Monday, July 29, 2013

Great Matchup, Great Game

    On Sunday, with the promise of Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez versus Pirates phenom Gerrit Cole, I attended my fifth Marlins game of the season. A lot of folks must have liked this match-up, because 15 minutes before first pitch, several hundred were standing in line to buy tickets. (I had become accustomed to just walking up to window and buying.) By first pitch, as I headed toward the ticket entrance, clutching my Legends Silver ticket, several hundred were still waiting to get tickets. And then there was a long line to get into the ballpark itself.
    I missed the first inning before I got up to the Legends (second) level. My ticket was Section 226, third row -- far down the left field line -- but I settled into a seat closer to home plate. In 20-some games last year and this, I had never sat on this level and was curious what it was like. Online, I thought I saw a Legends Silver (second level, outfield) was $20, but I ended up paying $25 at the gate.
    The old Club Level a the stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie had some premium food choices, likely freshly sliced roast beef sandwiches, but after the second inning, I wandered around and found that the new ballpark has slim pickings on Legends level -- hamburger, hot dog, chicken tenders, slice of pizza. I settled for a double cheeseburger, but had to wait almost 10 minutes while it was cooked fresh.  $20 for burger and large Diet Coke. First level has many more food choices and I doubt I'll go to second level again.
    But ... what a game. Both pitchers were great. The difference was Stanton, who hit one of those line drive shots that was still going up when it hit the home run sculpture. And Cishek has been Mr. Consistency lately in the ninth.
    And so the crowd of 24,000 -- largest I've seen in person since opening night -- went home happy, or most of us did, since there were a sizable number of Pirate fans (pathetic characters, who haven't seen a winning season in two decades).
    It was such a large crowd, they had the upper deck open Sunday -- first time I've seen that since opening game.
    Just for the record: The Marlins on Monday morning are 40-63, achieving in July the total that the hapless Mets won for the whole season in 1962. At this point, those Mets were 26-77.
    Even so, the Marlins still have the worst record in the National League. We fans are back to where we've been for most of the last decade, looking at some promising young players -- some of them VERY promising this time -- and hoping management doesn't screw things up.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Header, New Hope

    What a month June turned out to be. I went off to visit the grandkids in Colorado, and the Marlins surged. My buddy DC, who last winter predicted the Marlins would get only 39 wins this season, texted me last week: "Young fish growing up. Nice."
    Orlando emailed me: "Jeff Mathis for president." That was after his game-winning grand slam last week.
    Now, this grumbling fan needs to point out that earlier this season Mathis was called "one of the worst hitters of this generation" by He is currently batting .154 -- well below the Mendoza line, but perhaps we should say that he's .054 above the Mathis line. He's been in the majors for more than a decade, and his career BA is below Mendoza.
    But the catcher was a star in June, and the Marlins went 15-10. The batting was still mediocre at best. For the month, the Marlins were 17th in runs scored, 26th in HRs, 22 in on-base percentage among the 30 ML teams. The Marlins were carried by its young pitchers. Team ERA for the month was 3.51, eighth best in the ML.
    As a veteran fan, there is still this little voice whispering: "How will the front office screw this up?" That's why I've put a new header on this blog, and included the word "dread."
    Just to keep things in perspective: For the year, the Marlins are still dead last among the 30 ML teams in runs scored, HR, on-base percentage and total bases. They are among the leaders, however, in fewest grounded-into-double-plays -- ranking fourth. Of course, you need to get a runner on base before you can ground into a DP.
    Still, here I am, a fan being sucked into a new branch of hope. Hey, the Pirates might have a winning season! The Cubs pray for their GM's magic. And I watch young Marlins improving. Of course, I feel some trepidation, like someone who has been dumped by a lover, only to see the lover return, cooing apologies and promises that everything will be better this time.