“We could make something beautiful. Something that wouldn’t be a problem. At least not in Miami.”
Or so sang U2 frontman Bono about the city in question. Whether he was referring to the local baseball team, the Marlins, is debatable. Whether it rings true, however, is less so.
The club’s owners are intent on making something that they’d consider beautiful (like the hideously kitsch home-run sculpture at Marlins Park) and wouldn’t be a problem (except when you sell the majority of a team with half-decent potential).
And then your real troubles set in; at least in Miami. The National Basketball Association’s Heat franchise gets all the public attention and plaudits.
Close to three months worth of baseball – nearly at the half-season mark – sees the Marlins with a 22-49 win-loss record (as of June 19’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field).
They are in last place – statistically – in total runs scored for the season and percentage of hits converted to base-running position.
Paradoxically, though, the pitchers are earning just four 11 runs against them per match (it’s the equivalent of a bowling economy rate in cricket) – and anything under six is reasonable across nine innings.
Next up are four straight encounters at the MLB champions San Fransisco Giants (currently ranked 12th with a 37-34 record).
And all of this coming after such a much-hyped new team branding and stadium opened only last year.
Under new coach Mike Redmond, a partial rebuild was probably in order following the dismissal of Ozzie Guillen – who was on a four-year contract in the dugout.
Closing pitcher Heath Bell under-performed; but there was plenty to like about infielder Jose Reyes and pitching workhorse Mark Buehrle.
Before they, too, were traded away on the assumption that because the team was losing, all the players should be jettisoned in favour of an obvious youth policy.
Admittedly the fact that the entire season was documented by reality TV show “The Franchise” may not have helped matters.
Some six months later, banking on the cut-price bring-back of veterans Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre has delivered, well, experience, but little else in solid statistical terms. So where to next?
For those following along with the play-at-home scorecard, so far this season the best Marlins IX would be the following, (based partly on official MLB statistics and ESPN online’s team depth chart):
1. Logan Morrison (first baseman)
2. Greg Dobbs (second baseman)
3. Giancarlo Stanton (right field)
4. Ed Lucas (third baseman)
5. Juan Pierre (left field)
6. Justin Ruggiano (centre field)
7. Rob Brantly (catcher)
8. Adeiny Hechavarria (short stop)
9. Jose Fernandez (pitcher)
The starting pitching group would contain: Jose Fernandez, Nate Eovaldi, Jake Turner, Chad Qualls and Mike Dunn.
The relief pitchers would be: Kevin Slowey, Ricky Nolasco and Ryan Webb. The first two have made match starts so far this year but could do with a change of scene, and perhaps regain some confidence in the middle innings instead.
The closing pitcher – the bloke who should in theory be able to claim batters while protecting a lead – is Steve Cishek. Former left-arm starter Wade LeBlanc has gone from being a useful opening to the attack to relief duties to potential late-season trade option.
Clearly, being a Marlins supporter – even a relatively second-hand one from 10,000 kilometres away – is tough. The team’s often considered the laughing stock of the competition this year.
And fair enough, too. The club is sitting 30th of 30 sides.
And you can’t get any lower than that.
But equally, it’s fun to know that the only way is…up. And it means that any win will be one to relish, given it’s going to be against higher-ranked opposition. Handy, that.