Ahh …the All-Star break, somewhere just past halfway in the Marlins’ conquest of the National League East, nay, the entire National League!
After watching Giancarlo Stanton B-52 his way through the Home Run Derby, I will settle into my sports-watching recliner to enjoy Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez’s whacking around some American League pitching and Josh Johnson embarrassing three or six American League bats. Then, it’s back to the —
AAAHHT-AAAHHT, AAAHHT-AAAHHT, AAAHHT-AAAHHT, AAAHHT-AAAHHT
Stupid alarm. Set to wake me up at reality o’clock.
That time’s not the right time for the Marlins, 41-44 after Sunday’s now customary maladroit handling of a late lead. Three runs allowed, the last two on a two-strike, two-out single to left field. Logan Morrison’s throw beat David Freese to the plate, but catcher John Buck’s blink of a bobble delayed the tag until after Freese slid by with another Marlins loss.
What’s supposed to be the reception season in the honeymoon suite atop the standings after the marriage of new players, new clothes and a beautiful new place to play looks an awful lot like a flawed soap opera marriage.
Then again, the Marlins are Showtime’s soap opera: The Franchise premieres Wednesday. Manager Ozzie Guillen’s Fidel Castro comments could be the embarrassing wedding toast given by the boorish uncle. Or, the pre-credits sequence of the opening episode.
The plot synopsis: pitching has let the Marlins down, lowlighted by closer Heath Bell blowing six saves in 25 chances after failing on 14 in 146 chances the previous three years. A lineup with two of the past three National League batting champions, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, ranks 15th among 16 NL teams in hitting.
Stanton, the slugger actually producing to his potential, went under the knife for a knee injury Sunday morning. All-Star festivities will be Marlins-free. Meanwhile, Ramirez got lucky that the cooling fan he punched in frustration Sunday in the sixth inning only got him for two stitches and the rest of the game. Guillen called it “immature.”
I understood Hanley. I once did something similar with a fan. Then again, I was 4.
At least people are showing up (for now). According to ESPN.com, the Marlins’ average home attendance of 28,329 is 18th in the majors, 75.7 percent of capacity, which is 12th in the majors. Last year, at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens (duck when you say that), they averaged 19,007 and 48.8, respectively, both 28th.
But wasn’t the big move into the new fish tank supposed to get the Marlins closer to being the Yankees than the Chicago Cubs?
For a low results/expectation ratio, this could be the worst season in Marlins history. Already, among South Florida’s pro sports teams, it threatens to take its place next to the 2007-08 Heat (Shaq blobby, injured, then traded during a 15-win season two years after the title), 1997-98 Panthers (following two playoff seasons with the NHL’s second-worst record) and the 2006 Dolphins (Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees, 6-10, Nick Saban books for Bama, setting the stage for Cam Cameron and 1-15).
Perhaps the Marlins labor under a Santeria curse placed on them by Little Havana residents unhappy about a) Guillen’s Castro comments or b) the parking problems around Marlins Park on game nights. It’s possible. The Afro-Cuban religion has gained purchase among some of the various not-Cuban Hispanic groups that actually make up most of Little Havana these days.
Maybe the lifting of the curse could be an episode. Anyway, 77 games remain. Things can change quickly on in soap opera land, fantasy or reality.