The Astros finished off their first homestand of the season with a 3-3 record and are headed to Miami for a three game series against the Marlins. The team formerly known as the Florida Marlins has made plenty of headlines in recent months- some good, and some bad. A trio of high-priced Free Agents, a new stadium, and a new manager have brought plenty of extra attention to South Florida lately. To get geared up for the series, I did a little question and answer session with Ehsan Kassim. Ehsan is the senior editor at FanSided’s Marlin Maniac.
The Marlins are off to bit of a rough start and I wanted to get Ehsan’s take on a few topics that will be key to their success not only in this series, but as the season progresses. So let’s get to it.
Josh Johnson has been hit pretty hard in his first two starts now. Are you concerned that the big guy may not be the dominant ace that he was before the injury?
"After two starts, I am not overly concerned. It is annoying, but we have to remember, this was just his second game since last May. It will take a bit of time for him to bounce back. He did not have the best of springs, either. If by his fifth or sixth start, Johnson is still struggling, then the Marlins are in dodoo. The playoff chances of this team hinges on Josh Johnson and his unpredictable shoulders."
Hanley Ramirez looks a little lost at 3B. Do you think he can become a decent defender at the hot corner any time soon?
"He has actually looked fine out at 3B. He has had an occasional play here or there, but he will get better with experience. His defense already seems like an improvement from shortstop. The more important thing the Marlins need from Hanley is for his bat to bounce back. If Hanley does not return to the elite level of hitting that he was once at, the Marlins offense goes from one of the top in the National League to one of the worst.I am not overly concerned about either. Hanley is having some good hacks at the plate right now. It is only a matter of time until he starts getting some of them to fall for base hits. As for his defense, I don’t think he’ll ever be a gold glover out there, but his defense will at the very least be passable."
The new stadium is a thing of beauty. From what I’ve seen it looks like the ball carries well to RF but seems to die in left-center. In the long run, do you think it will be a park that favors hitters or pitchers?
"The ball park is amazing. Unfortunately, I live in Alabama, so I have not had an opportunity to make it out there yet. As for what you noticed, that does seem to be exactly true. Giancarlo Stanton had two blasts on opening night that seemed good enough to leave most Major League ballparks.As for the long run, it will be a pitchers park. I love that we are going away from these stupid bandbox stadiums. Either way, every stadium in baseball is Giancarlo’s stadium. Whether it favors pitching or hitting, he will hit a bomb every time 😉"
It didn’t take Ozzie Guillen long to alienate the people of South Florida (and pretty much everyone else.) Many were calling for his dismissal and the Marlins ultimately decided to suspend the loose-lipped skipper for five games. Do you think the punishment fits the crime here, or should Guillen have been given a harsher penalty?
"First off, shout out to ESPN for completely getting the story wrong and spinning it in a manner that made Ozzie Guillen look worse than he actually is. Ozzie Guillen never complimented Fidel Castro’s politics. He admired his longevity. People need to get that straight.I can understand why the team suspended him, probably the right move. With the pressure from the fans, I don’t think the team had much of a choice. I am not against the punishment at all.But I don’t support it because of the fact that people who get DUI’s get no punishment. What is baseball’s message? Kids, voicing your political opinions is bad, but drinking and driving is amazing! Everyone should do it.Earlier this season, Ubaldo Jimenez got a five-game suspension for throwing at Troy Tulowitzki. Nyjer Morgan got an eight-game suspension for starting a fight with the Marlins. Gaby Sanchez got three games for clotheslining Morgan.I understand what Ozzie said was stupid, but the suspension does not fit the bill if this is the punishment for fighting and breaking a law. Just my 2 cents."
Guillen will miss the series while he serves his suspension and the Astros will also miss Johnson’s turn in the rotation this time around. Lucas Harrell threw seven scoreless innings in his Astros debut and will make his second start on Friday against Ricky Nolasco. Bud Norris opposes Astro-killer Carlos Zambrano on Saturday and J.A. Happ gets the Sunday assignment against Miami’s Anibal Sanchez.