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LOS ANGELES – Maybe it wasn’t everyone’s first priority, or their second, but there was always going to be a baseball season to play, and they were always going to need 25 or so guys for that. Something to get them into next year, or the year after, or some other time. Nobody knows for sure. But, something.
So here they are, the 2018 Miami Marlins, 23 games into, like, forever.
“It’s been a little rough for us,” Lewis Brinson, the rookie outfielder, granted.
“The baseball gods are going to reward us for playing hard,” he said. “It’ll come. We just gotta be patient. There’s more.”
There’s a plan. It’s not unreasonable. Under their new ownership, the Marlins are going to stop careening. They’re going to pick a lane. They’re going to stay in it. They’re going to build and develop. They’re going to be calm. They’re going to be smart. They’re going to try not to disgrace themselves or their community. Meaning Miami. Not the British Virgin Islands. That’s just a drop locker in a bus station or something, wink-wink.
First they had to careen one more time. You’ve no doubt heard, as everyone was pretty mad about that. It happened anyway. The Marlins started over, the first step in about a thousand they believe – or say they believe – will carry them back to relevance. And maybe it will. Only not today, and not for a few more todays, which still leaves those 25 or so guys, the ones with a season to fill.
Whether one is “weak minded” (Derek Jeter’s words) or “delusional” (Bryant Gumbel’s word), the 6-17 record remains a hard fact. Also, a 42-win pace. So is being about the National League’s worst offensive team and about its worst pitching team, depending on how the Cincinnati Reds played that night. Still, it’s a long season, and you’ll have to decide if that’s the good news or the bad. Either way, the ghost ship drifts on, towing the remains of yesterday. A lot of yesterdays.
“We know we’re better than we’ve shown,” veteran reliever Brad Ziegler said. “When you get between the lines, you don’t talk about that stuff. You don’t talk about Jeter’s interview with Bryant Gumbel. You don’t talk about the guys who were traded. We’re thinking about what do we need to get ready for.”
The smaller the better now. It is baseball, still. It’s a million little victories that become, on the best nights, a postgame handshake. (They also wait on Martin Prado to get healthy. And Dan Straily. That’s about the extent of the cavalry.) They look for moments to be proud of. They don’t let those pass without proper acknowledgment, because in the best of times the failure can be suffocating. The organization put them in this place, for better or worse. The least they can do is make something of it.
So young Lewis Brinson gets a hanger Tuesday night and knocks it over the left-field fence on a hop. And young Dillon Peters gets the ball for the 11th time in his career and doesn’t hand it back until the sixth inning, only one run across. And the Marlins, all of them, pushed the Dodgers into the final innings, another chance to win, another chance to make something of all of this.
“It’s celebrating small victories with us,” manager Don Mattingly, said. “The biggest fight is the lack of results we’re finding right now. And then continuing to move forward.
“We have to continue to develop. We have to be patient with guys who are not getting results. … Also, not accepting that we can’t win games. Because we can win games. … That’s kind of where we’ve been. And where we’ll stay.”
They were chosen, the 25 or so guys here, to serve this purpose. To get the Marlins from here to there, wherever there is going to be. Some will arrive there too, some won’t, and probably that will have something to do with what happens here. Some will be forgotten. Some, perhaps, will be lauded for seeing it through the hard times. Meantime, somebody had to work the 2018 season, which some undoubtedly would view as new ownership abandoning them, and some would view as the gift of a lifetime.
They won Tuesday night. Beat the Dodgers in the ninth inning. Brian Anderson singled and Cameron Maybin doubled. They got to the handshake.
“I love it,” Ziegler said. “There’s not many guys in the big leagues who don’t love baseball. A few don’t, and they’re good anyway.”
Brinson smiled broadly. April hasn’t been kind to him. He’d try not to worry about that, however. There’d be four more at-bats for him soon enough, three more hours for him and the other 24 soon enough. For those three hours there’d be no real thought about whose record was what, and what the standings say should happen. There’d be him, and this, and what he’d make of it today. What they’d all make of it.
“I think I’m blessed to be here,” he said. “I think I’m blessed to be in the big leagues. I think I’m blessed to play my childhood dream every day.
“Other people are going to have their opinions. Why pay attention to it? We get it. The outside noise is going to be out there. And today’s a new day.”
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