Can Don Mattingly produce a winning Miami Marlins record in spite of the issues the team has had to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic?
"“I’d say in the first week, we found out that the guys did some work when they were gone,” Mattingly said. “I think that made us feel good that these guys kept up with their work. Nobody came back out of shape.”"
If you kept up with the players on social media, you say many of them doing what they needed to do to stay in shape, working out, and not letting the situation become a reason to not stay focused on a return to the game. That bodes well for the Marlins and the 60 players on their depth chart as they continue to push through preparation for the July 24 Opening Day game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
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There is plenty of pressure all around this game, with a sprint to the finish the focus of every one of the 30 teams in MLB. The Marlins are planning this season as if they are in a pennant race from the start, which is plausible considering a shortened season means there is little room for error and if this team of young players gets hot at the right time, anything can happen.
While there are players on this roster who, had it been a full 162-game season, could have made the kind of impact predicted of them in the winter, the pressure of this season shifts to the coaching staff and front office to bring together a roster many still believe is a year or two away from contending for a playoff berth.
That means the pressure of this season is squarely on the shoulders of Mattingly to rally his troops and keep them focused for the two months and potentially beyond.
There is no need to invoke a historic speech or to line with clichés. The Miami Marlins front office needs Mattingly, who is in his fifth season as the team’s skipper, to have his best season in the dugout. He must push the right buttons, rely on his coaches to push players and make the right calls in-game that will reverse his fortunes of the past two seasons, especially.
It’s not daunting, but it is important that the Miami Marlins look like contenders from the first pitch of the season.
The Marlins front office did what they set out to do in bringing in more hitters – namely outfielders to help with a lack of power from 2019. Michael Hill and Derek Jeter helped to rebuild the bullpen. And the prospects the team has acquired the previous two seasons are knocking on the door of Marlins Park for the team to let them in.
It’s not the perfect situation, but it sets up nicely for another chapter in how the Miami Marlins go from forgotten team to potential world-beaters.
Mattingly was offered a two-year contract extension prior to the end of the 2019 season with the thinking that he helped with the rebuild and should get the opportunity to see it through. If he can take this group and find a silver lining in this season, then he deserves all the credit in the world for their success. The Marlins don’t necessarily need to make the playoffs, but they do need to make a dent in the loss column and a steady climb out of the National League East basement.
And he must get the most out of his roster. If he does this then, the reasons for keeping his onboard for a fifth season are vindicated. If not, it won’t necessarily mean his exodus from South Florida, but it will mean the front office, meaning Jeter, will need to rethink things for the 2021 season and beyond.