By now you’ve heard about how the Florida Marlins are making a splash in the baseball world by moving into Miami, opening a brand new stadium, and adopting an all or nothing attitude towards the 2012 season.
These Fish want to win, and they have a lot of money to spend. What’s important about the move to Miami, along with the fact that they are tapping into a larger market, is that the Marlins are mirroring changes in our country by becoming a sports franchise that is decidedly Latino in nature.
The new stadium, which boasts a retractable roof and a price tag of $2.4 billion, is located right in the heart of Little Havana, one of the most densely populated Latino neighborhoods in the country. When the Marlins opened the facility and announced their new brand, they did so in style, hosting an all night party with performances by Pitbull and Emilio Estefan. In announcing their new logos and name, the franchise is also changing the way it does business. Traditionally a small market team, the Marlins boasted a total payroll of $57 million last year – a relatively small amount compared to say, the Yankees. This team, known for signing draft picks and releasing them before free agency, is now ready to adopt a style very different from the norm.
Let’s take into account Miami’s most recent off season strategy – signing free agent and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. ‘El Hombre’ is currently poised to receive one of the largest contracts ever tendered to a professional sports player – a 10 year deal exceeding a cool $200 million. Or what Yankee fans refer to as ‘A-Rod’ money. In comparison, the market for the heavy-hitting Pujols also includes Brewer’s first baseman Prince Fielder. The players have drawn a lot of comparison, the major difference being that Pujols is about 70 pounds lighter and the better defender. This difference aside, the most glaringly obvious is that Fielder is four years younger and can be had more cheaply – a deciding factor that a team new to spending a lot of money might find attractive. To date, Miami has yet to contact Fielder, opting to focus on Pujols during the offseason.
Why? It’s simple. If you want to establish yourself as a Latino brand – why not go after one of the most influential Latino players of all time. It’s a lot easier to market Albert Pujols to the Hispanic population, regardless of how many home runs they have. The Marlins have also been linked to (and have now signed) short stop Jose Reyes and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes: a defector who is arguably the best player to come from Cuba in a generation. Not to mention that the team is already one of the most heavily involved in international signings.
So as the weeks and days tick away until pitchers and catchers report, keep an eye on the players that come to the 305. They are the future of Latinos in baseball.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.