Yes, after a page of lamenting the loss of Dwyane Wade, we’ve segued back to Marlins baseball.
Fans might have heard of one or two firesales that have tarnished the organization over the years, but many of the key pieces moved in those transactions barely had time to settle in to the community before departing. Kevin Brown played as many seasons as Moises Alou and Bobby Bonilla combined, not exactly #FishLifers. Jose Reyes didn’t even finish 2012, sticking around less than that one season of Ivan Rodriguez. Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis? Beloved yes, but doubling up either of their Marlins careers would still leave you three short of Wade territory.
Last year’s All-Star Game introduced the fan shtick of selecting a Franchise Four, and saw Gary Sheffield, Giancarlo Stanton, Jeff Conine, and Mike Lowell given the nod as the Marlins representatives. The fact that Sheffield, No. 17 all-time in games played for the club, made the list speaks volumes about the lack of real bonding allowed to take root between fans and the Fish. Conine and Lowell both are in the Top 3 in the games played department, with Niner being one of just two players to have logged 1000 games in teal/black/grey/orange.
Stanton, aka The Artist Formerly Known As Mike, has a real chance to be the first Marlins player to make that Wade/Marino level connection.
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Once 2016 comes to a close, he’ll have done something only a handful of Marlins have ever done: play a full seven seasons in Miami. Games played leader Luis Castillo, Conine, Lowell, Alex Gonzalez, and Ricky Nolasco. That’s it.
Talented players all, but never the guy who was going the win the game himself, Lowell’s first half of 2003 excluded. None of them Marino. None of them Wade.
Stanton though is a game-changing talent, the kind that a team can build upon and fans can rally around. By the time he can even opt out of his contract, he’ll be an eleven year vet, miles past Castillo if he stay’s even moderately healthy. Inarguably the face of the organization.
To etch his face in South Florida’s Mount Rushmore, Stanton needs a mixture of personal durability and team success. The slugger has missed a lot of time, with inopportune injuries costing him everything from MVP honors, to All-Star starts, to Home Run Derby appearances. Possibly even a playoff berth if you really believed in that 2014 club. The fans love him, but they don’t trust him to stay healthy. A few healthy seasons though, and he’s right back on track for all the gaudy projections that earned him his massive contract.
They’ve also, for all his talent, never really seen him succeed. We mentioned Pudge’s one season here earlier; that’s one more winning season than Stanton has. He’s never won, the high water mark coming in his rookie year with the 2010 club that won 80 games. You need only look to Marino to know that he doesn’t need to win a championship; only Pat Riley and Miami Hurricanes fans expect titles every year. But you do need to win some, be competitive, allow fans a chance to hope. There’s too much to do, and too little history, in this front-running town to support a perennial loser. This ain’t Chicago.
The Marlins need to start winning, and need Stanton to be the face of it. It needn’t be championships. Three consecutive winning seasons, and three years of Big G hitting 40 plus HRs would do more for this franchise than a single deep playoff run.
The Marlins desperately need that face to at least be in the ballpark of being as beloved as the other Miami eminences we’ve mentioned. One day, he could be the next D-Wade. But right now, he’s basically Rony Seikaly.