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Can Marlins Compete for a Wild Card?

62-100, that was the Miami Marlins record last year. More than that record, was the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that Marlins’ fans felt watching their team being dismantled just one year after bringing in some of the top names in free agency. It appears that Miami may have had a plan in place all along.

Even though the front office pieces have changed, the goal has remained the same. Stockpile talented young players focusing primarily on pitching, and sign cheaper veteran talent to surround them. Last year didn’t work out so well. The pitchers were too young, the veterans too old and washed up, and Mike Redmond was unable to get his team to rise to the occasion in his rookie season as a manager.

So what is significantly different about this team that would inspire people like Jon Morosi of Fox Sports to write articles like this one, touting the Marlins as contenders to the wild card?

The Marlins are poised to compete for a wild-card berth — seriously, they are — in a National League East that includes the aging Phillies, hobbled Braves, rebuilding Mets . . . and, admittedly, the powerhouse Nationals. Marlins first baseman Garrett Jones told me Thursday that his new team has comparable talent to his old team — the Pittsburgh Pirates, who reached the playoffs last year.

For one, all of the fresh-faced rookie newness is gone. Some were successful last year, (see Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich) some not so much, (Jake Marisnick) but they all gained valuable experience. This season, it is not as much about figuring out where the pre-game buffet is, as much as it is about winning. Giancarlo Stanton said as much himself.

Could it be that this version of veteran talent may be better suited to lead these younger players? Taking nothing away from Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco‘s careers, but Could Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Rafael Furcal be more battle-tested? Maybe they have more experience in doing the little things that it takes to be a career winner.

I understand that many predictions have the Marlins reaching 70 wins, a fantastic increase to be sure, but certainly not playoff worthy. Those predictions are definitely more probable to happen, but is it possible that Miami could compete for one of the now two potential wild-card spots?

Let me give you another number. 69-93. This number is the record of the last place Boston Red Sox in 2012. Boston managed 28 more wins in 2013 en route to a 97-65 season and a World Championship. If, and this is admittedly quite a big if, the Marlins can achieve the same turn around that Boston managed, it would put them just 2 games out of the wild-card from last year in the National League.

Prior to this spring, I would have told you that this is not possible for this young Marlins team. I would have told you that they were too green. That the pitching was bound to regress. That the lineup was still too weak. 23 spring games later, the Marlins have the best record of all the National League teams, and, as Morosi pointed out, an ERA of 2.95.

I am not predicting that the Marlins will win the wild card (our official predictions will come out in the upcoming weeks), but I am telling the Fish fans that there is hope. Hope is something we didn’t have last year. This spring has allowed us to begin to get just a little bit excited about our team. Sure we still hear the jokes, we still don’t trust our owner, but we have hope and hope is all we really want this time of year.

Tags: Miami Marlins

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