Saltalamacchia's mindset: 'We're going to win this'
Free-agent pickup brings knowledge of worst-to-first turnaround to young Marlins
JUPITER, Fla. -- Nothing instills confidence and engrains belief more than winning.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia fully understands what can happen when you combine the power of positive thinking with the proper attitude. Some may dismiss the rhetoric as lip service. But to anyone who played for the 2013 Red Sox, it became a World Series-championship combination.
Since Saltalamacchia played for Boston a year ago, he recognizes what it takes to win it all.
Obviously, it takes talent. But it also requires buying into a program and staying focused.
Saltalamacchia hopes to carry over all the intangibles that made the Red Sox great last year to the upstart Marlins.
The 28-year-old catcher was Miami's top offseason acquisition, signing a three-year, $21 million deal to join forces with one of the most promising young pitching staffs in the game.
Saltalamacchia isn't in camp to talk a good game. The Palm Beach County native is looking to help bring a cultural change to an organization that's endured three straight last-place finishes in the National League East.
"I'm not here to tell guys, 'This is how you do it. This is how you don't do it,'" he said. "I'm hoping we all have the same mindset, which is to win."
To let the message sink in early, Saltalamacchia openly talked about winning to his teammates before Spring Training got underway. It started when he was interacting with players and coaches during the club's caravan week that led into pitchers and catchers' workouts.
"Get that mindset now, 'We're going to win this,'" Saltalamacchia said. "If you don't have that mindset, you're going to be shooting yourself in the foot."
After losing 100 games last year, the Marlins have adopted a stance of doing less talking and more performing.
Saltalamacchia's track record speaks for itself. Last year, he batted .273 with 14 homers, 65 RBIs and 40 doubles.
A switch-hitter, Saltalamacchia projects to be a middle-of-the-lineup threat. He's also showing leadership in camp, always among the earliest arrivals at the complex and setting a tone in the clubhouse.
"He looks confident, he looks relaxed, and he looks comfortable right now, which is great," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "I've seen a lot of our pitchers kind of filter toward him and get to talk to him about their stuff."
Because of some outstanding young pitchers, the organization has a quiet confidence that better days are ahead.
"We did our homework on Salty," general manager Dan Jennings said. "We did our homework on the person, first-and-foremost, about his leadership skills."
All the reports came back to move forward and make Saltalamacchia Miami's first major free-agent pickup.
"Everything we had heard about him, all those characteristics shined through," Jennings said. "We felt like he could be that first piece of the pie to put in place."
Saltalamacchia saw firsthand how rapidly a team could turn things around. In 2012, the Red Sox, like the Marlins that season, lost 93 games. The next season, Miami took a deeper tumble, going 62-100.
The Red Sox? They reshaped their roster and brought in players like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. John Farrell was brought in to manage, and everybody bought in. The club reversed its fortunates immediately, winning the American League East before taking the World Series over the Cardinals in six games.
"Chemistry," Saltalamacchia said. "You always hear about it. Going through it last year, I honestly believe that's one of the biggest things you have to have to be on a World Series team. You've seen St. Louis over the past few years, good chemistry. What we had last year, nobody could beat it. I think with the young group of guys we have this year, it could very easily be that chemistry."
The bonding within the Marlins started prior to camp.
It grows from little things, like immersing yourself in the game.
With the Red Sox last year, the club was filled with players Saltalamacchia called "baseball junkies." They were all about business every single day. The televisions in the clubhouse were tuned into baseball games.
"You weren't worried about anything else," Saltalamacchia said. "You wanted to enjoy the game."
Over the course of a long season, it's easy for players to let their minds drift.
"That's exactly why we brought him in," Redmond said. "He's that guy in the clubhouse. He's a leader. He's a winner. You bring those guys in, they rub off, not just on the younger players, but all the players.
"I think nowadays, there are just so many distractions, with cell phones. Sometimes you lose sight of the baseball aspect of it. On the good teams, you've got baseball players. That's their life. That's what they live for. They can't wait to show up to the ballpark. Not only to play the game, but to win."
Now Saltalamacchia is enjoying a change of scenery. But some may question his judgment in going from a first-to-worst situation.
To the Marlins, bringing in Saltalamacchia made perfect sense. They were searching for an offensive-minded catcher to hit in the middle of the lineup.
From Saltalamacchia's standpoint, what did he have to gain?
"I want to say that we actually reached out to them, to let them know we are interested," Saltalamacchia said. "I think the original thought was, 'Well, you were probably too expensive, and this or that.' We were more like, 'Hey, we're interested in going there, whatever you have, and whatever you think, let's talk.' At that time, we had six or seven teams we were talking to. So we said, 'Let's have dinner, and talk this out.'"