Fifteen years ago, the Florida Marlins made the headlines by making the biggest splash in team history, signing Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Alex Fernandez in an attempt to seriously challenge the Atlanta Braves on the National League East. While the team didn't win the division, it did win the wild card and brought home the bigger prize, a World Series title. Despite the ugliness of owner Wayne Huizenga's fire sale following the season, the 1997 Marlins remain a textbook example of what can happen when teams make a big push at just the right time.
The now-Miami Marlins hope to repeat that feat in 2012, signing Jose Reyes, the best shortstop available this offseason, and closer Heath Bell, who is fresh off saving 132 games over the last three seasons. All indications are that the team isn't done yet either, with rumors swirling that the team still hopes to make a serious run at Albert Pujols. After watching the team cut payroll to the bone for a decade, it appears that the formerly penny-pinching team owner, Jeff Loria, is willing to use the new stadium money for more than just horribly gaudy home run displays.
With Reyes in the fold, likely rebound seasons from Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan, and no major losses from last year's lineup, the Marlins figure to do better than 11th in the league in run scoring. Add in the return of most of the contributors in the bullpen -- the departed
Leo Nunez Juan Oviedo (4.06 ERA) was actually mediocre -- and the hope that Josh Johnson can start more than nine games in 2012, and the Marlins start to look like a team that can bounce back nicely from their 72-90, last place season.