Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rays of hope in 2014

          Well, here we are nearing the end of 2014. The Marlins have lost their star pitcher, and still they are battling. They are on this Saturday morning, Aug. 23, a mere (?!) four games out of a wild card spot. The playoffs remain a distant, shimmering dream, but still, as they start a crucial road trip, a fan can still have some interest.
          What's happened? Stanton is having a great season, of course, but there's more. Yelich, 22,  and Ozuna, 23, keep improving.  So does Adeiny.  I think that's the key. Salty ($6 million), Jones ($2.7 million) and McGehee ($1.1 million) have been improvements but they don't win a World Series. McGehee in particular seems to be reverting lately to his standard career stats, but it's interesting that he does well RISP and also hits into a ton of double plays -- indications that a lot of batters are getting on base before him.
    What's more, the Marlins are doing all this even though their 2B hope, Furcal ($3.5 million), has been a bust, and they're still paying $4 million this year, according to some websites, to support Bell.
    As of today, the Marlins are 6th in NL in runs scored (after being a miserable last most of last year), 5th in on-base percentage, 4th in walks and tied for 8th in home runs (while playing in a cavernous park). They're certainly NOT doing it with speed (14th in NL in stolen bases) or fielding (12th in NL in fielding percentage). Their pitchers are also 12th in ERA. 
    Next year, if Fernandez returns, if they keep Stanton, if they get a couple more pitchers, if ... if ... well, at least we're back to thinking of ifs -- a great improvement after last year's stultifying performance.
   




Monday, September 30, 2013

Can a fan see anything negative in a no-hitter? Yep

The braintrust in the late innings of another loss. They're still there.
     It was a fitting end to the Marlins 2013 season -- winning on a wild pitch, scoring their only run of the game, to give Henderson Alvarez a no-hit victory.
    The 2013 Marlins are arguably the worst-hitting team of the modern era. No wonder they couldn't get a hit to win a game. They finished dead last in the Major Leagues by a large margin in runs scored, batting average, doubles, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and total bases.
    WORST RUN PRODUCTION IN FOUR DECADES
 How bad was their batting? They scored 513 runs -- tying the 2010 Seattle Mariners as the worst full-season run production in the past four decades. ESPN.com labeled that Mariners team as "the worst hitting team of all time."  That team managed 101 home runs. The Marlins this year had 95.
     Marlins ended the season with 100 losses -- that's far better than the 127 that a buddy projected before the season began and better than the record-setting 1962 Mets' 120 -- a record the '13 Marlins seemed for a while in danger of breaking before their young pitching took hold.
    Marlins ended the year with a team 3.71 ERA -- 11th best in the Majors -- 7th best in National League. Five of the six teams with better pitching are headed to the playoffs.
    On Fox Sports television Sunday, Michael Hill, the new president of baseball operations, said, "the future is bright because of the gains we saw in 2013." Rebuilding after last year's debacle? The Marlins have been getting steadily worse each of the past four years in terms of wins and losses. They dumped Beinfest, the president of their baseball operations, but they promoted the two guys right below him.
    Hill's goal: "Win more games." Is that the kind of insight that gets a promotion?
    FIRST BOLD MOVE FOR 2014? 
     In fact, as an anonymous source told The Herald, Loria calls the shots and is the real general manager. Loria (by himself) made the first bold move for 2014, resigning Greg Dobbs for $1.7 million. Loria rushed to sign Dobbs, 35, before another team picked him up. For the year, he hit .228. In the last 30 games, his BA was a stellar .091.
    Michael Jong at Fishstripes.com wrote: "On the surface, it is a poor use of the $1.7 million, as Dobbs has been a terrible hitter for three years and has only stood out to the Marlins because of his propensity to make contact with runners on third base. Essentially, the Marlins signed him to make professional, productive outs."
    ALVAREZ: WORST DEAL OF THE YEAR?
    And speaking of dumb moves: Did this one sneak by you? The Tigers minor league pitcher of the year in 2013: Lefty Jose Alvarez, who had 115 strikeouts in 129 innings in AAA Toledo. Last year, Alvarez was with the Marlins in AA. How good were the trade picks Miami got for giving him up? Zilch. The Marlins granted him "free agency" last fall, and the Tigers, saying thank you again, gobbled him up.
     Maybe Loria demanded Jose Alvarez be dumped because he was getting confused by too many pitchers named Alvarez.
    This morning, Douglas Hanks had an upbeat (?) story in the Herald sports section: "As a rough season of the Marlins Park comes to a close, the team finds itself drawing about 1,000 fans more a game than it had at Sun Life."
    What Hanks doesn't know -- in fact no one does -- is how many of those tickets were sold at a discount or ultra-discount or given away. I attended 11 games -- five of them for free. And I had a free Sir Pizza coupon I could have used the last week and didn't. My record was 3-8 for the year.
    In fact, on Sunday I was on I-95 at midday and almost swerved off at the downtown exit on the spur of the moment to watch the final game in person. Alas, I went home to watch it on TV -- missing my third personal no hitter. (I saw Al Leiter and Anibal's in person.) So I missed a hell of a game -- with a wild, odd ending. Another frustration in a season filled with them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Oh Ye of Little Faith

     Some inattentive Marlins fans complain that we gave  up Anibal -- an ever-improving pitcher -- and Infante to the Tigers for a weak-hitting, bad-throwing catcher (Brantly) and Andrew Miller II (Turner, 4.97 ERA in the last 30 days). But no!
    We also got Brian Flynn -- a 6-7 23-year-old in the Miller mode who was just promoted. Surely, one of these three guys will prove to be an All-Star, right? (Also called the Miggy theory.)
    On Thursday -- free day for old farts -- Orlando, RF and I saw him pitch from Section 22. Flynn lasted four innings, gave up six runs and  now has an ERA over 10 -- contributing to a numbing 6-1 defeat before an announced crowd of 15,274. That was my 11th Marlins game of the year (and sixth free one). I have seen eight losses.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Remembering the Departed

    A friend of a friend couldn't use Monday night tickets, so RF and  I ended up in row three, section 10 -- between home and first base. Great seats. Usual game. Alvarez had an implosion second time through the league-leading Braves lineup, and Marlins lost 5-2.
    I've now seen 10 games this person -- a 3-7 record.
    Without Stanton, this weak-hitting lineup's first five hitters combine for 23 home runs -- less than half Chris Davis' 48 home runs. Even that 23 is a bit misleading, since part-timer Ruggiano accounts for 16 of them.
    Marlins remain dead last in MLB in runs, hits, doubles and home runs. They're a respectable 8th (out of 30) in one category -- grounded into double plays, which is kind of astonishing since they get so few runners on base.
    Anyway, I spotted a fan in the first row of section 10 with this baseball hat. Kind of wish I had one.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Good Hitting Beats Good Pitching and Vice Versa

    Since old farts get in for free on Thursdays, my friend RF and I went to the Thursday afternoon game against the Dodgers. We were given seats in Section 6, Row 10 -- just beyond first base in right field, not as good as the behind-the-plate freebies Orlando and I got the last Thursday we went to, but hey, the price was right and the tickets were not bad.
    And we got to see a Major League team, with an all-star pitcher (Kershaw) and an all-star of the future, Puig. Their 6-0 hammering of AA Marlins was a bit numbing, and so RF and I spent considerable time arguing about baseball.
    He insists I'm wrong in claiming that it was Yogi Berra came up with "Good hitting beats good pitching, and vice versa."  His smartphone search was inconclusive.
    French also expressed amazement when I said that the free seniors tickets deal might cease after this year. He said that the Marlins make money on the luxury tax before a single fan walks in the gate, so that there's no need for them to charge for tickets. I think of this as the newspaper theory: The more you give your product away, to "news partners" and on the web, the more prosperous your business with be.
    We also wondered if there is another current Major League park that has never had a sell-out. Marlins opening day last year had a crowd of 36,601 -- their highest attendance ever, according to BaseballReference.com. The park is listed as having 36,742 seats, with another 1,000 standing room (Budweiser sign). Both of us have tried various web searches and haven't had an answer whether there's another current park that has never sold out.
    The crowd Thursday was listed officially at 25,609, which must have included a ton of people who bought tickets and didn't show up, because attendance was far smaller than the 27,000 at Monday's Dodger's game. I wonder: Are we old farts included in the "paid" attendance?
    The good news: The hot dog guy across the street from the Clevelander was back, with his $3 sausage and $1 water, saving us a bunch of money. He wasn't there Monday, not sure why.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Feel Good Night, Kind of

    UPDATED ... SEE BELOW
    Last week, a Marlins rep called me up and noted that I had bought tickets online to a recent game. Marlins wanted to thank me by inviting me and up to three friends to be the team's guests at an upcoming game. "Just let me know," he said.  I said I had been pissed off at the ownership and he said he understood my feelings and the team really wanted our continued support.
    On Monday, with a matchup of ML Cuban super rookies, Fernandez versus Puig, I emailed him early in the morning and followed up with a phone call that I wanted tickets for Monday's game.  No response. Reminds me of how Bill Clinton described George W.'s attitude at one point: "I feel your pain, I'm just not going to do anything about it."
    UPDATE: Later on Tuesday, rep sent me an email saying he was off on Monday and apologized for not responding in timely fashion. He said the offer still stood for later games. And in fact, I can't bitch about paying money to see such a matchup.
    What happened was my buddy RF and I sprung for $11 seats in far right field. We slipped into much better seats in section 26 in left field.
    And what a game for a decent crowd of 27,000. Fernandez was terrific. Marlins bats got hot, with Stanton hitting one of his scorching line-drive homers. RF was buoyed to remark that this team could be a contender next year, but the elation of a 6-2 victory wasn't enough for me to agree with him.
    To be a contender, this team needs a catcher and third baseman definitely. The slick-fielding shortstop could be an 8 hitter on a strong team (Mark Belanger of the Orioles came to RF's mind), but do we really have a competitive players at first and second?  And what about centerfield? Ozuna, maybe? Lot of holes to fill.
    And the feel-good victory was dulled by a report in this morning's Herald that Loria petulantly refused to allow the promotion of a hot hitting AAA infielder because the kid had said something against Loria's hand-picked hitting coach.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mike Lowell Bobblehead


    I write about this belatedly because my grandson was here for a visit and I didn't have time until he left.
    On Sunday, Aug. 4, he and I went to a Marlins game -- a very special game I told him. (He's 11.) It was a Mike Lowell bobblehead giveaway and the 2003 world champions were going to be honored in a pre-game ceremony. AND it was a Bark at the Park game.
    I really wanted him to have a bobblehead, and I had missed out on bobbleheads in the past. I was thinking that with the special ceremony and everything, there would be long lines early to get into the ball park. Because he was visiting from Denver and being a proud grandpa, I sprang for fancy $18 tickets -- second row, upper deck, right behind home plate, bought in advance online.
    Stupid me. We arrived more than an hour before game time. We walked right in, each with a bobblehead. We could have easily bought outfield tickets and sat behind home plate, my usual plan when Orlando and I go.
    Well, it was great seeing some of the glorious crew of 2003 -- Lowell, Pudge, Jack McKeon. There was such a feel-good time that Loria felt safe to come out and sit in his usual seat behind home plate and no fan dumped Coke on him.
    But here's the thing -- bobblehead, World Series reunion, bark in the park (400 dogs at $10 each), the paid attendance was only 25,077. (I'm assuming the dogs were counted as paid attendees, right?)
    Oh... and the bobblehead. My grandson wanted to see one during the listless 2-0 loss. We opened one up, and it fell out. Both of Lowell's arms cracked and fell off, and the little bat he was supposed to be holding vanished among the peanut shells on the floor.
    Kind of symbolic of this season.