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Springtime Storylines: When do we stop acting as if mere competence is enough for the Marlins?

Mar 31, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT

Marlins logo.jpgBetween now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: the Feesh!

big question: When do we stop acting as if mere competence is enough for the Marlins?

You know the drill by now: everyone starts the season pretending that the Marlins don’t exist, then they start winning and people write the “check out those plucky Marlins!” stories and haul out the old payroll stories complete with the graphs which show that the Yankees spend more money on oxblood shoe polish than the Marlins spend on ballplayers. At the end of the day, the Feesh win 85 games or so and everyone congratulates them on being a fairly decent team, says “just wait until next year” and it starts all over again.

But that shouldn’t be enough. There’s a new taxpayer-fleecing stadium on the way and owner Jeff Loria talks about how he expects this team to make the playoffs, but it took threats from the union and the league just to get the team to give Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson the money they had earned. There was surprisingly little heat applied to the Marlins over that, just as there has historically been little heat applied to them over the fact that they have refused to spend the money they receive from revenue sharing to complement a strong core of players.

It’s a mistake for dead end teams like the Royals to pay veteran free agents, but there is no reason why a team close to contention like the Marlins are couldn’t spend a modest amount of money on some cheap power, which the team lacks. Adam LaRoche or Russel Branyan would have been a better placeholder for Logan Morrison than Gabby Sanchez will be.  The Marlins’ bullpen could have benefited from spackle too, but they once again decided to invite a cast of retreads to camp.  I’m not suggesting that the Marlins go crazy or anything, but when you own an 87-win team that you think should have made the playoffs, doing just about nothing to improve during the offseason is poor form.

But then again it’s Jeff Loria we’re talking about, and poor form is his middle name.

So what
else is
going on?

  • Speaking of those Loria expectations, big Jeff came close to firing manager Fredi Gonzalez last fall, and almost certainly will do so this year if the team doesn’t make the playoffs.  It probably won’t be justified — Gonzalez seems to get about as much from his teams as can expected — but that’s how it’ll go.
  • The Feesh have one of the top power prospects in the game in Mike Stanton, but it’s unlikely we’ll see much of him this year. He was sent down to minor league camp last week and will begin the season in AA. Which is probably the right move. He strikes out an awful lot and could stand to work on his plate discipline.  He simply needs some more time in the oven.

  • Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez seem set at the top of the rotation. Ricky Nolasco will be there too, though he’s coming off a rough season during which he was sent to New Orleans for a spell to figure it all out. Chris Volstad, Andrew Miller Rick
    VandenHurk, Hayden Penn and Clay Hensley will likely all see starts this year. It might be an OK rotation in another division, but Florida just doesn’t have the arms to keep up with the Braves and Phillies.
  • Dan Uggla is totally trade bait. He was all winter, really, but no one bit.  Any contender with a need at 2B, 3B or DH this summer will find that their calls will be answered by the Marlins.

So how
are they gonna do?

The Marlins still have Hanley Ramirez, Chris Coghlan and Josh Johnson, but while the Braves improved and the Phillies remain elite, the Feesh stood-pat and thus really have nowhere to go but down. I think the pen will be a major liability and the overall lack of power means that they’ll top out at third place.

Prediction: Third place in the NL East. You can only exceed expectations for so long.

here for other Springtime Storylines

  1. YankeesfanLen - Mar 31, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    We now have the penultimate team review for our delectation as commenters. Will he throw in 15 google-ready inferences, or go the look-at-the Dolphins in the 90s non-sequiters (but it probably is analagous). Maybe we’ll go the gourmet route and wonder what is in those horsemeat and Velveeta things that keep the Feelies on top, or the money-burning Metropolitans.
    Let’s give it to Craigs Tribe and let them beat the Dodgers to relive some 90s Universe power in November.
    Ladies and Gentlemen……Old Gator.

  2. What Up Dawg? - Mar 31, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Where in the hell is the real feesh analysis!
    Bring on the Gator Boy. What? Did his Marquis de Sade blow a fanbelt?
    We Want Gator!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. carlos - Mar 31, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    “they once again decided to invite a cast of retreads to camp.”
    Inappropriate but very funny. Keep it up C.C.!
    Let’s hear how you’re taking the division Feesh Fans.

  4. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Craig’s right about everything except the rotation, the hitting, the fielding – uh, did he mention that? No. Never mind, I’ll do the fielding. The manager, the owner, the finish. He got the Feesh’s bullpen half right: it’s not really “doubtful,” it’s 2012 in teal. Other than that, not a half bad discussion.
    Okay, the fielding. Coghlan, Maybin and Ross – if Ross can play before May, having sustained one of those inexplicably interminable minor injuries to his calf that usually befall players’ toes – are a merely adequate outfield, with Maybin being the best of the lot but promising to become the next Gary Matthews, an ebony god of the expanses, if his hitting holds up long enough to keep him in the starting lineup to get the experience in the outfield he needs. Coghlin is quick rather than fast with an adequate arm but apparently pretty good instincts about where the ball is going. Ross is crippled, so unless they plan to put him out there on one of those little wheeled carts with a pair of flatirons to propel himself over the soggy turf, look for Emilio Bonifacio to play out of position a lot, trying to impersonate the dear departed Alfredo Amezaga, until Stanton shows up again or the Feesh unload Uggla’s ungainly salary and bring Amezaga back. They can also stick Helms out there – third base on the Feesh, since the departure of Mike Lowell who was then in the throes of steriod contraction, has been a launching pad to a part-time career in the outfield. Only Jorge Cantu seems to have been able to segue unnoticed over to first base, and stayed there until Scrooge McLoria, the Chiuhuahua, or Larry Beinfest noticed that no pegs to first were sailing into the field boxes anymore and gave the job to Gaby Sanchez. All well and good; Sanchez certainly can’t be any worse than Mike Jacobs – did you know that a field position itself can develop scar tissue? – and may have a bit more flexibility than Cantu or Helms (yes, he’s played there too).
    Infield: Hanley Ramirez has been improving steadily from the stone-handed buffoon he was when he first came up. He’s now almost reliable, but he still has a tendency to attempt those highlight film off-balance pegs that in his case only send the first baseman lunging to his left in a Cantu deja vu. I don’t know if the Chihuahua snuck out one night and had a local santera bestow upon Hanley’s sparkling new “342” a personal loa to transform a mere excresence of conspicuous consumption into a bona fide veve and give him preternatural powers afield, but if so, he can cover that twilight zone just to Uggla’s right where double play grounders go to drive in multiple runs.
    Crouching behind the pitch location graphics, John Baker is boring. He does what he’s supposed to do fairly well and will continue to do so as long as he remains a bargain. Let’s move on.
    The rotation (which for some reason calls to mind the old college dormitory epithet my roomates heard so often when asking to borrow money, “perch and rotate,” accompanied by signs and wonders): Josh Johnson, with his bionic elbow, and Ricky Nolasco, the underrated future stud of someone else’s team that will pay him what he’s worth, are a terrific one-two punch at the top of the order. After that, it’s catch as catch can – a dangerous thing to say, especially about the infield. Rick VandenHurk, after getting shelled like the Normandy beachhead this spring, has been sent south. So has hapless Andrew Miller, the Feesh’s psychological equivalent of those secret A-bomb tests on unsuspecting infantrymen in New Mexico in the 1950s. Anibal Sanchez continues to be erratic – he got lit up like the skies over Fairbanks in November on his last start, but he must have been “working on a pitch.” Personally, I think he’s favoring his shoulder too much, but that’s just what I’d do if my contract had a secret clause that I had to pay back all my surgical costs if I couldn’t make it to September 30 and the Chihuahua was holding my mother hostage to make sure….well, no, I don’t know that for a fact but let’s face it, this is the Feesh. Chris Volstad, if he finds his footing and some consistency this season, could be a better than better than average pitcher and might make the difference between third and fourth place this season if he had anyone to clean up after to him. Which brings us to
    The Bullpen: Mrs. O’Leary’s cow had nothing on these guys. You can count on Renyel Pinto to come in as a set-up man with runners on second and third and no out, blow away or pop up the next two hitters, walk the pitcher and give up a bases-clearing double to the leadoff hitter. Alternatively, you can count on him coming in with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh, striking out the first two hitters and popping up the third, inspiring Fat Freddi to leave him in for the eighth without getting anyone else up in the pen just in case, then walking a couple of guys with an infield hit sandwiched in between when Uggla botches the pickup, and then, when Freddi pulls him, be replaced by some offseason salvage job who will promptly serve a gopher to the fourth batter. Sound familiar, Feesh fans? Now, in the unlikely event that the Feesh are still clinging to their lead like Wile E. Coyote to a daisy when they get to the ninth inning, Leo Nunez will come out channeling Kevin Gregg, Mitch Williams, Brad Lidge and Joba Chamberlain in the playoffs against Cleveland all at once. The horror, the horror. Oh, once in a while Nunez will tease us with a 1-2-3 inning against the Feelies, but two days later the Gnats will unload on him like a squadron of B-17s over Dresden. What can I tell you? If you love fireworks, stick around for the ninth inning. It’ll be the fourth of July every home game, making all 82 of them promotional nights without Scrooge McLoria having to spend a cent on cheap plastic doohickies or magnetic calendars polarized the same way as your refrigerator door.
    The manager: if Sarah Palin were a fat male Latino with an even lower IQ than she already has, she would be Freddi Gonzalez. I know it’s sort of conventional wisdom that Freddi gets more than his money’s worth out of his players but, to be honest, I think he gets quite a bit less with one dumb move after another, especially when it comes to using his bullpen and in calling for inappropriate bunts, steals and (not calling for) intentional walks. It may well be true that I’m still bitter over the way he loved to leave Andrew Miller out there to get pounded when the kid was clearly fighting tooth and nail to keep his confidence levels from sinking like a dire wolf into the LaBrea tar pits, but I have to allow that somewhere up in the office Scrooge McLoria had some beancounter conclude it was cost-efficient to do it that way and Freddi was just carrying out orders. The reason that Freddi is still there and Joe Girardi, who really did get those kids to outperform themselves isn’t, seems to be that Girardi wouldn’t tolerate something like that but Fredi is as reliable as a Republican congressman receiving large annual donations from a pharmaceutical company. Would Scrooge really dump his Bob Cratchett and risk replacing him with a manager with cojones as well as a mind in his brain? I doubt it.
    But having said all that I should point out, in the heady spirit of pop psychologizing that has swept our civilization since the sixties, that I think 2003, as delirious as it was for Feesh fans and Borg haters, was the worst thing that ever happened to this team. It convinced Scrooge McLoria that he could seriously contend on a shoestring and that if he just squeezed hard enough he could generate a winner with little investment, and when it doesn’t happen he becomes seriously agitated. I doubt if by the beginning of September, when the team usually begins withdrawing from the race, he would be as frustrated if someone spilled coffe on one of his Picassos and rinsed off the outer layer of paint, revealing a Keane on felt underneath. Such are the wages of minimal wages.
    The finish: I hadn’t really understood the extent to which the Mutts bullpen had deteriorated to the point that it now may rival the Feesh’s pen for sheer incipient ineptitude, but even so, I have to prefer the evil I’m familiar with over the evil with which I’m not. I think that unless major repairs are made to this pen, this team will be lucky to win 80 games this year. Fourth, cushioned only by the layer of decomposing organic matter beneath them that will be the Gnats.

  5. Ishmael - Mar 31, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    So what did the blind man say when he strolled past the FEESH market?
    “Morning ladies!”

  6. Bubba Lebowski (No Relation) - Mar 31, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Would you at least consider writing about baseball?
    This is the best stuff I’ve ever read, including Joe P. And I’ve been around a long time.
    It’s our loss if you don’t.
    Nonetheless, I sincerely thank you for your insight and hilarity.

  7. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    I’m deeply touched – but then, I have been since I was a child. Thing is, lots of people write “about” baseball. What I want to do is hug the contours of baseball, coming into direct contact only once in awhile if I see an opportunity to illuminate the obvious or to give offense – you know, like a rhetorical cruise missile.
    In ancient days, men thought there was an arcane order to the arrangement and movements of the stars and planets. They believed that if they studied the celestial geometry and motion they might find the key to interpreting divine will and prognosticating their collective and individual destinies. Bart Giamatti, whose epic battle with Pete Rose inflects the great mythic battles between the gods and heroes and the elder gods – the Titans, or the primordial dragons and other netherworld beasts – also caught sight of this divine order in the geometry and movements of baseball (see his wonderful book Take Time for Paradise), but being at least as rational as he was spiritual, stopped short of implying you could study it and be able to divine bat shit.
    Bart and I disagree on this.
    Ergo, I’m looking to discern the order and prognosticate not so much statistical results as metaphysical ones. Example: the spiritual state of the Feesh fan resembles Han Solo frozen in his graphite block. Why? Studying the disposition first of baseball as a universal system of intersecting forces (including the economic and political system within which it is nested), and then the team as the local or tribal concrete manifestation of those abstract forces,
    I believe it would be possible to tell what ails the residents of Macondo, why their eyeballs roll up in their heads and they pull their pockets tightly over their wallets when the name “Feesh” is pronounced. Think of me as the Paracelsus of baseball mavens. If I write something that seems incomprehensible, well, that’s the way all the great alchemists, sorcerers and sybils wrote. And if you doubt me, just answer this: can you get your baseball bats to carry enough water in from the pond to fill your bathtub? No? I didn’t think so.
    But I can.
    I’m with Craig. Enough of this training nonsense. The chaff has been parted from the grain and sent down to be processed into ethanol. Let’s get the season underway before we piss off the fertility gods again!

  8. Jimmy Marlins fan - Mar 31, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    id like to remind the writer of this blog that the marlins stadium is being funded with a hotel tax…ie…being funded by the likes of michael jordan, tiger woods, and the like…not the good people of miami…so please…please stop throwing loria under the bus like he is satan himself
    look…the man has faults, no one is here to argue that…but he is by far and away the best owner the marlins have ever had and he said he would get a new stadium and keep the marlins in south florida and he did…so please get off it already…good grief…the horse is dead, stop hitting it
    secondly…the braves have no offense and hoping a retread like glaus is going to hit 30+ homers is a pipe bomb dream…its going to blow up in your face…the marlins are clearly the 2nd best team in the division and with an injury or two to a couple of key phils, the marlins will be right there in the end

  9. YankeesfanLen - Mar 31, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    Thank you Old Gator for clarifying the Senior League in such magnificent tones. A nation (or at least us followers who know the secret handshake) turns their lonely eyes to you.
    We await an invitation from our leader Craig to ask us all to give our predictions for the sake of hits and jollies.

  10. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    Whereas your analysis of the stadium funding package is accurate on the surface, the fact is that the stadium will use up all of a reservoir of funds that was intended to develop tourist facilities, and it’s a real stretch to call Macondo Banana Massacre Field a tourist facility. Moreover, it was a backroom deal from top to bottom while the polls consistently showed that the popular attitude was that Scrooge McLoria should build his own stadium or move to San Antonio for all the constituency cared. The city and county politicos were terrified of the notion that someone might force it to a plebiscite, and with good reason. Finally, Miami-Dade put the tourist tax rule into effect; the limitation on using the money for tourist infrastructure is not a divine fiat or a manifestation of natural law like gravity or ignorant design. “Our” illustrious representatives, so-called, have and have always had the power to rescind or alter it for the public benefit. That they chose to build the Feesh a playpen instead of changing the rules to support our collapsing public school system is indicative of what a cigar-smoke arrangement this whole thing really was.
    Look, I love my Feesh. I was there on opening day; saw Scott Pose’s catch and watched Charlie huff and puff through the first six innings. I was at Al Leiter’s no-hitter, every home game in both postseasons, ad infinitum. However, I adamantly oppose using public money to build stadiums, and the tourist tax is still public money. Tax abatements and infrastructural support like sewers, power lines, water mains and access roads, OK, but that’s it. Last year I went on strike to protest the execrable cynicism and impecuniousness of Scrooge McLoria’s regime. The only games I saw last year were at Shittyfield, Wrigley, the Tropicana Dump and The Rogers Center. Fewest games in a season (aside from when I lived in Europe) since I was maybe five years old. And I plan to stay away until McLoria and the Chihuahua show me they really want to build a winner as badly as they want to imitate Cheops.
    I’ll be rooting for the Feesh all year, as I always do. But your belief that this K-Mart budget team is going to climb over the much, much better teams stacked against it – especially with that arson squad of a bullpen – is just not realistic.

  11. Rays fan - Mar 31, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    Paracelsus once wrote that everything’s a poison, in the right dose. Be careful how many tofu burgers and acai berry smoothies you fire down, although I’m certain their LD50 is lower than that of horsemeat and Velveeta.
    I agree in general with your feeling about public funding of stadiums. However, it has been used to overcome mass stupidity of the voters before. In Tampa, many complained about the “New Sombrero” being attached to a bill funding schools, roads, etc. However, what the complainers ignored–besides the fact the the funding bill passed, was that the Hillsborough County voters shot down essentially the same bill the previous election minus the football stadium. Sad way to have to improve infrastructure and alleviate school overcrowding, but whatever works.

  12. Old Gator - Apr 1, 2010 at 3:06 AM

    Which only goes to illustrate what I’ve been kvetching about all along: that the way ownership runs a franchise, and thereby succeeds or fails at making the fans feel like they matter, powerfully affects how those fans respond to the team and its needs. Clearly the residents of the Bay area love their Bucs – even if, as you point out, idiotically enough to have educational improvement ride in on the team’s coattails instead of vice-versa. Oswald Spengler would probably have added a book-length appendix to Der Untergang des Abendlandes if he had been able to see the extent to which our value systems have been eviscerated by sports mania schmuckery – mostly, crowing that he had been right all along.
    Incidentally, I baked a couple of acai berry cheesecakes last weekend. I believe that they may be the very first acai berry cheesecakes ever to exist. Of course, there might be some Fielding Mellish type out there who runs one of those healthy bakeries that boasts two hundred different ways to make food taste like cardboard who concocted one, probably in California somewhere. But mine, I goddamnguarantee you, were better.

  13. blackhiller - Apr 1, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    Hah, Old Gator, love ya like an older, shorter, heavier, uglier, less hairier brother, but I’m sick of listening to Feesh fans complain. Two recent World Series titles when my Reds haven’t had a winning season this decade and are still, mysteriously and inexplicably, suffering under the “managership” of Dusty Baker when it should be Pete Mackanin still manning the clubhouse. I’ll settle for a “mere” 87 wins this season, my friendo.
    So very looking forward to seeing you and the Cormackians in Frisco late next month. Fresh Dungeness, Sears breakfasts, alla that. Work on talking our Webmaster into flying out for it: I’m trying to talk him into it.

  14. blackhiller - Apr 1, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    And by the Way, Rickety Old Gator, it was not lost on me that our mutual buddy Peter received a said Acai Cheesecake, but I hath received neither it nor a certain book review.
    Still, go Reds, and a pox upon complaining Feesh fans.

  15. Old Gator - Apr 1, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    Ah, Blackhiller, I still remember fondly how you made me pull over on the road to Muir Woods and barfed your acai juice all over the verge. What’s the point of feeding you all those fine little Danish lingonberry pancakes and expensive crab if the crows are going to find it in the morning just because the San Andreas hiccuped underneath you? Well, at least you’ll have Truffles to help keep your blood pressure under control. Nyuknyuknyuk.
    As far as the Reds, see Craig’s measuredly optimistic assessment of the team a few blogs up. I’ll have to catch up with them once things get underway this weekend. I do know that you wouldn’t want to waste the time trading Dusty Baker to the Feesh for Fat Freddi, though. Who needs a wash when you’ve got a swimming pool, a floating lounge chair and a pina colada in your hand? But really, with Adam Dunn in Washington, where he plays first base with all the aplomb of a congressional Democrat being asked to take a principled stand on something, I do hope they don’t stink up the field again because I may have to inhale it when I go out to the Queen City (a title that South Beach resents it appropriating for a variety of reasons) for Over the Rhine’s Christmas shows at the Taft.

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