Think back to late August of last year. The Marlins were floundering, 7 games out of the wild card race and even farther back of the division-leading Braves. Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota had done all they could for us during their time here, and Juan Encarnacion was contributing, despite an injured shoulder that would require surgery after the season.
And yet all they could muster was 7 games out of the WC. The trade that was supposed to change the season had been made, and the effects had been minimal. The same inconsistency we have been complaining about this season had been killing the team last seaspn as well. Few people thought this team had enough time (or consistency) to make a run.
Then, all of a sudden, the team sweeps the Rockies, aided by some clutch heroics from Enc, and parlays that into a 9-game winning streak and was only 2 games out of the WC, ready to make their run at the WC-leading Cubs, who were about to come to town for a 3-game series.
Disaster struck. Hurricane Frances washed out the series and quite possibly the Marlins’ playoff hopes to go with it. The resurgent team that was ready to charge into the postseason was stopped, but not because it wasn’t good enough, or the Lo Duca deal didn’t give it a spark, but because 30 games in 27 days was just too much to ask for.
And that is exactly what this team needs this year. A spark. Something to light a fire and motivate this team to have fun, like they did in 2003 and for the most part 2004, and charge to the postseason, where this team is built to win the championship. We’re only 5.5 games out of the wild card in mid-July. There is still hope. This is why I call for Jack McKeon and Bill Robinson to be fired.
We’ll always be in debt to Jack because of the job he did in turning around this team and leading it to the WS title in 2003, but he has simply worn out his welcome. At every one of his MLB stops he has done so, and here is no different. His old-school managing style has rubbed off the wrong way on most of the team and several have already spoken out against Jack. Players just aren’t having fun anymore on the team like they used to. One player called the club a “bootleg organiztion.” A manager’s job, for the most part, is to motivate the team to play (and have fun), and of course, to a lesser extent, fill out the lineup cards, make substitutions, double switches, etc. during the course of the game. Jack’s magic hasn’t worked this year and, like I said, the team isn’t having fun.
Carlos Delgado was supposed to be the bat that put us over the top, and instead, the same inconsistency that plagued us last year continues to hurt the team this year. This leads us to Bill Robinson. Delgado has been everything we hoped for this season and more, hitting.296 with 18 HRs and 69 RBIs. However, his bat has been offset by the poor production of Mike Lowell. A .227 BA and only 4 HRs and 36 RBIs and we’re paying him $8 million a year. He’s a great person and great for the community, but not great on the field this season. If he had put up numbers anywhere near his career averages, we’d be in 1st place right now. It isn’t entirely his fault, either. Part of the blame must go to Bill Robinson. He still hasn’t fixed the flawed mechanics in Lowell’s swing (and his stance at the plate), despite a half-season (a full season dating back to the 2nd half last year) of underproduction. During this time, the slump has gotten into his head and now will be even tougher for him to get out of, and he hasn’t been putting up the power numbers he used to in the past, part of the reason why we’ve hit so few HRs this year.
A new manager and a new hitting coach should be the answer to this team’s inconsistency. A guy like Tony Pena could have an influence on the Latin players in the clubhouse like Ozzie Guillen did and motivate this team to have fun again. A new hitting coach (possibly Andre Dawson or Tony Perez?) could fix the mechanics in Lowell’s swing or (if he’s traded) have more of a good influence on the hitters than Robinson ever had. This could be the spark that charges this team to the playoffs. A trade wouldn’t do it. We have nothing to fix through a trade (even if Lowell is traded), except possibly bullpen help. Even if a trade did occur for a bat, who’s to say the player won’t be influenced by the poor atmosphere in the clubhouse on the field?
This team, on paper, should be in 1st place. A new manager (Tony Pena) and a new hitting coach (Dawson or Perez) could spark them well on their way.