Miami Marlins Late-Season Surge: What’s in a Game?

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 11, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the second inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 11, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Miami Marlins are looking a little better these days, but what does that mean, really?

The Marlins were boasting a 57-91 record before reeling off two wins in a row, first in the series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies, then in their series opener against the Washington Nationals. Even so, the absolute best record they can hope for at this point is 71-91. The preseason ZIPS projection had the Miami Marlins finishing at 64-98. Would hitting that mark count as a small victory at this point? How much would it matter if they fell short, or even exceeded it?

Miami Marlins Attendance Problems

The Marlins attendance figures have been nothing to write home about, literally. With an estimated payroll that pretty much matches the Pittsburgh Pirates as last in the National League, the Marlins have struggled to draw half of the next-worst NL team through the turnstiles (also the Pirates). Also last in the entirety of Major league Baseball, the next worst team is also based out of Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays draw 14,431 per game, which of course dwarfs the Marlins figure of 9,946. A season-ending figure of 800,000 for the Marlins may be out of reach. Why do the “fans” of this team stay away in droves? I guess they’re asking themselves, “Why care?”

Miami Marlins
MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 18: Lewis Brinson #9 of the Miami Marlins makes a catch in the outfield in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on September 18, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Having a major league team in town is a rare privilege to be sure. I remember when there wasn’t a team. We had three superstations on cable, so everyone I knew had to pick the Atlanta Braves, the New York Mets, or the Chicago Cubs. I followed the Cubbies religiously from 1986 through 1992, but that’s getting off topic. Getting our own team was a blessing, one that I’ve never taken for granted.

Last season, the Miami Marlins drew 1,583,014, nearly twice what they’ll draw this season. Even so, that was still last in the NL, and third worst in baseball. If you go back through their inception, only a few seasons stand out as exceptions.

MIami Marlins
PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 08: Brian Anderson #15 of the Miami Marlins walks back to the dugout after striking out in the sixth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 8, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

1993: 3,066,756, fifth in NL, seventh in MLB
1994: 1,942,377, fifth in NL, ninth in MLB
1995: 1,700,466, eighth in NL, 15th in MLB
1996: 1,746,767, 10th in NL, 18th in MLB
1997: 2,364,387, fifth in NL, 11th in MLB
1998: 1,750,395, 13th in NL, 22nd in MLB
1999: 1,369,421, 15th in NL, 27th in MLB
2000: 1,218,326, 15th in NL, 28th in MLB
2001: 1,261,226, 15th in NL, 29th in MLB
2002: 813,118, 15th in NL, 29th in MLB
2003: 1,303,215, 15th in NL, 28th in MLB
2004: 1,723,105, 14th in NL, 26th in MLB
2005: 1,852,608, 15th in NL, 27th in MLB
2006: 1,164,134, 16th in NL, 30th in MLB
2007: 1,370,511, 16th in NL, 30th in MLB
2008: 1,335,076, 16th in NL, 30th in MLB
2009: 1,464,109, 16th in NL, 30th in MLB
2010: 1,524,894, 16th in NL, 27th in MLB
2011: 1,520,562, 16th in NL, 29th in MLB
2012: 2,219,444, 12th in NL, 18th in MLB
2013: 1,586,322, 15th in NL, 28th in MLB
2014: 1,732,283, 15th in NL, 27th in MLB
2015: 1,752,235, 15th in NL, 28th in MLB
2016: 1,712,417, 15th in NL, 27th in MLB
2017: 1,583,014, 15th in NL, 28th in MLB
2018: 755,890, 15th in NL, 30th in MLB

I highlighted the seasons where the Marlins were not in the bottom third of attendance. As you can plainly see, the Miami Marlins have more-or-less maintained a spot in the lower echelon of major league attendance figures. Exceptions to the rule are their first two seasons, their first World Series title, in 1997, and the 2012 season, when Jeffrey Loria opened a new stadium, signed Giancarlo Stanton to a huge deal, and seemingly threw caution to the wind with a $107 million payroll, the fifth highest in the NL. Even a winner couldn’t move the dial very much. A World Series Title in 2003 would still see the Miami Marlins draw the third lowest figure in the major leagues.

Miami Marlins
DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 25: Giancarlo Stanton /

Why Should You Re2pect the Process?

Conventional wisdom says that a winner will draw the fans back, but I’m not so sure. There’s also a wise old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” I think a lot of fans are staying away on principle, and I’m going to ask those of you for whom this is true to give this group a chance. A lot of fans, and most of the mainstream media, initially hailed Derek Jeter as the team savior. That feeling would only last until Jeter trimmed the payroll, then he faced the wrath of the masses.

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Jeter inherited an untenable situation, made moves to address it, then was figuratively tarred and feathered in the press. This is demonstrably unfair. Jeter is the face of the Sherman group, and so will be the one facing the music and answering the tough questions. I promise you, though, if you’re patient with the “process,” then Jeter will also be the one accepting accolades when this team returns to relevance. His skill as a player is non-transferrable to his current role, but his dogged determination is. Jeter will rise to the top, and master his current craft as he mastered his last.

Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins /

So why should you, dear reader, go see a game? Because Sherman and Jeter are not the same as Loria, despite what you think. Because baseball is the perfect sport, and a big league team shouldn’t be taken for granted. Because we may be witnessing the beginning of something special here in south Florida. And because Winter is Coming, it’s a long time until Spring Training.

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