IN MY OPINION

Struggling Miami Marlins deserve All-Star fry

 
WEB VOTE Should the Miami Marlins replace Heath Bell as their closer after the All-Star break?

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

I wanted to get all parochial and outraged here, hop the media soapbox and invoke a form of the famous sports phrase traced to fight manager Joe Jacobs, who supposedly first uttered it on June 21, 1932 after a dubious judges’ decision went against his boxer, Max Schmeling.

“We wuz robbed!” cried Jacobs, the phonetic integrity of the middle word’s spelling now essential to its place as an American idiom.

Too many perceived injustices to count have followed, and Marlins fans might nominate the latest as Miami somehow being the only team in the Major League Baseball without a representative in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

We Wuz Robbed!

Right?

Well, no. No, we wuzn’t.

Too bad?

Sure.

But unfair?

Not in the least. Justified, as a matter of fact.

Club president David Samson can complain about it being unfair, but a Marlins player was not chosen to replace injured outfielder Giancarlo Stanton because no Marlins player other than Stanton deserves to be on stage in Kansas City.

The Marlins, as a team, deserve to be right where they are: Sitting punished in a corner while the rest of baseball celebrates itself. So far from All-Star caliber have Miami’s supposed all-stars been that they shouldn’t even be allowed to WATCH the game, let alone play in it — except to the degree it might inflict some deserved pain.

The Marlins’ alleged All-Star caliber players we saw in the season’s first half have (save for Stanton) been a bunch of fraud-stars, leading the league in nothing but disappointment. Fans, buoyed by the new ballpark and soothed by air-conditioning, have not booed this team nearly as much as its performance has merited.

It’s weird. In previous years marked by penurious under-spending on player payrolls the Marlins have been lovable overachievers. Now the club finally spends big (or relatively so) on a roster it could legitimately trumpet as playoff-caliber, and it’s as if the team’s biggest stars are wearing that pressure like a yoke.

I feel like I could start to get a little mean here, but this is a team that deserves to be called out, and that starts at the top with marquee first-year manager Ozzie Guillen, whose most notable contribution thus far has been dropping a poked hornet’s nest into Cuban-exile Miami with his Fidel Castro nonsense.

It could not have been more fitting how the Marlins oozed into the All-Star break at 41-44 after Sunday’s loss, with two of their 2012 fraud-stars melting in plain view.

There was third baseman Hanley Ramirez — a would-be team leader but for the absence of any leadership skills or desires — yanked from the game after going all Amare Stoudemire and punching a dugout cooling fan, requiring two stitches on his hand. That was after his latest groundout dragged his batting average to a desultory .248.

And there was closer Heath Bell with yet another blown save, his majors-leading sixth to go along with five losses and an outrageous 6.75 ERA.

Bell needs a timeout. He is proving too costly to continue using him as the closer — no matter how much owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson remind Guillen how pricey Bell was to sign. Steve Cishek should be the closer for now, or Juan Carlos Oviedo (the former Leo Nunez) upon his return from suspension.

As for Ramirez? Well, he is not the star who made fantasy owners swoon in 2007-09; there have been diminishing returns since. I don’t count out his rediscovering his .300 touch, but in the meantime I’d no longer consider him untouchable in trade discussions. A two-season slump combined with temper/attitude issues is an ugly place to be.

The outspoken Guillen, tempestuous Ramirez and exploding Bell should make for great TV as Showtime’s reality series The Franchise debuts Wednesday night. Showtime wants excellence or calamity, and absent the former, Miami isn’t lacking for the latter.

If only Ramirez and Bell were the only disappointments.

Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star one year ago, keeps demoting himself to the minors, his average around .200, adding so little that Miami sent two prospects to Houston for veteran Carlos Lee to replace Sanchez’s lineup-suffocating dead-wood bat.

Shortstop Jose Reyes, the team’s major offseason acquisition, is batting .264, which might be on the barely acceptable side of mediocre if it wasn’t 73 points below Reyes’ NL-leading .337 average of a year ago.

Catcher John Buck, for whom the club wildly overspent, is hitting .176.

Former NL rookie of the year Chris Coghlan can’t even hit THAT.

Pitcher Carlos Zambrano has done some good but his bottom line — 4-7 record, 4.20 ERA and 53 walks, fourth most in the NL — is not so good.

And ace Josh Johnson is an un-ace-like 5-5 with a 4.06 ERA.

Of all the first-year Marlins personifying the team’s makeover only reliable Mark Buerhle (8-8, 3.25 ERA) has met expectations so far.

So needy are the Marlins for help that a parade should greet speedy Emilio Bonifacio coming back soon from the disabled list and Oviedo from suspension.

So poorly have the team’s top stars played that the first half’s best performers have been bit players: Justin Ruggiano, Donovan Solano, Greg Dobbs, Cishek...

It says much of the failure of the team’s pedigreed stars that debate was whether Cishek (a setup reliever) or Ruggiano (with all of 82 at-bats since being acquired in May) would be the most deserving Marlin to replace Stanton.

That either was clearly more deserving than Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson or any other bigger name says much, and none of it good.

So let the baseball stars living up to their names take the national stage Tuesday night in Kansas City while the Marlins watch on TV. Maybe being humbled is not a bad thing for a team that took its cocky cue from its manager but hasn’t earned the swagger — a team that seemed to think it was a lot better than it is.

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