Disappointment and complaint tend to be the currency of sports fans. And it’s no wonder. Any sport, any year, only one team gets to win a championship and so overwhelming mathematical odds are that it won’t be yours. So much more can go wrong than ever seems to go just right.
The expectation of being letdown as a default result can leave us gun-shy, wary. Things are good? Team is winning? Our defense mechanism is to think, “It won’t last.”
This phenomenon always seems compounded as relates to the Miami Marlins. Part of that is the mere two times making the playoffs in 23 previous seasons (albeit both World Series wins). Perhaps an even bigger part of it is an owner, Jeffrey Loria, who is so spectacularly unpopular, and understandably so, that he can’t even see a new stadium built without it being awash in controversy and negativity.
Nothing I write on any subject invites more predictably angry email than any column seen as pro-Marlins, because, to many of you, to too many of you, only unrelenting condemnation of Loria will do. The toxicity has turned the Marlins into the franchise we love to hate, or hate to love.
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Well, guess what? To the many of you who are so self-righteously and pointlessly proud to remind at every turn that you won’t root for the Marlins until Loria is gone and a new owner is in — the loss is yours.
You are missing a good season.
You are missing a good, exciting, fun team.
Marlins fans haven’t seen a team this promising this deep into a season since 2003.
I hope South Floridians not stubbornly blinded by Loria animus are allowing themselves to feel good and enjoy this, because it’s been a while, and this team is giving us so many reasons to cheer, and hope. And, yes, I don’t mind playing civic cheerleader here, in a way I don’t for most of our teams, because the poison forever around the Marlins on account of their owner needs a fair counterbalance once in a while. Like, right now.
The Marlins just finished a 7-3 homestand by winning three of four from the Chicago Cubs, the best team in baseball. Miami has quietly climbed to within three games of the NL East lead and is tied for first in the wild-card race — playoff pace.
Jose Fernandez, who beat the Cubs with 13 strikeouts on Sunday, is 10-3 and surely headed to the All-Star game as one of the elite pitchers in Major league Baseball.
Marcell Ozuna, A.J. Ramos and maybe Christian Yelich could join Fernandez as All-Stars next month.
The wondrous Ichiro (at 2,984) is closing in on the 3,000-hit milestone as a nine-game road trip begins Tuesday night in Detroit.
Oh, and Giancarlo Stanton. After a rough couple of months, Stanton, one of the game’s great sluggers, finally is reclaiming his swing, his at-bats must-see again.
Before long Dee Gordon will be back from his PED suspension, too, though he wouldn’t be eligible for the postseason.
Putting it all together is a quality manager in first-year skipper Don Mattingly, his hiring the antithesis of last year’s embarrassing and ill-fated promotion of non-manager Dan Jennings to replace fired Mike Redmond.
It’s a pretty good time to be a Marlins fans, folks. Will you let yourself enjoy it?
I know, I know. That this regime made the Marlins a laughingstock by promoting Jennings only 13 months ago reminds us trust and faith are not given around here and must be incrementally earned.
Loria’s next opportunity to do so, to chip away at the hardened scab around his reputation by degrees, is to make the Marlins spenders as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches. The club has been sellers too often, its fans burned by fire sales. Now it is time for Loria to open the franchise wallet that in the past has creaked like a squalling gate from so little use, or emitted a plume of dust as it opened.
Miami’s lineup is solid. It is the starting rotation that could use an extra arm, and Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi and San Diego’s Drew Pomerantz have been rumored. Bolstering the bullpen, another possibility, would find an especially enticing target in the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman, 28, from Cuba, who’d be the dominant left-handed reliever Miami lacks and needs.
Loria has earned no benefit of doubt that he will be a spender — we’ll see. But I do hope we have outgrown, as a community, the idea of somehow hoping he isn’t in order to grow our anger or give us one more excuse not to support the team under his stewardship.
Marlins Park attendance has disappointed since the place opened in 2012. Home crowds in Season Five of the new ballpark are averaging 21,002 this year, which ranks 27th of 30 teams. The Marlins have great, loyal fans. I know. Too many to count are friends and acquaintances. But, bottom line, attendance has decreased 630 per game since last season despite the sharp, encouraging upturn in the team’s quality and results.
We can keep blaming stuff like that on an unpopular owner, a lame but forever handy crutch as excuses go.
Or we can decide, if we have it in us, to be bigger than the owner and start being a major-league city.
This team, this season, looks like a good place to start.