Marlins set the tone: 'We're expecting to win'

February 23rd, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- Every spring, the first full-squad workout usually begins with a state of the union by Miami's front office inside the clubhouse. In this backdrop, members of the organization provide a message to set the tone for the upcoming season. But with safety and health protocols in place for 2021, the Marlins met virtually last Wednesday.

Principal owner Bruce Sherman, CEO Derek Jeter and general manager Kim Ng spoke to the club -- from players to coaches to trainers -- with the sentiment of building off last year's postseason appearance and moving forward. Marlins manager Don Mattingly believed the arrangement seemed to be the best way for everyone to hear from those at the helm. Even reliever John Curtiss, whom Miami acquired earlier that day, pulled over into a Dunkin' Donuts to hop on the Zoom.

"I think that's important," Mattingly said via Zoom on Tuesday. "I've talked about it a lot. To me, great organizations start at the very top. Mr. Sherman and Derek, the rest of ownership, they are the ones who set the tone of playing for the organization, how they're going to do things, what we're going to do moving forward. It's important for me to have those guys speak."

Ng, who enters her first spring camp as GM, called it surreal addressing the club on Zoom. On Tuesday, she was roaming the back fields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex during the first full-squad workout. So did Jeter, who interacted with players like Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison as they took batting practice.

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While the 2020 Marlins showed grit and resilience en route to their first postseason berth in 17 years, they weren't satisfied with their campaign coming to a close in the National League Division Series against the Braves. After, Miguel Rojas spoke to his teammates about the motivation of getting beat by a club they're trying to chase. Atlanta remains the gold standard in the division.

"I would say the guys that I've come across and run into already, there's a real energy and a real enthusiasm, a real eagerness to go get after it," Ng said. "I think last year was a taste of the postseason, and from all that I can sense, they just want to get out there raring to go."

Look no further than Rojas, whose wife gave birth to their second child over the winter. Entering his seventh season with Miami, the longest-tenured Marlin arrived at camp a week early. Rojas noted that both the players and front office found ways to get better -- whether it be in season or over the Hot Stove with acquisitions like Adam Duvall.

"You're seeing growth every single year, and that's the goal this year," Rojas said. "Other than repeat what we did last year and getting closer to that championship-caliber team, seeing what the guys are going to be able to accomplish in their own careers."

Rojas and third baseman Brian Anderson can provide perspective of how far the club has come. The 27-year-old Anderson, a third-round Draft selection by the Marlins in 2014, made his MLB debut as a September callup three years later. Like Rojas, Anderson blossomed as a player alongside the organization during its transitional phase. In '20 -- Anderson's third full season in the Majors -- he became a Gold Glove Award finalist and a potent middle-of-the-order threat, leading all NL East third basemen in WAR.

It may be a new year, but the pundits are picking the Marlins to finish last in the NL East despite their success in 2020. Could Miami rally behind the "why not us" and "bottom feeders" mentality again?

"We're just trying to build off of this culture, trying to create a culture of winning, and an expectation every time we go out there we're expecting to win," Anderson said. "Like I said, last year was last year. We were super excited, we're proud of it, but at the same point, this is a new year. We know teams aren't going to overlook us now. It's just a matter of keep developing and keeping our heads to the grindstone and just keep working."