Marlins Figuring Out How to Win

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco

The Miami Marlins took a lot of heat over the off-season. Some of the criticism is fair. After all, they promised the people of Florida they would compete in the free agent market if they would build them a new stadium. The people coughed up the millions and the Marlins went out and “rented” Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Heath Bell and manager Ozzie Guillen. Less than half a season later, all but Guillen was gone and they even threw in Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonafacio and Hanley Ramirez. Guillen was gone after the season ended. Marlins fans were also burning after watching one of their own, Miguel Cabrera, win the first Triple Crown since 1967 in a Detroit Tigers uniform.

But, in fairness to the Marlins, Guillen stuck his foot in his mouth before the season began by praising Fidel Castro. That’s a lot like praising the Joker in Gotham City. Then the team got off to a dreadful start. Bell couldn’t get anyone out. So the Marlins did what a lot of teams do when they find themselves out of the race early. They started trading high priced veterans for young prospects. The people of Florida felt they were hood-winked. It did look as if the Marlins played them to get a new stadium, then pulled the rug out from under them.

Predictably, this season did not start well with what was almost a Triple A roster getting hammered by big league teams. At the end of May, the Marlins were 14-41. At the end of June, they were 29-51. For those of you who are not good at math, that is a 15-10 month of June. Going into today’s game, the Marlins are 32-54. They started July by beating the San Diego Padres, then taking two of three from the first place Atlanta Braves. They have lost two tough ones on the road at the St. Louis Cardinals and after Sunday’s game will go back home for three with the Braves. If the Fish can get through that tough stretch, the schedule eases up again with the Washington Nationals for three before the All-Star Break and the Milwaukee Brewers for three right after the break.

Part of the Marlins turnaround has to be credited to the return of Giancarlo Stanton from the disabled list. He is the one bonafide star the Marlins have hung on to. But he has had some help from some up-and-coming youngsters. Marcel Ozuna is making a case to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation if the Los Angeles Dodgers Yasuel Puig ever cools off. Ozuna came straight up from Double-A Jacksonville and has been hanging around the .300 mark since being called to the big leagues. Also, Jose Fernandez and Kevin Slowey are showing some promise on the mound. Fernandez is 5-4 with a 2.72 ERA with 94 strikeouts and only 33 walks. The Marlins have won four of Slowey’s last six starts while he has gone 2-1 in those six. Donovan Solano has come up and hit .281 and Justin Ruggiano has hit 12 homers.

So the Marlins are likely destined for a last place finish in 2013. It is awfully tough to overcome a 14-41 start. But, they appear to be building toward something here. And it should also be noted that the Toronto Blue Jays, who received Reyes, Bonafacio and Johnson along with reigning Cy Young Award pitcher R. A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera, are in last place in the A.L. East and spending a ton more money to be there than Miami is. So perhaps the fans and media in Miami should cut them a little bit of slack.

 

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