The schedule for the past two weeks should have been dreadful for the MLB worst Miami Marlins. They had to play the best team in Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, then go out west for a seven game road trip against the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks and defending World Series Champions San Francisco Giants.
If you told me in May that we would have to play 10 straight games against the National League’s best teams, I would be in complete dread.
Through April and May, the Marlins were the absolute worst team in baseball. They were so bad that people starting thinking that they would have the worst record of all time. This was probably a little premature and mean because of how injured the Marlins were at the beginning of the year.
They had a rotation glued together by Band-Aid and a lineup that would have been shutout in Double-A. It was unfortunate the scenario that Mike Redmond was in since he had to put Greg Dobbs as the regular first-baseman. Alex Sanabia was one of starting pitchers, if you can believe that, because of freak shoulder injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi. The worst injury though was to Giancarlo Stanton, which forced to miss an entire month of baseball. The offense was a sputtering mess that barely scored any runs per game and was shutout 9 times in two months. Justin Ruggiano had the same amount of Home Runs as the entire team had.
Through the first 52 games, the Marlins went 13-39. It was really hard to be a Marlins fan when the team would constantly go through losing streaks of 8 or 9 games. Although we could faintly see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Marlins management was forced to bring up some of our top prospects just so we could have players out on the field. Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna, and Derek Dietrich all came up and surprisingly enough contributed. Both Ozuna and Dietrich started out the year in Double-A and Jose Fernandez never pitched above A-Ball before playing in the Majors, and each of these players have played exceedingly well. However most of their more impressive efforts came out during the worst time in the Marlins 2013 season. Ozuna batted .300, Dietrich hit 5 home runs, and Fernandez was striking out everybody. If we only had all the pieces together, this team would have won more than 13 games.
But then the month of June came.
What a difference it makes when you have a healthy team playing everyday. In the beginning June, most of our injured players starting coming back to the team. Logan Morrison returned after almost a year of being out of action, giving the team a much needed regular first-baseman. Giancarlo came back a few days after him, giving the team an absolutely needed power bat in the middle of the lineup. The Marlins finally have a legitimate batting lineup of young high upside bats. Rob Brantly has shook off his early season struggles and batting consistently. Adeiny Hechavarria is quietly improving while providing Gold Glove defense at shortstop. Dietrich has struggled but he does the potential to get his hitting in order and give extra power to a lineup that should have more home runs this year.
The pitching has also come along. Even when the Marlins were winning a handful games, their pitching was usually solid but now it’s turning into something better. When Sanabia got hurt, Jacob Turner was promoted and has shown that he is more than capable of being an excellent pitcher in a strong rotation. Nathan Eovaldi has returned from his stint on the DL and has pitched lights out in his few starts. Jose Fernandez is still the Marlins stud and has become the favorite to represent them in the All Star Game. With the eventual trade of Ricky Nolasco and the return of Henderson Alvarez, the Marlins will have one of youngest pitching rotations in baseball, but also one of the deadliest. The trio of Turner, Eovaldi, and Fernandez has shown that it is difficult to win consecutive against the Marlins when they are pitching.
Steve Cishek headlines a bullpen that is continuing to get better and with the amount of pitching depth the Marlins have in the minors, the Marlins will be able to replace any bullpen arm we trade or lose this season.
This does beg the question, have the Marlins turned the corner?
Well yes and no.
Yes the Marlins have become a more cohesive team and are no longer a doormat in which other teams can get easy victories. The Marlins have shown that they are a tough team to beat in the last couple of weeks. The Marlins beat the Cardinals, two out three times. The Marlins dropped two against the Diamondbacks, but each loss was by a run and they took three out of four from the Giants. This is pretty impressive compared to how the team started.
However it doesn’t mean that the Marlins are truly going to compete anytime soon.
The biggest reason why the Marlins are not going to make a major push this year is because they are not ready for it. This is one of the youngest teams in the Major Leagues. With youth, there will be growing pains in the Major Leagues. As well as the Marlins have been playing recently they still have major issues. Their offense is still not getting enough runs and putting more pressure on the pitching to lead the way. That’s fine for a few games but their needs to be more consistency with the bats. Also the young arms will have bad games, but they need to learn from those games to get better. Our young team has so much potential and because of their early troubles and newfound adversity, they are improving everyday.
While I understand, that this year is not the year we gain the elusive third title, I do believe that the Marlins are on the right track. Its up to the front office and Mike Redmond, to keep this team on the right track.
So have the Marlins turned the corner?
Well if they haven’t yet, they certainly will and when they do, the entire baseball world will be captivated.