As he reflected on his team’s last six days late Sunday afternoon inside his confining Busch Stadium office, Marlins manager Mike Redmond thought about all the missed opportunities that turned this once promising roadtrip into a losing one.
“We were pretty sloppy,” he said of Friday night’s series opener against the Cardinals, “but we were still in the game. [Saturday], we had a chance and let that one slip away.
A couple of missed pitches and a bungled defensive effort on a St. Louis double-steal factored in Miami’s 3-2 loss in the series finale Sunday. Swept all three games this weekend, the defeat closed out a 2-4 showing in the two-city trip. The loss also resulted in the 10th sweep of Miami sweep this season, and the first since early June when the Phillies took all three games at Citizen’s Bank Park.
The Marlins will try to bounce back Monday night when they open a six-game homestand at Marlins Park against the Braves.
“We were the best team in baseball in June,” second baseman Derek Dietrich said. “Hopefully we can keep that rolling here in July.
He goes by the term “beast mode” and Juan Pierre wasted no time reintroducing himself to the 3,000+ on hand at Roger Dean Stadium yesterday in the Marlins Spring Training 2013 debut against the Cardinals. “Beast Mode” hit a triple off of Jon Jay, sped around the bases in a blur, slid into 3B, and eventually would go on to score on a Giancarlo Stanton sac ground out.
Put it in a frame; that is Marlins baseball 2013.
The Marlins racked up 8 runs on 11 hits yesterday in 35 ABs but also had 9 K’s. Not bad for a tune up, but indicative that if the Marlins are going to win games this year, it will come from good pitching, even better defense, and solid contact moving runners around the basepaths.
The Marlins did get some power from Alfredo Silverio, who blasted a tower shot over the left field wall in the bottom of the 5th. Silverio was 1-4 with 2 K’s, but does show he has the potential to be a very strong player in this lineup someday. (Hopefully, not just another Abraham Nunez…)
Adeiny Hechavarria and Jake Marisnick did steal a base each. In fact, it was Hechavarria and JP that worked well together in the bottom of the 2nd as JP pushed a bunt over the charging 3B towards SS Pete Kozma, scoring Hech from third. Another example that if the Marlins are going to score runs, it is going to have to be smart baseball.
A successful debut for the Fish, even amid all of the Cardinals fans in attendance. Marlin fans were light, but those that did show up did not seem to display any real angst over the trades from this past offseason. Instead, eyes are focused towards the future, getting to know these new young players, and seeing if Redmond, a champion back with the Marlins in 2003, can bring back some of that old magic from that team. He will have his teammate, Juan Pierre, leading the charge.
“Again, our disappointment with the team continues,’’ president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said in his opening statement about the trades before later pointing out players can still be traded before Aug. 31 but must clear waivers first.
The additions from Tuesday’s two moves: 23-year-old left-handed-hitting third baseman Zackary Cox, a former 2010 first-round pick who was hitting .254 with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 84 games for the Triple A Memphis Red Birds, and Gorkys Hernandez, a 24-year-old Venezuelan-born outfielder, who hit .083 (2 for 24) with two stolen bases and two RBI in 25 games with the Pirates this season primarily as a defensive replacement.
Hernandez, described as fleet-footed and well above average defensively by Beinfest, will join the Marlins on Wednesday and start in center field, according to manager Ozzie Guillen. Cox, a welcome addition considering the Marlins don’t have much in the way of talent at the hot corner, will head down to Double A Jacksonville.
The sun was setting as we passed by it – the phantom of years past. Yet, it wasn’t even technically old, just abandoned. Sun Life Stadium, the place where the Marlins used to play, when they were called the Florida Marlins, sat like a snowbird waiting in the sun for its final moment. As I passed it there seemed to be a last desperate gasp. We were rolling south towards bigger and better things.
We are heading down from Broward County on arguably one of the busiest sports days in South Florida history. The Marlins are christening their new stadium while the Heat are also playing the Oklahoma City Thunder, vying for a playoff spot. Even more historical is the fact that both games are on ESPN. It seemed that ESPN had a blackout policy towards both franchises – my how things change.
Even more unbelievable, in fact, is that it’s the Marlins who are pushing the Heat to ESPN2.
Several parking garages surround the new park, but we think better of this strategy. Maybe not such a good idea on a dry run with a packed house and thinking better of it, we opt to head on over to Magic City Casino to hitch a ride. For $5, you can park and ride in an air-conditioned tour bus and arrive, rock star style, at the foot of the new stadium.
Architecturally, it reminds one of the American Airlines Arena – sleek, modern, turbine of a wave crest spun into the ground with soaring glass and promenades. The atmosphere is one only South Florida could provide, luscious percussion and horns thumping to the steamy Latin-inspired beats that are all too familiar to the area. This is an event, you are being told, no punches pulled here. It doesn’t feel contrived, but you do realize that you are being persuaded to join the party. You are compelled, drawn in, seduced. With a slender finger and a wag, you proceed up to the gate, hand over your glossy ticket, get scanned and admitted. You are handed a shiny new lanyard to put your ticket in, for safe keeping, and off you go ascending the stair case or escalators up to the promenade.
Immediately you feel out of place because, in years’ past when you attended a Marlins game, you felt really out of place. You were watching baseball in a football stadium. Now, you can’t take your eyes off the game as you can literally see the field from every nook and cranny while waiting in line for beer, peanuts, and cracker jack. And there were lines.
Once you get to your seat, there is another surprise awaiting you which will make a huge difference for baseball fans here in Miami – you are actually oriented towards home plate. At Joe Robbie/Sun Life/Landshark, you had to screw your neck to get a glimpse of the game as all of the lines were meant for football, not baseball. Not so at the new park where everyone is facing home plate where indeed, all the action of the game is centered.
The atmosphere is very colorful, yet subdued. The drab green wall runs the length of the outfield and mirrors the color of the grass. Yet soaring above the left center field area is the much discussed Red Grooms commission. The very essence of the piece is compelling – it is a multimedia spin, literally, on the event of a home run for the south Florida fans of the Miami Marlins. There are mechanized flamingos and marlins which spin around almost like straight out of some kind of county fair shooting game. Take aim, boys, it screams, daring anyone to take on the challenge of enlivening the crowd with one swing of the bat. Now you can quite literally shake the place.
Then there’s the roof. The very heart of this issue about baseball in south Florida. This one simple feature will redefine the market and make Miami a baseball haven. Or so the hope is. What’s the big deal, after all? The ancient Romans had retractable roof technology – they hired sailors to unfurl sails over the crowds gathered at the Coliseum to witness gladiator blood sport. Why shouldn’t we, us advanced civilized folk, have anything less? Now we do and the roof was pealed back in about 10 minutes. Complete with fireworks and a flyover, the 8 tons of concrete and steel revealed the sky to the crowd in dramatic fashion.
There was a game to be played, too. In fact, in some ways, it was a relief to get to it – to sort through all of the celebrations and pre-game hype. The Marlins were doing more than just playing a game, they were setting a tone. No, they were invoking a call for a new tradition in Miami, a new rite of summer that will begin with the rolling back of the ceiling to show us the sky. An interior blessed with the art of modern masters to help us see things in new ways. The team, the game, all seem to be less the focus and a bit more of the ingredients. The purist will rue the interchanges between innings with dance teams, loud music, cutaways on the jumbotron, and racing sea life around the outfield wall. Yet this is where things are – a soup to be stirred and enjoyed by a diverse community. Some will come for the baseball, some will come as a curiosity, some will come for the event. All will leave impacted and that is what this ownership team is hoping for – new life into the heart of the city. The football past has given way to a baseball renaissance.
The Braves ended their epic fail season by losing to the Phillies today while watching the Cardinals sail past them to grab the NL Wildcard on the final day of the season. The Cardinals were only 8.5 games in back of the Braves as of September 5th.
Meanwhile, the Marlins were closing out their 2011 season by losing to the Nationals in their last ever game at the cavernous Joe Robbie-turned-Sun Life Stadium. Yet, you could feel more of a buzz about the Marlins going forward.
A couple of weeks ago the Braves were heading to the postseason while riding the coattails of two ex-Marlins in Dan Uggla and skipper Fredi Gonzalez. It was looking bleak as the Fish were squandering what looked like a promising start to the season into an injury-riddled, listless movement that seemed to show the Marlins were not going anywhere soon.
With Ozzie Guillen’s return to Miami, and getting to inaugurate the new home for the Marlins in downtown Miami, all of that has changed. I have to admit, it was looking like another mistake by the Marlins in that clearly they hired the right manager but for the wrong team. I was starting to wonder if we had been wrong about Fredi and with Joe Girardi leading his team into the playoffs again, it was feeling a bit like rejection at the high school prom.
Funny how perspectives and fortunes can change literally overnight. Now where would you rather be: faced with explaining a huge collapse or asking questions to Ozzie Guillen about the direction of his new ballclub?
It literally started with a bang. Hanley Ramirez blasted a home run to give the Fish the kind of start they needed to snap their now 5 game losing streak. It was also just the sort of thing Hanley needed to get something going this month after a dismal July.
What nestled in between was a pitcher’s duel. Josh Johnson did his best to continue his audition for the Cy Young but was gassed after 8 innings of humid baseball. The clouds were not the only danger gathering in this game, however.
Closer Leo Nunez pounced out for the ninth inning. Yet lately, Nunez has been anything but a stable closer, blowing a 4-2 lead against Philadelphia and now coming in with a paper thin lead of 3-2 while facing one of the better offenses in baseball. Due up was Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and Nunez has been anything but the picture of confidence at the end of games. Sure enough, the lead vaporized and the Marlins, once again, were facing another blown lead by their closer which was also another effort to plug a hole in a losing streak.
It was simply a prequel to heroics.
Dan Uggla shot out of the bottom of the 9th to tie up the game with a blast of a home run that screeched the blue seats while nearly hugging the foul pole in left field.
Then in the 10th, newly acquired Chad Tracy came to the plate and took a first pitch and redirected it into right field for a hit. Which set the stage for Hanley Ramirez to come to the plate and end the game with a walk off single.
This is a great win for the Marlins, obviously. More importantly, we see some big contributions from the franchise player which he desperately needed to be a part of. Maybe this will get Hanley rolling. Maybe it will get the Marlins rolling, too. One thing for certain is the Marlins won’t matter much if Hanley doesn’t matter. He is the face of this franchise and has the ability to play at a level to meet any opponent’s super star. They will wrap up their series today with the Cardinals and move on for three against the “Natinals” and another three against another powerful offense in Joey Votto and the Reds.
Another interesting thing to take notice of is what decision the Marlins will make going forward about their closer role. It would be wise to give Hensley the role as closer and slide Nunez into a spot he will be more comfortable – set up. Yet, it is just as hard to ignore Nunez’s 26 saves as it is his two most recent meltdowns. Closets have to be the picture of confidence at the end of games and historically, the Marlins have always found their guy. Bryan Harvey, Rob Nenn, Ugueth Urbina, even Trevor Hoffman got his start here. The last few years have seen the Fish churn out a new closer seemingly every year, but with success. Leo Nunez was brought in to be that guy groomed for the position. He just doesn’t look the part on certain nights were he has more jitters than a crackhead on Red Bull. Sweats more than a you know what in a church. But I digress. Hasn’t Clay Hensley earned the right to get a shot at closing? And are the guys in that locker room really going to feel confident when Nunez is rolled back out there again to close a game? The bullpen is already thin. Stay tuned.