But so much has gone wrong early on.
Maybe it was a bad omen that Opening Day in the new park, despite years to plan, generated mostly talk of the glitches, such as the monumental buzz-kill of seeing an incapacitated Muhammad Ali wheeled out on a golf cart.
Soon after came the firestorm of Guillen’s statements suggesting support of Castro, and subsequent protests and public apology. (The controversy subsided quickly, however, and Loria said Thursday it has had “not one iota” of affect on attendance.)
A marvelous May for the team was largely overshadowed by the Heat, then June sent the Marlins tumbling in the standings.
All the while attendance has been less than expected. That’s relative, of course. The average of 28,176 after 41 home games is 9,169 per game better than last year, the biggest percentage increase in baseball and second biggest overall.
But the team projected about 2.6 million in total attendance this year and the current average is on pace for 2.28million. Miami’s crowd average ranks only 18th out of 30 clubs and is below the overall MLB average. The Marlins’ 75.3 percent of capacity ranks 12th, the only sellout was on Opening Day, and the home record is only 19-22. These facts, no matter how they are spun, amount to a Year 1 box office and all-round boost somewhat modest by new-ballpark standards.
Summer is traditionally a boon to baseball crowds, though, and that coupled with winning and playoff contention could still help the club catch up to projections (assuming a few of the drowsing bats might agree to wake up anytime soon).
“Sure, we’d like those extra five or six thousand fans a game, but as summer goes on we’ll have a chance,” Loria said.
Miami catches a break with the added wild-card team beginning this year. That has the Marlins only 5 1/2 games off wild-card pace when otherwise they’d be 7 1/2 games off.
The team also gets a break with center fielder Emilio Bonifacio returning soon from injury and reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo (the former Leo Nunez) from suspension, both due back in July.
The July 31 trade deadline also could find the club looking to bolster itself for a stretch run, “But we have to be within striking range,” Loria said.
Meantime, Giancarlo Stanton will be showcased in the all-star break’s Home Run Derby, reminding Marlins fans why optimism should still come pretty easily.
Oh, and Loria reminds, “In 2003 we had the same record as now” after 75 games en route to being champions. Well, almost. That team was one game better at 36-39.
Close enough for hope, though, right?