Time for a Trip to the Woodshed


Call it what you will: a wall-to-wall counseling session, a ride in the truck, a trip to the woodshed, or a come to Jesus meeting. The outcome has to be the same, regardless of the old saw used to describe it. Without substantial improvement in offense, the July Marlins will look wistfully at the memory of .500 ball.

Maybe I’m jumping ahead. For those readers that are somewhat disconnected from scores and statistics, the Marlins took an embarrassing afterschool whuppin’ from the Rays tonight. Nine walks given up, and the dubious honor of a season-record hit tally of one. We lost to long balls and hard grounders that kicked up foul line chalk for 3-RBI doubles. Basically, a big, fat, hairy skunk of a game that I suspect will stink for a long time in the memories of everyone who notices this team this year. I’m not going to rehash the pain tonight.

When you drop nine of the last ten and end on such a jangling, raw, discordant note, it’s time to make a move of some kind in the hopes of shaking whatever bad juju is hanging around the clubhouse. Over half of the team is batting below the Mendoza line, but that only scratches the surface. Collectively, as a team, the Marlins’ trachea seems to get completely obstructed as soon as a pair of spikes crosses second base. With two outs and more than one runner on, bat paralysis ensues. Maybe ritualized poultry decapitation would help.

We have very good, if not great, pitching. Our defense is on par with past seasons, and we’re playing reasonable defensive ball. Our baserunning is at or near the top of the Major Leagues. Batting, however, is a different story. We’re currently setting a record for the worst batting average and on-base percentage in 20 years of franchise history, and our slugging record is the third worst in club history.

We are not in or close to first place in the division right now because we simply can’t execute consistently on offense. So, what to do? Right now, the Nationals are a hangnail away from putting catcher’s gear on the 500th fan through the turnstiles on game day, so the odds that we’ll give up a defensively competent catcher are near zero, even if he looks like he couldn’t hit a backyard whiffle ball right now. Seasonal attrition is taking its toll on the league, and there simply isn’t a deep pool of consistent singles and doubles hitters. We do have Christian Yelich in the wings, though…Is it time to Harperize the Marlins?

When you see as many seriously talented guys as we have hitting so poorly and so inconsistently for so long, questions and doubts start to creep around in the dustier corners of your mind. When you drop nine of ten games after a record-breaking month and then lose 11-0 with one freakin’ hit in nine innings of ball, you start taking a long, hard look at your GM and your hitting coach.

Larry Beinfest and Eduardo Perez own a share of the blame right now. Beinfest hired a team that is (with two exceptions: Giancarlo Stanton and Hanley Ramirez) a collection of bloop and chop singles hitters, and Perez hasn’t taught them how to hit for line drive singles and doubles. I’ve seen precious little plate discipline this year (John Buck is another notable exception), and too many batters swinging at first pitches and whiffing at low and away fastballs on  3-1 counts. It might seem easy to wag your finger in Ozzie Guillen’s direction, but it sure seems like he is the steadying influence that is keeping hysteria at bay. Like many slumps, there are many causes, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty that any one weakness is the true source of the misery.

Baseball being the game of failure that it is, and slumps and streaks being what they are, it’s time for our guys to figure out how to stretch the streaks and shorten the slumps. Going 1-9 to date in June means that something has to change, lest we are mistaken for the crazy guy that keeps beating his head on a wall, expecting a different result each time. Shortening slumps is a skill that elite players and clubs have. Unfortunately, we’re still developing that skill.

And still, as always, tomorrow is another day. Go Fish!