This relaxed, low-pressure attitude lasted until the first regular-season game. As you recall, the Marlins won, largely because a number of Dodger hitters dozed off while waiting for Charlie Hough's knuckleball to reach home plate. (As the season wore on, opposing hitters wised up and began using the shrewd tactic of remaining in the dugout until Hough had actually released the ball, then strolling out to the plate and hitting it.)
The opening-day victory caused many local fans to lose all perspective. I know one fan who bet real money that the Marlins would finish with a record better than .500. (Because only a complete idiot would make this bet, I will not reveal here that this fan is my editor, Tom Shroder.)
So hopes were high, and when it became clear, somewhere around Game 10, that the Marlins were probably not going to be in the World Series, the mood changed. The talk-show callers, who had been Happy Just To Have A Team Here, suddenly were talking about What's Wrong With The Marlins. Night after night after night they droned away, making insightful points such as:
* The Marlins need to score more runs than the opposing team.
* Rene Lachemann changes pitchers too often.
* Marlins players, when they get up to bat, should hit the baseball.
* Rene Lachemann does not change pitchers often enough.
* Why don't the Marlins make a trade where they give up Scott Pose and they get Barry Bonds, Cecil Fielder, John Olerud and a couple of good starting pitchers?
* Rene Lachemann has been possessed by Satan and is deliberately trying to lose games.
The criticism reached a crescendo when the Marlins traded Dave Magadan. Remember? Remember the anguish of the radio callers during that period? They spent weeks talking about this trade, their basic points being that:
* Dave Magadan is the finest baseball player since Babe Ruth, and if he had stayed here he would have hit at least .458 and discovered a cure for cancer.
* Whoever traded him should be chopped into tiny pieces and fed to sharks.
* And then the sharks should be chopped into tiny pieces.
* Orestes Destrade was probably responsible for the Kennedy assassination.
For a while there it looked as though we might have riots over the Magadan trade, but fortunately the fans calmed down, and by the time the All-Star break rolled around, the talk-show callers realized that it was time to forgive and forget, and let bygones be bygones, and show some maturity, and display a more positive attitude. So they started talking about the Dolphins again.
Anyway, the Marlins' first season has been an exciting time for us, and an educational one. I hope that we South Florida sports fans can take the lessons we've learned from this experience and apply them to our newest professional sports team, the Panthers. Let's not expect too much of them. They're not going to win the Stanley Cup in their first year, OK?
But if they don't make the final round of the playoffs, I say we fire Lachemann.
(c) Dave Barry
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