With Some Perspective, Season Could Still See Plenty To Celebrate
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Just over two weeks ago, in a move correctly predicted by this columnist, the Miami Marlins threw a hand grenade into the big league clubhouse by firing manager Mike Redmond and replacing him with a man who had never managed a game at any level of professional baseball.
In a rare departure into the first person, I feel obligated to stress that my prediction in no reflected my thinking that this was the right decision, just one that an owner with a history of impulsive and occasionally successful (well once) actions would make.
And as for replacing him with such an untried skipper, that never entered my imagination.
The only reason I didn’t say the next manager would be Jack McKeon was that I thought the club would want to minimize the criticism they would solicit from a Redmond firing. Compared to Dan Jennings though, the eighty-four year old McKeon looks more like a co-managing tandem of Joe Torre and Tony La Russa than a laughable retread.
I mean at this rate, it only seems reasonable to assume I’m next in line for the job: after all, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Heading into that decision, the team had already dipped six games under; Jennings followed it up with the worst start by a new manager in team history, losing his first five games en route to a 6-10 record under his leadership.
Needless to say, all of this losing has led to a huge amount of turmoil, with criticism raining down from paying public and published pundits alike. Players are restless, fans are unhappy, national columnists are laughing, clearly the front office is a bit miffed…the list goes on.
After all, this team was supposed to win the World Series this year right?
No wait, that’s wrong. They lose it, to Chicago…no still in #RewriteTheFuture mode.
At least they were supposed to make it to the World Series, except that that’s the Nationals I’m thinking of.
Were the Marlins just supposed to be a lock for the playoffs? Maybe, if they pass that rule about only being able to make four playoffs in a row to keep the Cardinals out of it, and we trust the Giants to follow their script of only trying to win a title in even-numbered seasons. But one of those is really more guideline than rule, and I might have just made the Cardinals thing up.
So what then, was supposed to happen in this season that so many seem to be giving up on?
What needs to be kept in mind is that the plan all along was to build up a team that might compete for a championship in 2016. When the 2014 team accelerated their growth with that fifteen game improvement, everyone started drinking the Teal Kool-Aid and buying into Miami making the big leap a year ahead of schedule.
Unfortunately, that included ownership, leading them to make the clubhouse adjustment they did. What fans need to also keep in mind is that there were plenty of justifiable reasons for this optimism. The Marlins might have the best outfield in baseball, anchored by a HoF caliber player in Giancarlo Stanton. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has shown consistent improvement in the field and at the plate, turning into a game changing talent. Oh, and they have a pitcher on the payroll that when healthy has the ability to not just be discussed in the same sentence as Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, but to outproduce him.
This off-season saw the team’s front office lock up two-thirds of that MLB best outfield for at least the next seven seasons. Stanton is staying in South Beach, and has shrugged off last year’s horrific September injury to rank among the league leaders in home runs and RBIs all season long.
The team filled the biggest hole in their lineup – second base – with an All-Star answer in Dee Gordon. Gordon has been even better this season- he leads the game with a .367 BA-and is under club control until 2019. The team added two quality veterans in Martin Prado and Ichiro Suzuki– the Ichiro Suzuki. Both have had an impressive impact in the clubhouse, and both are also under contract for 2016.
While Prado might be traded for parts, Suzuki will be on board – treating fans to a two season chase for membership in the esteemed 3,000 hit club. Pitching phenom Jose Fernandez has hit every mark in his rehab from Tommy-John surgery with flying colors. And hidden behind the overall record is the fact that virtually all season long, the best defense in baseball has been Miami’s.
So let’s play this out to its conclusion. If by the end of the season, the Marlins can say they had two players start in the All-Star game, that Jose Fernandez is recovered and healthy, that some of the team’s younger talent has gained invaluable experience, and that they have a core of players that have bonded together through adversity…doesn’t that sound like something to rally behind?
The future can still be very bright.
And if you prefer to continue to pin your hopes to a 2015 title, the Fish have been one game above .500 under Jennings, since that five game slide.