hit in the minors and is moved for a center fielder, that the Marlins will surely need by the trade deadline.
RK: What did you think about the Zambrano trade? Do you think he has anything left in the tank?
EK: I was extremely torn about the Zambrano trade. I still am a big believer in Chris Volstad and him turning it around. I am alone in that assessment as a Marlins fan. As for acquiring Zambrano, I was extremely excited. I still think Zambrano can be a decent pitcher if he has his head on straight. Ozzie seems to be the perfect manager to keep him in check. I am pretty sure he will have a few blowups, but I also believe that Heath Bell’s hugs and ice cream will keep him focused long enough to post a decent season. After that, I hope we don’t resign him to a long term deal, as I don’t trust him in the long run.
RK: What are your thoughts on the whole Ozzie Guillen-Bobby Valentine incident that recently transpired? Are you looking forward to transitioning from the no-nonsense Jack McKeon to the ubiquitously unpredictable Guillen? Can I get an over-under on the number of Guillen and Zambrano meltdowns we’ll see in 2012?
EK: That was probably the funniest thing I have ever seen in a Spring Training. I could not stop laughing. In fact, I still have it saved on Tivo, and I watch it time and time for pure entertainment. Who would have thought that Bobby V would be a bigger distraction so far then Ozzie. I sure did not.
As for the meltdowns, here is an over-under of what you can expect from the Ozzie and Zambrano:
- Water coolers damaged: 10
- Ozzie’s ejections: 7
- Big Z’s ejections: 5
- Games suspended for both: 6
That seems about right for that duo. I am so glad the camera will be on them at all times. My blogging side is looking more forward to the season then my Marlins fanhood!
RK: A couple of non-newcomers who will be critical to the Marlins’ success are Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez. Do you think that duo can stay healthy and be the dominant pitchers the Marlins need at the top of their rotation?
EK: I want to say more then anything that Josh Johnson will be healthy in 2012 and he will be a major reason why the Marlins make the playoffs. I just don’t believe it right now. Maybe I will feel a bit more comfortable if I can see JJ string together a bunch of strong starts. My concern for his high pitch counts early in the game is not being helped right now, though.
As for Sanchez, he is in his walk season. He will be a free agent at the years end and the team has yet to offer him an extension. I believe he will use that as motivation and have a very strong season. If he can do that, I believe he is the Marlins second best pitcher. He does scare me though. He recently said that he always feels pain in his shoulder. That is not a good sign. I believe that played into why the Marlins have not extended him.
Overall, JJ and Anibal will be the most imporant pitchers to the Marlins success. We cannot do much with either of them missing significant time. At this time, I don’t know if I can trust Johnson. I do think Anibal can stay healthy though.
RK: The NL East is as good as it has ever been. We have the Phillies, who are slipping but still have unbelievable pitching, the Braves who can be considered perennial contenders once again even after their 2011 collapse, the Marlins, and a Nationals team that is rising fast and could be ready to contend as soon as this season. Do you think the Marlins have to talent to take the division crown in 2012? What are your expectations for this coming season?
EK: If the Marlins want to take the division, the first month maybe the most important month for them to jump on the Phillies. I firmly believe that the Marlins with their off-season have surpassed the Atlanta Braves as the second best team in the division. In fact, there are more question marks with the Braves then the Marlins. The Phillies are still the class of the division. They will be a tough team to score on, but with Utley and Howard’s injuries, they should also have a difficult time scoring.
The Marlins feature the strongest lineup in the division and the pitching staff has the potential to be very strong as well. The Marlins will need a couple of breaks to go their way to win the division, but there is always a chance over a 162 game schedule of that happening.
Personally, I expect the Marlins to win between 85 and 88 games. I doubt that will win the Marlins the division, but a wild card spot is wide open. If you asked me now, this is how I would say the NL East will shape up:
I will get a lot of crap from Braves fans, but I am ready for that.
RK: Nice talking to you Ehsan. Maybe we can do this again later in the season.
EK: Yeah, definitely. We could do it when the Marlins play the Rays later in the season. And in the World Series! (laughs)
Ehsan also talked to me about the Rays and here is the link to that.