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With Showtime, Ozzie and more, Marlins become "a walking distraction"

MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE, on the Marlins and Showtime's reality series about them: 

The Marlins, who have gone about their business under the radar for years, are sliding head-first toward the opposite extreme, not only by constructing a team that has created a national buzz heading into the 2012 season but also by granting behind-the-scenes access to a national cable channel that will chronicle the team’s journey.

The metamorphosis, which began with an off-season spending spree that landed three high-priced free agents, continued Monday with the expected announcement that the Marlins will be featured in the second season of Showtime’s reality series, The Franchise.

“It’s a complete change,” Marlins president David Samson said. “Our franchise has undergone a complete transformation on and off the field. And now it’s going to be in front of a national TV audience for them to witness. We’ve always said we’re in the entertainment business and we have a lot of fun and we think it’s some interesting TV.”

Showtime said there will be at least six episodes and potentially more, that will air weekly beginning immediately after the All-Star break in mid-July. Showtime said it hasn't been decided if the episodes will be 30 or 60 minutes.

“It’s not like [Showtime said], ‘Let’s do a soap opera,’” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I think you should feel good about it. They’re not going to pick a boring team or a team people don’t want to watch. We have a lot of talent. That the reason they gave it to us.”

Showtime Entertainment president David Nevins said the Marlins are “ideal” for the series because they “are full of big player personalities and led by a larger than life Ozzie Guillen. The Franchise has worked for us because it appeals to both the hardcore sports fan as well as audiences interested in compelling unscripted drama.”

There will be very little sacred or secret when Showtime cameras are rolling. Samson said the network will have permission to tape closed-door meetings involving himself, Guillen, owner Jeffrey Loria, executive vice president Larry Beinfest and general manager Michael Hill. Those meetings will involve what player moves should be made, among other topics.

Samson said Showtime also will have access to “all the things that go on between me and Larry and Mike during the course of a game, when decisions are being made, all the off-field things that go into running a baseball team, opening up a new ballpark.”

The Marlins have no veto power over what Showtime can use.

The big issue is this: Could the constant presence of cameras rolling create a distraction?

“Distraction is not really a word in our vocabulary,” Samson said. “When Ozzie is your manager, and the team we have and the new ballpark, we are a walking distraction. It’s up to our players and our front office to get past that and realize we need to win on the field. We don’t have too many shy characters on this team.”

Samson said he told players – and Showtime will reiterate it - that “we made a decision to allow cameras into our life for better or for worse. There are going to be people who laugh at some things that happen, and people who frown at some things that happen, and people who question why we would do it.

“And the answer, we’ve always said, is we’re not solving the Middle East peace process. We are not curing fatal diseases. We are running a Major League Baseball team, which is here to entertain people and win games.’’

Samson said when MLB and Showtime approached the Marlins with the idea, “they had me at hello.”

But the deal became official only after receiving approval from the player’s association. Samson said he spoke to catcher John Buck, the Marlins’ union representative, and “a bunch of our players and explained to them we needed their approval and wanted it.”

Buck said he expects some Marlins players “will love it. Some guys won’t really like it. It depends on what your personality is…. I’d rather not have a camera in my face all the time. Now the only difference is they may try to get you to do more things, maybe have some cameras into your personal life. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes bad.”

The Marlins are convinced the TV series will help their marketing and branding efforts.

“If we want to be dominating in Latin America and be a dominant force in this game around the league, it doesn’t just happen on the field,” Samson said. “It has to happen off the field as well. Every time our Q rating increases, it makes being a Marlin cool.  It’s been 10 years of struggle in that, and all of this happening in our relaunch year is the perfect year.”

Samson knows how he wants the series to end: “With us in a pile at the end of the season,” he said of a World Series victory celebration.  “That’s how the script has been written.”

### Couple notes from the Marlins media day: Larry Beinfest said Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez will be fine, health-wise, to start spring training. Logan Morrison and Chris Coghlan, coming off knee procedures, also are expected to be cleared for the start of workouts…

Is Guillen convinced Ramirez is 100 percent on board with moving to third base? “Not yet,” he said. “I expect him to be 100 percent when we play St. Louis” in the April 4 regular-season opener. He reiterated “this is Hanley’s team” and said he doesn’t expect him to win a Gold Glove at third base…

Team executives expressed very mild disappointment about Yoenis Cespedes signing with Oakland, but Guillen said Emilio Bonifacio was going to be his starting center fielder regardless of whether Cespedes signed.