The Miami Marlins are the perfect team for their time and place loud, flashy and made for television.
Starring in the reality show are two old friends from Venezuela. Deep down, they probably never wanted to leave Chicago, but must realize it was the best for everyone involved.
The cameras and microphones will surround Ozzie Guillen and Carlos Zambrano on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. That is where they love being the center of attention.
For the Cubs, all the drama this week will involve whether or not Ryan Dempster is traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers (or another contender) before his next start, and how Theo Epstein will break up this 36-52 team before the July 31 deadline.
The Cubs will have to be blown away to deal Matt Garza, whos emotional and hard-edged and might enjoy shaving cream pies a little too much but also never quite lived up to that unfair Zambrano Light label.
The clubhouse is quiet, serious and businesslike (especially without Marlon Byrd). There are no mood swings. It all starts with Dale Sveum, who rarely raises his voice and has seemingly bottled up all the emotions that come with managing a big-market team.
Or, as Zambrano said in April when Cubs beat writers walked into the Marlins clubhouse: You miss me. You have nothing to write about.
No one can accuse the Marlins of being boring. But at 42-46 and seven games out of a wild card spot, you can wonder how long theyre going to stay relevant, or if this house of cards is going to collapse.
Where Cubs officials preached patience and restraint and their fans rooted for Anthony Rizzos extra year of club control, the Marlins went all-in.
The USA TODAY salary database has the Marlins with a major-league payroll of 118 million this season, after coming in at less than 57 million the year before. Big-ticket items Jose Reyes (.263 average) and Heath Bell (6.56 ERA with six blown saves) have so far underachieved.
As the real estate market collapsed in South Florida, team executives convinced the city and Miami-Dade County to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into Marlins Park, which looks like a spaceship dropped into the middle of Little Havana.
Part art gallery, part nightclub, there are two 450-gallon fish tanks behind home plate. The players wear black hats and bright orange jerseys that look like a tropical storm developing on a weather screen. The girls in bikinis lounge by the pool and dance at the Clevelander, the bar beyond the left-field wall.
Can the Marlins be more than just eye candy?
By Monday, coolstandings.com, which simulates the rest of the season millions of times, gave the Marlins a 1.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus had them at 7.1 percent.
Showtime is along for the ride filming The Franchise, a behind-the-scenes look inside the clubhouse, the managers office and the executive suites.
During last weeks premiere episode, you saw Jeffrey Loria, the art dealer who owns the Marlins, counting 97 F-bombs as Guillen gave a speech during their first team meeting in spring training.
You also heard team president David Samson, Lorias stepson, give this assessment: When that trade went down, Zambrano could have not shown up. He could have been an angry, sulky pain in the (butt) piece of (bleep), which is what the scouting report said he was. Everyone was wrong.
The Cubs kicked in more than 15 million to get rid of Zambrano last winter, and its never that simple with him. (Chris Volstad, the guy traded for Zambrano, hasnt won a game at the big-league level since July 10, 2011, though the Cubs still want him to keep starting at Triple-A Iowa.)
Zambrano can have a very good sense of humor, and a sense of faith and justice seems to shape the charity work hes done over the years. Hes also a family man who can act like an immature little kid.
After taking over at Clark and Addison, Epstein consulted with veterans in the clubhouse, and found out about enough physical altercations with teammates, that the new Cubs president understood Zambrano had to leave.
Whatever peace Zambrano has found in Miami, insiders insist it wouldnt have happened at Wrigley Field, where he would have felt the weight and pressure of Being Big Z.
Its a place that I will never, ever forget, Zambrano said in April. Chicago was always great to me. And I do really appreciate all the attention, all the criticism, too, because that made me get better.
Wrigley was a great place for me, my house for 10-and-a-half years. Theres nothing that compares to Wrigley. The atmosphere, the passion of the fans is something that you probably dont see in any other ballpark.
Zambrano had a 2.81 ERA through his first 11 starts, but entered Monday with a 4-7 record and a 4.20 ERA overall this season. He profiles like a back-end starter now, and for all the headlines and airtime hes dominated, thats pretty much what hes been the past few years.
Zambrano wont start against the Cubs, but maybe Guillen will throw him a bone and let him pinch-hit during this three-game series. The Franchise made it sound like Zambrano had clearance to attack the Gatorade coolers.
I love it, Guillen said on Showtime. Id rather have somebody throwing (bleep) in the goddamn dugout than see somebody (act) like they dont care.
Guillen has a beautiful mind for baseball, and the White Sox running out in first place shouldnt diminish what he accomplished here: Since the end of World War I, hes the only manager to win a World Series in this city.
But this is also what the Marlins signed up for: Guillen unplugged and unfiltered, even when hes asked repeatedly about Fidel Castro. Theres no turning back now.