September 13, 2011
As the regular season winds down, 22 teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
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 detain their squads for the equivalent of a Saturday morning detention stay.
Up next in our series is David Hill, the fantastic captain who pilots Marlins Diehards. No truth to the rumor that he's bringing a souvenir-prying crowbar to the final game at Sun Life Stadium.
Listen up, Fish! You know what you did. You took a season full of promise and frittered it away. How can a team with some of the brightest young talent in Major League Baseball find itself 30 games out of first place by mid-September? Well, you went 5-23 in June and 7-20 in August, for starters, but your problems ran deep this year. It's time you own up to them.
The punishable offenses: Your problems this season started at the top. Owner Jeffrey Loria thought the 2010 team underperformed at 80-82, so he instructed the front office not to make any major acquisitions in free agency (never mind that their 2010 expected W-L based on run differential was an even 81-81). So instead of adding an extra hitter, the team traded Dan Uggla(notes) for the light-hitting Omar Infante(notes) (Uggla's Wins Above Replacement 2010-11: 7.1; Infante's: 4.5), causing faces to meet palms across South Florida.
The personnel issues run deeper than that, though. Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill overhauled the bullpen, but kept Leo Nunez(notes) entrenched at closer. In 2010 his strikeout rate was well above his career rate, and his home runs allowed rate was half his career rate. This year he regressed to the mean hard, resulting in nearly an extra run of ERA (from 3.46 to 4.33). Hey, Leocoaster, there's a reason why the fans call you that.
And these mistakes came even before Hanley Ramirez(notes) was alienated by his teammates for not hustling (again), Logan Morrison(notes) was given a timeout in Triple-A for skipping out on a photo session with season ticket holders (as if those poor souls hadn't already suffered enough, and the team trotted out a panoply of replacement-level starters to fill in for injured ace Josh Johnson.
Halfway through the season you all of a sudden decided you could improve the team's hitting by replacing the hitting coach (obviously you have yet to learn the lesson that acquiring better hitters is the best way to boost the offense). Adding insult to injury, after manager Edwin Rodriguez "resigned" (we still don't believe that Loria didn't fire him), you brought back Jack McKeon as interim manager in the hope that the team could once again make a dramatic midseason turnaround. Who were you kidding, really?
Partners in crime: I know what you're thinking, "It's not all our fault." And that is at least partially true. Who knew the one time Ramirez hustled all out on a play he would end up injuring himself? Certainly no one expected you to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies and their four aces, even if you hadn't lost both Ramirez and Johnson to shoulder injuries.
Normally we would be tempted to cut you some slack due to the difficulty of competing with the higher-revenue division rivals in Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta, but now that we know you're turning profits, that excuse is no longer workable.
Something to build on: At least we can once again say that the Marlins' future is bright. Ramirez and Johnson will be back, Mike Stanton(notes) will continue to rake, and the Phillies will all be one year older. The front half of the rotation, with Johnson, Anibal Sanchez(notes) and Ricky Nolasco(notes), is still one of the best collections of young arms in the bigs, and any lineup with Ramirez, Stanton, Morrison and Gaby Sanchez(notes) will score plenty of runs when healthy.
Shape up or ship out: But you've got a lot to do this offseason to make sure this all doesn't happen again. Now that you're opening that shiny new (revenue-enhancing) stadium in Little Havana, don't be afraid to spend a little this winter! A center fielder and a decent back-of-the-rotation starter would be nice additions, along with some more tweaks to the bullpen (less Mike Dunns, more Edward Mujicas).
Quit trotting out the same mediocre stopgaps (looking at you, Donnie Murphy(notes) and Emilio Bonifacio(notes)). You've got a few guys up for arbitration that will likely win more salary than they are worth (cough, Nunez, cough), but don't overspend for bit players! Use the money to lock up Stanton and Anibal Sanchez long-term, they'll be worth it.
And so help me, if you trade a key player to the Chicago White Sox for manager Ozzie Guillen, I may just give up on baseball entirely and join a fantasy cricket league.
Read more from Big League Stew's Detention Lecture series here.