Will the new-look Marlins eventually combust this season?

The Marlins have a new name, a new stadium, a new manager, and a new star, but will any of it translate into victories in 2012?

Stare too long at the Marlins’ fruit-stripped gum logo and you might start to buy into the hype. After all, the addition of Jose Reyes should make guys like Emilio Bonifacio, Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez better and it’s hard not to see the potential in this lineup. Plus, I love the addition of Heath Bell to the bullpen and Mark Buehrle should infuse some veteran leadership into a starting rotation that has often been led by youth.

But do the Marlins not scream “combustible situation?” First and foremost, Ozzie Guillen is their manager. The man has a World Series ring and a knack of taking the pressure of his club by drawing attention to himself, but is he the right man to deal with the egos of Reyes, Ramirez and the always volatile Carlos Zambrano?

Hey, maybe he is. Maybe Guillen is exactly the kind of skipper that his club needs and guys like Bell and Buehrle will keep the order in the clubhouse when Guillen is busy providing writing material for the media.

But the Marlins remind me a lot of the Dave Matthews Band: There’s just too much going on for my liking. You throw that many elements into one mixing bowl and things are bound to get a little messy.

How long before Ramirez becomes a problem because he doesn’t want to play third base? How long before Zambrano flips his lid and attacks an umpire? How long before the organization tries to rein in Morrison again?

Just like “Dave,” this thing could turn out to be something special. (I’m not a fan of his music but his millions of followers won’t hesitate to tell me how successful his band has been over the last couple of decades.) The Marlins have more than enough talent to outlast the Phillies and Braves in the division and be a surprise pennant contender come October. Again, let me point out that Guillen has a World Series ring and he may have already gained the respect of Reyes, Ramirez and Zambrano.

That said, I’m betting that the Marlins implode before they reach the finish line. As I suggested earlier, there are just too many combustible elements for this thing to end well for the Fish. I just can’t picture Reyes, Ramirez, Guillen and Zambrano passing around the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the season while talking about what a united team they were throughout the year.

Either way, somebody pass the popcorn because things are about to get real interesting in South Beach. It just has to.

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Pujols rejects $275 million offer from Marlins to sign 10-year deal with Angels

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols swings, hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 3, 2011. St. Louis won the game 6-4. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

To many, it was shocking that Albert Pujols decided to leave familiar territory in St. Louis and sign with the Angels on Thursday. But maybe even more shocking is the fact that the Halos’ offer wasn’t even the biggest that Pujols received.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Marlins were actually the highest bidders for Pujols, who will earn $254 million over the life of his new 10-year contract with the Angels. Miami offered the slugger $275 million but Pujols ultimately decided to head out to Southern California, which is presumably where he’ll finish his career.

With ownership trying to attract fans to a brand new stadium in Miami, the Marlins have been linked to many big names since the start of the winter meetings. They’ve already locked up shortstop Jose Reyes to a new six-year deal worth $106 million and also signed closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million contract. In the end though, the club couldn’t catch the biggest fish of all (no pun intended), as Pujols heads West to play with the Halos.

The Angels seemingly came out of nowhere to not only outbid the Cardinals but also impress Pujols enough for him to take less money to sign in Southern Cal. Alex Rodriguez was the only player to secure a contract worth more than $200 million before Pujols signed his deal, although it’ll be interesting to see how much Prince Fielder eventually signs for once he chooses a destination. He’s now the most attractive name left on the market, and should receive plenty of high-priced offers over the next couple of days.

As for the Cardinals, they fell nearly $50 million shy of the Angels’ offer for Pujols, who said back in spring training of last year that he wasn’t going to take a hometown discount to stay in St. Louis. His previous contract was very club-friendly, so the Cards knew they would have to pony up this time around if they wanted to keep his services. In the end, it obviously wasn’t enough. Now the defending World Series Champions are left to pick up the pieces from an offseason that not only saw their long-time manager Tony La Russa retire, but also their best player and most marketable star leave for a bigger contract.

Just Sayin’: Criticize Bruce Bochy all you want but the man comes up big again

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy paces the dugout during a loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver on May 17, 2011. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Kleenex sales went through the roof the week that the 2011 MLB All-Star Game rosters were announced. That’s because from coast to coast, everyone from media pundits to MLB managers were crying about some of Bruce Bochy’s choices for the NL squad. Two skippers in particular, the Marlins’ Jack McKeon and the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle, were publicly vocal about Bochy’s perceived favoritism to some of his own players.

I wonder what McKeon and Hurdle have to say now after the National League downed their AL counterparts 5-1 on Tuesday night. Granted, the victory was largely thanks to Prince Fielder’s three-run dinger, some solid pitching performances by the NL staff, as well as the unavailability of some of the AL’s best pitchers. But just like in the 2010 postseason, Bochy managed yet another perfect game. He was aggressive on the base paths (particularly in the fifth inning when Angels reliever Jordan Walden took the hill), he made all the right moves with his pitching staff and he played the matchups incredibly well. He also didn’t even use Tim Lincecum or Ryan Volgelsong (two pitchers in which Bochy was accused of showing favoritism), and wouldn’t have used closer Brian Wilson in the ninth had Starlin Castro and Joel Harahan not allowed two runners to reach base.

If the Marlins or Pirates somehow manage to make the World Series this year, they’ll be the host team thanks in part to Bochy. Any chance that McKeon or Hurdle pick up the phone in that instance and show their appreciation for Bochy’s hard work over the last week with the NL All-Star team?

More Quick-Hits for Wednesday:

– James Harrison shared, uh, some interesting takes on Roger Goodell in the August issue of Men’s Journal. James used the words, “crook,” “devil,” “stupid,” “puppet,” and “dictator,” while describing Goodell, then threw in an anti-gay slur for good measure. “If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it,” Harrison told the magazine. “I hate him and will never respect him.” Tell us how you really feel Eminem James.

– I wish FOX had mic’d the head groundskeeper for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game because I would have loved to have heard what he said after watching Padres closer Heath Bell tear a big divot out of the infield when he slid into the mound. “Thanks a**hole, you know someone has to repair that right? Couldn’t have ran onto the field like a normal human being, huh?”

– Don’t expect the Mets to trade Carlos Beltran as fast as they did K-Rod. Not with Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis all injured. And I don’t think Beltran is a sure-bet to land in ‘Frisco either. If I’m Scott Boras, I’m telling my client to choose an American League team to waive his no-trade clause for, so that he can show his stuff as a DH for next year.

– Apparently Mike Shanahan is set on John Beck as his starter in 2011. That makes sense considering that when he benched Donovan McNabb last year, he immediately inserted Beck as the starter to get him ready for this season. Wait…what?

– I can’t wait for the NFL lockout to end so I can see how quickly teams sign free agents. Because I refuse to believe that these teams haven’t somehow been in contact with these players throughout the last couple of months. I know league rules prohibit teams from trying to contact players, but come on – this is the NFL. You know these teams have been sneaking around for months now. It’ll be interesting to see how much time elapses from when the lockout officially ends until when a team signs that first new free agent. If it’s more than 12 hours, I’ll be shocked.

Mikey’s MLB power rankings

Not much has changed at the top of this list, but the Rangers are making a statement. Meanwhile, the Mets, Cardinals and Twins have been playing such mediocre baseball that a few upstarts have knocked them off this list. Here are the pre-All Star game power rankings:

1. New York Yankees (55-31)—It’s on. The Rangers out-bid the Yanks for Cliff Lee, but lookie here—the Bombers have won 7 in a row. They don’t need no stinkin’ Cliff Lee.

2. Texas Rangers (50-36)—Yesterday, Nolan Ryan and company vaulted their team from playoff contender to World Series contender by obtaining Mr. Lee. The middle of their lineup with Vlad, Hamilton and Nelson Cruz just might be the most potent heart of the order in baseball.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (52-34)—Sorry, Boston. Sorry, New York. These pesky Rays are not going away.

4. Atlanta Braves (51-35)—This pains me as a Mets fan, but the Braves made a series-opening statement last night at Citi Field. They are for real and they are trying to pull away from the Mets and Phils.

5. San Diego Padres (50-36)—You think the Mets wish they still had Heath Bell?

6. Boston Red Sox (50-36)—They aren’t giving in either. The next two and a half months are going to be very exciting in the AL East.

7. Cincinnati Reds (45-35)—That team dressed in red leading the NL Central is not the Cardinals. By the way, if Joey Votto didn’t win that online voting, it would have been one of the worst all-star snubs in baseball history.

8. Detroit Tigers (47-37)—Don’t look now, the Tigers have won four in a row and the White Sox six in a row, and they are 1-2 in the AL Central while the Twins are suddenly floundering.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers (48-38)—Will the NL West be like a stock market correction and have the Dodgers and Rockies take over the Padres’ lofty spot? The Dodgers are winning again and making their move.

10. Colorado Rockies (48-38)—Always a late bloomer, the Rockies are also making a move, and their stud ace Ubaldo Jimenez is a positively sick 15-1 at the all-star break.

SI.com: 20 best MLB decisions of the past year

SI.com’s Jon Heyman put together a list of the 20 best decisions made by MLB teams over the past year.

His No. 1 was the Nationals’ signing of Stephen Strasburg, while his No. 2 was the Cubs’ decision to trade Milton Bradley to the Mariners in exchange for pitcher Carlos Silva (who is leading the club in wins, ERA and WHIP).

Heyman’s No. 4 best decision involves a team that has been one of the bigger surprises so far this season:

4. The Padres’ decision not to trade Adrian Gonzalez and/or Heath Bell

Everyone assumed new Padres GM Jed Hoyer would want to make a big splash and set the team up for the future by trading All-Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who could bring a haul with his reasonable contract ($10 mil over two years) and big-time talent. Word supposedly was that Hoyer had an obvious landing spot in his old haunt in Boston, where Hoyer had been an assistant GM and knew the system. That assumption was supposedly bolstered by Padres marketing materials that allegedly omitted Gonzalez.

However, Hoyer and Padres decision-makers held both Gonzalez and top reliever Heath Bell, fortified the rotation by adding stable veteran Jon Garland and kept their fingers crossed. To everyone’s surprise — except maybe San Diego’s brass — the Padres have been at or near the top of the NL West all year. Hoyer didn’t disrupt what former Padres GM Kevin Towers built in San Diego to satisfy his ego. Instead, he did the prudent thing. Just because Towers was fired by new owner Jeff Moorad doesn’t mean he did a bad job. It turns out there were some very good pieces in place, including what appears to be the majors’ best bullpen.

There is still some concern in San Diego that the Padres will be sellers at the trade deadline, but if they stay in contention in the NL West it’s hard to envision that happening. This is just speculation on my part, but I have to believe that if Hoyer does make a big move (i.e. trading Gonzo and/or Bell), it won’t come until after the season.

Until then, the Padres’ current roster will have every opportunity to make a run at the postseason this year.

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