Why can’t the Marlins surprise us all in 2019?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Manager Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins relieves Dan Straily #58 in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves during the Grapefruit League spring training game at Champion Stadium on March 03, 2019 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Manager Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins relieves Dan Straily #58 in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves during the Grapefruit League spring training game at Champion Stadium on March 03, 2019 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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While the Miami Marlins look to win their 11th straight Grapefruit League game, the question everyone should be asking is can they make the playoffs in 2019?

The one thing I can say about this experience while covering the Marlins is that in the last year, I have become a numbers guy.

I’m obsessed with numbers. Wins and losses. Batting average. Homeruns. And of course, the Marlins place in the National League East standings. I have baseball to blame for that and I have baseball to thank for that as well.

My obsession with numbers has led me to this startling revelation. As the Marlins look to win their 11th straight Grapefruit League game, why is it that we don’t give this team enough credit and talk about the fact this roster might be better than we think it is?

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I know it’s not the right time to discuss what’s going on here, but manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff have a core of young pitchers who are exceeding expectations. He has what appears to be a balance of youth and experience in the batting order.

So I present this question knowing that I could be completely wrong, but here it goes.
Why couldn’t we talk about the Miami Marlins as a possible wildcard sleeper this season?

I know national pundits will tell you this team still isn’t ready. There are too many questions about the lack of power in this lineup and “preseason“ baseball games don’t mean anything. They’re right. But in watching what’s going on in Jupiter, I can’t help but think this is a team like 1991 Atlanta Braves and the start of something big.

The same could be said for the 1997 Marlins as well. Or any major league team that isn’t supposed to finish anywhere near the top of their division and catches lightning in a bottle. A lot would have to happen for hysteria to strike South Florida. If it did, it would make CEO Derek Jeter look like a genius, and would become the new blueprint of how to build a baseball team from the ground up.

At this time or year ago everybody was laughing at Jeter and how he was handling the demolition of a Major League team. Now, it’s conceivable people see his vision and understand he knows what he’s doing.

I can’t help but look at the variables and ask out loud, “What if?”

Will Lewis Brinson continue to show power from the fifth spot in the batting order? Can Peter O’Brien and Garrett Cooper bring the lumber when they’re in the lineup? How does Brian Anderson continue to grow as a cornerstone piece of this organization?

Will do young pitchers led by Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Trevor Richards and Pablo Lopez resemble the makings of a younger staff similar to the 1979 Baltimore Orioles and the mid-1990s Atlanta Braves?

Most important in this process, does this all mean Mattingly returns in 2020? It would be a shame if he wasn’t around to see this through. And if he were not to have his contract renewed after the season, it is my sincere hope he remains with the organization in some capacity.

While some might not see it, these are exciting times in Marlins baseball. From the writing aspect, these stories are the ones we’ve hoped to write about. As a fan, I am more than giddy to see what happens next. I’m anxiously waiting to see whether lucky 11 does happen. I’m also interested to see how Mattingly handles the 25-man roster given there have been solid contributions from many players who may not make this team.

Baseball is alive and well in South Florida again. It won’t show up on the scoreboard immediately, but it’s there. Fans will come to the ballpark and see improvement. The coaching staff will see success in the future. The front office will continue to push the same directive it has since the new ownership group took over this franchise.

And this writer along with others who cover this organization will see changes on the horizon. Some of it may come sooner than we all had predicted.

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