Zombies might have been better. It wasn’t unexpected, but the reality of the Ricky Nolasco trade is still surprisingly galling. The Marlins traded the franchise leader in Wins, Strikeouts, and Innings Pitched last Saturday for what one writer is calling a collection of “warm bodies”. The prospects received in return are not highly regarded. All are minor league right-handed pitchers. Steve Ames and Josh Wall have been assigned to the bullpen for the team’s Triple-A affiliate, while Angel Sanchez (23), will start for the Single-A affiliate. Writers covering the Dodgers are saying:
“Thankfully, the Dodgers willingness and ability to take on the remaining $5.7 million of Nolasco’s contract allowed for very little, in terms of talent, to head to the Marlins in return.”
Week four of the 2013 Major League Baseball season flashed the dimmest glimmer of hope for the Miami Marlins. Mired in last place, sporting a historically futile offense and a gaggle of journeyman arms on the mound, the Marlins could have lifted themselves from MLB’s cellar with a few wins against the almost equally putrid Chicago Cubs. As it turns out, the Cubs are stinky, but the Marlins are way stinkier. The last place Cubs came into Marlins Park and took three of four over the weekend, cementing the Marlins place at the bottom of the standings. But, signs of life came from slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who has decided to forego his pouty face for an assault on the left field scoreboard. He tried to break it with his homerun last Saturday.
But lets rewind to the start of the week shall we? Back when the Fish were frozen in Minnesota, and forced to play a day/night doubleheader against the Twinkies. It was here that reviled owner Jeffery Loria reared his ugly head yet again.
It’s been reported that Loria personally mandated a lineup change for the doubleheader in Minnesota, as he told Marlins manager Mike Redmond to start rookie hurler Jose Fernandez in the day game, and have veteran Ricky Nolasco pitch the nightcap. Loria’s intention, it would seem, was to have the younger Fernandez throw during the presumably warmer day game. This action flew in the face of established protocols and rotations, as Nolasco had been preparing to pitch that afternoon. The traditional protocol for doubleheaders is to have the veteran starter choose which of the two contests he would play in, thus relegating the younger pitcher the other game. Loria, it would seem, doesn’t care about these understandings, and required his new manager to make the switch.
As fate would have it, the day game was colder (38 degrees) than the night game (42 degrees). But it’s Loria, and now perhaps Redmond, that will receive a chilly reception. The owner may well have sabotaged his rookie manager in the clubhouse, as he was forced to choose between possibly alienating his team or stoking the mercurial ire of his owner. According to several sources many of the veterans in said clubhouse were upset with the decision. One source claimed that Redmond was “embarrassed” and “tried to fight it”, but to no avail.
Here’s what Ricky Nolasco had to say after the game:
“I was told at 10:30,” Nolasco said. “I’m not going to talk about that situation. I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve still got to go out there and pitch. Happy or not, whatever the situation is, I have to go out there and do my job.”
This isn’t Loria’s first attempts at manipulating the lineup. Reports are that former manager Ozzie Guillen refused to heed any of Loria’s on-field advice. Since Loria bought the team after the 2001 season, there have been seven different managers in 11 seasons, including Jeff Torborg, Jack McKeon (twice), Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, Edwin Rodriguez, Ozzie Gullien and Mike Redmond. The majority of those managers held the position for less than two seasons. Good luck Mike.
Despite the fact that the Marlins are giving away tickets to games in a number of places, the paltry attendance is still a source of embarrassment. Mike Redmond would do well to suggest to his superiors a Star Wars night, ala the Toledo Mud Hens. The Mud Hens are the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate, and as a tribute to Star Wars, the team will wear Chewbacca-themed uniforms.
According to the team’s website, there will be a Kazoo giveaway that will allow the fans to participate when the movie’s theme music is played. In addition, the team will offer themed food items, like Yoda Soda and Darth Chocolate Brownie Sundae. There will also be sound effects played, and a Star Wars-themed fireworks exhibition.
I have not purchased a single item of Marlins paraphernalia since the team switched to this hideous new look, but I’ll tell you this, if there were Chewie-themed Marlins threads i’d be the first in line to get them. I also feel that when the Marlins do a Star Wars themed night, Loria should dress as Jabba the Hutt, and parade around with scantily clad Mermaids in Princess Leia’s bikini. You can’t tell me David Samson isn’t a perfect Salacious B. Crumb, the monkey-lizard.
Game 20: Miami 3 Minnesota 4 The first game of the chilly twinbill against the Twinkies went about to script. Of course the 20-year old rookie, who was told only hours earlier that he’d start because the owner wanted him to, would struggle. Jose Fernandez surrendered four runs and six hits over just five innings pitched. At one point, three straight pitches were laced for hits, a single, a single, then a three-run homer.
Game 21: Miami 8 Minnesota 5 In what could have been labeled as an eff-you performance, Ricky Nolasco gutted his way through the cold and was rewarded with his first victory of the season. Catcher Rob Brantly, fresh off a stint as team bellboy, had three hits and four RBI. In a big change from their normal operating procedure, the Marlins were 7-19 with runners in scoring position.
Game 22: Miami 3 Chicago Cubs 4 Alas, no sign of a 27-game winning streak just yet. Savvy veteran Juan Pierre, ostensibly brought in to show the younger players how to “win” and do “the little things”, failed to get down a sacrifice bunt late in the game that snuffed a potential Marlins rally. It didn’t help that the team went only 2-11 with runners in scoring position. Juan Pierre, who is tied for the team lead in at-bats, is hitting a robust .209 with a .236 on-base percentage. Are you telling me there isn’t ANYONE better in the minors?
Game 23: Miami 2 Chicago Cubs 4 Some guy named Joe Mahoney hit his first career homerun for the Marlins, but the Cubs’ rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo, from nearby Parkland, FL, one upped him by hitting two homers. Wade LeBlanc continued his run at futility with his fourth loss of the season. The team was 0-6 with runners in scoring position.
Game 24: Miami 2 Chicago Cubs 3 Remember last week when I said the Cubbies were almost as putrid? Well, almost is relative. The Cubs won their third straight of the series, but those few Marlins fans in attendance (the game wasn’t on TV) were treated to a rare sight: the first homerun by Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton’s blast, a 472-foot no-doubter, cleared the left field scoreboard and would have left the building had the windows been open.
Game 25: Miami 6 Chicago Cubs 4 Apparently, Mr. Stanton does remember how to hit balls over fences. One day after homering for the first time this season, Stanton hit a pair, going 3-for-3 overall in the game with four RBI. Closer Steve Cishek registered his third save of the season, helping the Marlins avoid an ignominious four-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs.
The team is still playing at a historically futile rate, as they are either last or second to last in the four major offensive categories. At present, the Fish are 30th in Runs (67), Batting Average (.220) and Slugging Percentage (.309), while scrapping out 29th place for On-Base Percentage (.281).
The pitching, which was strong in those first few weeks of the season, has started to slide down the charts as well. Marlins pitchers are now 25th in the league in ERA (4.38) and 26th in the league in WHIP (1.40).
Placido Polanco leds the team with a .286 batting average, and remains the only regular over the .250 mark. Kevin Slowey has been the best of the starters, posting a 2.43 ERA despite the lack of run-support. The only lefty in the bullpen, Mike Dunn, has appeared in 14 games already, but has done well, with a 2.13 ERA.
In what is an encouraging sign for Marlins fans, Giancarlo Stanton may have broken out of his slump. The week Stanton went 8-for-22 (.363) with three homers, a double and eight RBI.
The Marlins welcome the New York Mets to town for a three-game tilt this week, highlighted by the match-up between phenoms Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.54 ERA) and Jose Fernandez (0-2, 4.50 ERA). The Mets come to town below .500 at 10-13, but the Cubs came in with only six wins and left with nine. The Marlins then embark on a, extended road trip that will start in Philadelphia with four games against the Phillies. My prediction? The bats are starting to get going a bit, so I’ll say 3-4.
Here are a few Tweets from Marlins land:
With NBA player Jason Collins coming out today, and in response to a fan’s questions, injured Marlin Logan Morrison addressed the potential of having an openly gay teammate.