In the winter of 1996-97, then Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga gave GM Dave Dombrowski permission to spend money and sign/trade for veteran players to augment a solid core of talent Edgar Renteria, Robb Nen, Charles Johnson, Devon White, Jeff Conine, Al Leiter and Kevin Brown.
Back then it was an annual undertaking for the club to try and gain public financing for a new ballpark; in this case, winning was seen as the cure. They hired Jim Leyland to manage; signed Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez, Dennis Cook and Moises Alou.
The 1997 Marlins won the Wild Card, upset the Braves in the NLCS and beat the Indians in a 7-game World Series.
Then they dismantled the team when they couldn’t get a new ballpark and were sold.
Now the Marlins have a new ballpark on the way; a talented group of young players; and money to spend.
The circumstances mirror each other.
They’re going to hire a name manager (most likely Ozzie Guillen).
They need a third baseman and Aramis Ramirez is being mentioned; they need pitching and C.J. Wilson is available; they have a first baseman in Gaby Sanchez, but he’d be trade bait if they made a move on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder; Jose Reyes would allow them to shift Hanley Ramirez to third base; Jonathan Papelbon would fill the void at closer.
Many players are from warm climates and would prefer that type of venue; or they’re attracted to the absence of a state income tax in Florida.
Players will want to play for the Marlins.
But will that bring in fans?
Will a contending team and a new, retractable roof ballpark attract the notoriously fickle and easily distracted, football-preferring masses to support the Marlins for the entire season rather than when they’re in the World Series?
We’re going to find out.