Sorry, Miami Marlins, your World Series trophy is in another castle.
In these send-offs, we usually make some jokes up here, but it just seems wrong to joke about the Marlins — a team whose surprise season ended in tragedy when their ace Jose Fernandez died last weekend at age 24 in a boating accident. That will leave a season in which they were a surprise wild-card contender filled with much more sorrow than it should.
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Marlins, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Once again, the Marlins will end a season knowing they didn’t get the most out of star slugger Giancarlo Stanton. He missed about 50 games this season (that guy just can’t avoid injuries) and, when he was healthy, went through a pretty rough slump. Stanton is at 27 homers and 74 RBIs headed into Saturday’s game. In the bigger picture, the Marlins offense ranked second-to-last in homers this season and were 27th in runs scored — both symptoms of not having Stanton at full strength. It’s surprising, actually, that the Marlins hung in as long as they did considering all that. (Mike Oz)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
It was a surprising season for the Marlins and their team full of young, talented players. Despite their struggles scoring runs, they got improved offensive contributions from Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna and boasted one of the best catchers in baseball, J.T. Realmuto. He’s hit .303/.343/.428, which puts him second out of all qualified catchers. Derek Dietrich, who filled in for Dee Gordon while he was suspended, provided the offense of much more than just a fill-in. Veteran third baseman Martin Prado was a model of steady productivity, and his new deal with the Marlins means he can continue doing his thing with them for three more years. And of course, there’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is now the owner of more than 4,300 hits between MLB and Japan’s NBP. He also finished with his best season in a few years. There’s a ton for them to build on in the future, and they’re well on their way. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
The Marlins’ 1-0 win over the Nationals on Sept. 20 will forever bring up melancholy feelings following Jose Fernandez’s death. It was Fernandez’s last start and also perhaps his finest game on a major-league mound: eight innings, three hits, no walks no runs, 12 strikeouts and a few kisses afterward from hitting coach Barry Bonds. Sadness and grief surrounds the Marlins, and will for some time, but there will hopefully be a day when they can look back on this game with a smile instead of with tears in their eyes. Fernandez would have wanted it that way. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
The Marlins enter the offseason under the most horrific circumstances possible following the tragic death of Fernandez. Given the emotions of the final week, they need to get away from it all and just heal as an organization and as individuals. Once that process is complete, life and baseball will move on and so will the reality of their situation. They’ll never be able to replace what Fernandez brought to their roster and their clubhouse, but they’ll need to focus on acquiring pitching depth because starting pitching is a big reason they fell short in the wild-card race. (Mark Townsend)
WARP TO THE FUTURE
Most of the Marlins big-time prospects remain years away from making an impact in the majors. Braxton Garrett, the team’s first round pick in 2016, is considered their top prospect despite the fact that he’s yet to throw a pitch professionally.
Tyler Kolek, the hard-throwing high schooler the club drafted in 2014, was always seen as a big project. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016, which will only further push back his timeline. (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates
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