If the Miami Marlins are to become a contender in 2012 and beyond, success will have to start at home.
The Marlins finished with the second-worst home record in 2011, besting the woeful Houston Astros by only 1.5 games. The 31-47 mark at Sun Life Stadium was second only to the 31-50 mark posted by the ’98 team. That was the fire sale season after the first World Series championship. Even the ’93 expansion team was more successful at home in what was then Joe Robbie Stadium. Only Ozzie Guillen’s Chicago White Sox matched the Marlins in being seven games better on the road than at home.
Winning 45 games at home, something the Marlins have managed several times in the last decade, would have kept the team in contention for a wild card until the final week of the season. The hope is that the new ballpark will bring a lot more fans to the ballpark, more excitement from the fans, and give the Marlins players a home field advantage again that may have seemed lacking for many years.
Don’t think the Marlins have struggled at home most years, however. Despite ranking at or near the bottom in attendance in the cavernous Sun Life Stadium, Florida only had one other losing season at home since 2000, when the ’07 team went 36-45.
Twice in team history, the Marlins have led the majors in home victories – the championship years of ’97 and ’03. If Miami will be a contender in the new ballpark, it will have to start with turning around last season’s home performance. Will a bigger, more enthusiastic crowd help? It remains to be seen exactly what kind of attendance the Marlins will generate this year, but the team already expects to blow recent attendance out of the water.
According to USA Today:
"Team president David Samson said the team will have at least 15,000 season ticket holders in 2012, which will be a franchise record."
The Marlins have only once drawn 3 million fans (the inaugural season of 1993), and to do so this season would be the high end of optimistic projecions. To do anywhere near that would be to double the average season attendance of the last 10 years. Still, it is a pretty safe bet the team will be over 2 million fans in attendance for only the third time ever. You have to figure that attendance boost, the noise when the roof is closed, and the intimate feel of the park will give players a shot of adrenaline this season.
Recent speculation about Marlins Park has centered around how it will play during the season – as a pitcher-friendly or hitter-friendly park. It is also important to consider what the attendance and new field will do to help the Marlins become successful again at home. More home success ought to keep the team contending late into the season for a playoff berth. It won’t guarantee success beyond that – ask the 2008 Chicago Cubs (among others), swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers despite the best home record that season.
Marlins’ Home Record
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