Ok, I admit it. I am a Marlins fan.
For whatever reason, I have this team fixed to my DNA. I am bound to watch and check the standings, stats, box scores, and any other nook and cranny to see how this team is performing.
And some of my ilk have thrown their hands up and are protesting. Well, protesting in their own way – which means they refuse to buy tickets or anything that would directly contribute to Jeffrey Loria’s pocketbook.
I recently went to Opening Night to see the Marlins get shut down by the Braves, 2-0, and only getting 2 hits. I left early because I had to work the next day and didn’t feel a comeback mounting. That said, I felt the Marlins threatened a lot more than the 2 hits they got. Last night, against the Braves again, the Marlins seemed to be able to mount enough pressure to make the game compelling despite another loss 3-2.
The Marlins offense is the missing component here. They rank #23 in MLB in hits (56) and #30 in RBIs (15). They flat out aren’t driving in runs but they are putting the ball in play – they are #21 in Ks (55). They have only scored 16 runs (rank #30) but have only given up 32 runs (ranks #17 in MLB) with a staff 3.88 ERA.
We know that this team is not going to score in bunches or score tons of runs. It is going to take a lot of hits to move guys around and score runs. That means, this team is not a compelling watch for most baseball audiences. Sure, they will pitch and defend very well, but they are just not going to get the big hits you want to see to drive in runs and drop 5, 6, or 7 runs in a game normally. Yet, I find that I am more compelled to watch this team this year than even last year. Why?
Most of the Marlins faction is divided on the issue of the team owner, Jeffrey Loria. Their allegiance to the team is being strained because of the way this team is managed. In listening to Larry Beinfest last night, there is little to think that anything will change. There is not a proclamation that the Marlins want to keep Giancarlo Stanton here long term; even Tommy Hutton suggested that he thinks Stanton would like to return to southern California. Yet, we know that guys like Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick are waiting it out in AA Jacksonville for their call up. When looking at the talent of Jose Fernandez, and seeing what Yelich did in Spring Training arguably being the Marlins’ best player, there is a lot of hope for the future.
Sure, this team gutted its roster from last year. Most of the players that left were only here for one year, so it is rather confusing to see where the loyalty thing comes into play but it was never about the players departing. It was about the talent that was here and keeping it here. This year’s team, in many ways, is already improved. They play better in every facet even if they are not scoring runs, you can see the battles at the plate. The Marlins don’t have easy outs in the batter’s box.
And maybe this is why this team remains compelling to me. It is a team that battles – much like the teams of the past. The 2003 team battled and had great pitching with timely hitting. They had a young rookie pitcher that dazzled the league and a young LF that got called up and injected much-needed offense into the team. The comparisons of this year’s team to that team may be made; they also have a young rookie pitcher that has a chance to dazzle the league if his debut is any indication. They also have a young outfielder in the minors that could inject offense into this lineup – Cookie Rojas suggested yesterday that the Marlins call up Christian Yelich to hit behind Stanton. This would give someone to protect Stanton and could help “fix” his bat and thus propel the offense. Right now the Marlins are scoring a little over 2 runs a game – not enough to really win a lot of ballgames without amazing pitching performances each night.
This is the situation the Marlins are in. They do have options to improve the team that are available to them right now. The Marlins have always demonstrated that they will make the moves if the team shows it has the potential to make it work. Even last year, Beinfest admitted that he made the Carlos Lee deal to try and get the offense right. Does this team have the core set of players to be competitive? Again, we’ll have to be patient and watch but I suspect that a Christian Yelich sighting may be forthcoming soon.