As the regular season winds down, many teams are already facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategy.
But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to give a concession speech for this year's squad. Up next in our series is our old friend David Hill from Marlins Diehards. He told us all about the 10 best things about being a Marlins fan earlier this year.
Friends, it is with a heavy heart that I address you today. When this season began, we expected big things from the newly-rechristened Miami Marlins. Like he does every year, owner Jeffrey Loria predicted a playoff berth for his team, but this year such a lofty goal actually seemed realistic.
A talented young core of Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, and Giancarlo Stanton was bolstered by the additions of key free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. A high-profile makeover that included new uniforms, a splashy new stadium, and the acquisition of manager and King of the Soundbite Ozzie Guillen seemed to portent a rebirth in South Florida.
But early success yielded to the same old story, as a disastrous June (when the team went 8-18) pushed the Marlins out of contention for good. By the time the smoke had cleared, the Marlins had pulled off a mini-fire sale (that wasn't actually a fire sale) and began fielding a team of scrubs whose names remain a mystery to most of us.
The team was so unwatchable that Showtime decided it would rather not air an eighth episode of The Franchise, though no one could blame the network for trying to rid itself of the stinky fish smell that were the 2012 Marlins.
Mistakes were made: Little did the Marlins know that Bell would morph into a pumpkin, while Ramirez would remain inexplicably average and make his fantastic 2009 season seem like a distant memory.
Indeed, the two biggest free agents that the Marlins for whom the Fish decided not to break the bank, Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes, had admirable seasons and put up the kinds of numbers that might have given this speech a decidedly different tone.
The numbers paint a clear picture of this team's shortcomings. A disastrous bullpen (with 20 blown saves as of this writing), untimely hitting (the team is slashing a paltry.236/.325/.361 with RISP), and the injury bug all played a role in the Marlins' demise. There are no scapegoats on this team. With few exceptions (cough, Giancarlo Stanton, cough), practically everyone is to blame for the debacle of 2012.
Mudslinging time: Underperforming free-agent acquisitions like Bell, John Buck (a 2011 signee who waited until September to bring his batting average above the Mendoza line), and Reyes (a .349 OBP is not what Loria paid $100 million for) have led Marlins fans to do what was once unthinkable ... question the aptitude of team president Larry Beinfest.
The man who once turned Antonio Alfonseca into Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre into Ricky Nolasco has made plenty of missteps as of late, so much so that he could be looking for a new job this winter.
Hope for the future: No figure became more of a lightning rod for criticism than our former franchise centerpiece, Hanley Ramirez, and for good reason. When the team decided it was no longer worth it to pay H2R $15 million for an OPS+ of 102, plenty of us cheered. Sure, the team could only garner some iffy prospects in return for Ramirez, but the money saved by not paying his salary for the next two years will hopefully allow the team to retool its roster yet again this winter.
As bleak as things look now, it is difficult to be too pessimistic when we still have Señor #Monsterdong himself (Stanton) to build around (not to mention Johnson and Reyes). Besides helping to draw more than two million fans for the first time since 1997, the Marlins' shiny new stadium gives the team the financial flexibility to actually spend money for the second straight winter.
A change is going to come: So there's some cash to spend. But this year proved that spending money is only half the battle; the Marlins still have to spend wisely (as they did for many years before this season). The team has plenty of mistakes from which they can learn. Don't ignore these lessons.
Instead of heeding the siren song of "proven closers," find the kinds of cheap-but-effective bullpen arms that helped give the team one of the majors' best bullpens in 2011.
At the same time, don't be afraid to spend the extra cash to net a player that can be the difference between a playoff team and an also-ran. Returning to the spendthrift ways of the past does not guarantee success. Indeed, if the team had spent extra money to acquire a player like Fielder or Cespedes, the extra wins they could have provided would have been accompanied by even more fans (and money) at Marlins Park.
So trust the process, and let the results take care of themselves. Even if that fails, at least we'll still have that pretty stadium to distract us from the product on the field for years to come. At least one thing is certain: Loria will keep predicting playoff appearances, no matter what.