Barry Jackson

The best and worst of South Florida sports in 2017

Giancarlo Stanton, center, gets a standing ovation from some fans after striking out at the bottom of the 9th inning. That game against Atlanta proved to be his final appearance as a Marlin. He was traded to the Yankees this offseason.
Giancarlo Stanton, center, gets a standing ovation from some fans after striking out at the bottom of the 9th inning. That game against Atlanta proved to be his final appearance as a Marlin. He was traded to the Yankees this offseason. cjuste@miamiherald.com

This was a year in South Florida sports that brought us another Marlins fire sale, another Panthers coaching change, Dolphins wins against both of February’s Super Bowl participants (but aggravation otherwise) and a stunning Heat turnaround.

There were no playoff wins from any of our pro teams — and only the Dolphins appeared in a playoff game this calendar year — but at least the UM football team had a renaissance.

Our take on the best and worst from South Florida sports in 2017:

▪ Best personnel moves:

1) Heat using unlikely-to-be-earned incentives to work salary cap magic and fit both Wayne Ellington and Kelly Olynyk under their cap after signing Dion Waiters and James Johnson. Ellington, a key in Miami’s second-half turnaround, already has 97 three-pointers this season, fourth in the league.

2) Erik Spoelstra finding a lineup (with Luke Babbitt and Rodney McGruder starting) that went on a 30-11 second-half run.

3) UM landing elite 2017 recruits Navaughn Donaldson, Jeff Thomas, Trajan Bandy and Jon Garvin —with those four and other freshmen contributing significantly on a 10-2 team.

4) UM snagging an elite running back (Lorenzo Lingard), top tight ends (Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory), five-star receiver (Mark Pope) and four-star quarterback (Jarren Williams), among others, in this 2018 class.

5) Heat drafting promising rookie Bam Adebayo with the 14th overall pick.

6) Dolphins procuring quality defensive tackles in the fifth and sixth rounds of April’s draft: Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.

7) UM shifting Sheldrick Redwine from corner to safety and giving larger roles to Braxton Berrios, Michael Jackson and Darrell Langham.

8) Dolphins trading sixth-rounder to Rams for William Hayes, who was an asset before his injury.

9) Marlins manager Don Mattingly moving Giancarlo Stanton to second in the batting order, where he hit .289 with 47 homers and 97 RBI.

10) (tie) Dolphins snagging kicker Cody Parkey (an upgrade over Andrew Franks) and re-signing receiver Kenny Stills.

▪ Worst personnel moves:

1) Marlins dealing Stanton for far less value, including no top 100 prospect. You do not trade a generational player coming off a 59-home run season if you are serious about winning.

2) Panthers leaving Jonathan Marchessault exposed in NHL expansion draft instead of defenseman Alex Petrovic, who has been a healthy scratch several times. Marchessault is tied for 30th in the league in scoring for Las Vegas (32 points, 12 goals).

3) Marlins inexplicably spending combined $28 million on relievers Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa.

4) Dolphins’ miscalculations at linebacker: keeping Koa Misi assuming he would be healthy (he wasn’t), signing Lawrence Timmons (in decline) and giving a $29 million extension to Kiko Alonso a year before it needed to.

5) Marlins dumping play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz. As ridiculous as dismissing Tommy Hutton two years earlier.

6) Marlins trading Luis Castillo for Dan Straily. Yes, Straily pitched well. But Castillo (3.12 ERA, 89 innings, 98 strikeouts, 64 hits) is younger and cheaper and has a higher ceiling.

7) Panthers, in cost-cutting move, trading Reilly Smith to Las Vegas for a fourth-round pick. He has 26 points in 34 games.

8) Dolphins bypassing a run at former UM star Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks, three forced fumbles for Jacksonville) and instead giving $24 million extension to Andre Branch.

9) Dolphins not signing Zach Brown, who visited Miami and then signed with Washington. He has been better than any Dolphins linebacker.

10) Dolphins believing Julius Thomas would be the answer at tight end.

▪ Best non-player-personnel ideas:

1) UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz suggesting to Mark Richt that Miami give players a flashy turnover chain to wear after they snag a turnover in a game.

2) Dolphins owner Stephen Ross conceiving and executing a plan to move Miami’s marquee tennis event from Key Biscayne to the Hard Rock Stadium grounds, preventing the event from leaving South Florida.

3) UM agreeing to play Alabama to open the 2021 season in Atlanta.

4) Panthers giving full player personnel power back to general manager Dale Tallon after a by-committee approach the previous year.

▪ Most pleasant surprises:

1) James Johnson. Heat forward went from journeyman to multitalented asset and $60 million man.

2) Jaquan Johnson. UM knew he would be pretty good. But All-American caliber safety? It would have been difficult to project that.

3) Darrell Langham/Michael Jackson. Went from buried on UM depth chart to key contributors.

4) Jose Urena. Erratic young pitcher emerged into quality No. 2 or No. 3 starter (14-7, 3.82 ERA).

5) Rodney McGruder. Went from marginal NBA player to productive Heat starter on a team that went 30-11 from mid-January on.

6) Davon Godchaux. A fifth-round revelation for the Dolphins.

7) Kenyan Drake. Running back has thrived after Jay Ajayi trade, ranks sixth in NFL in yards per carry (4.8).

8) Heat’s Josh Richardson. Played this month like a top-third of the league small forward on both ends of the court.

9) Ellington. Well-traveled backup has become vital component on Heat.

10) tie among Dolphins’ Bobby McCain and Jesse Davis, UM’s Travis Homer and Trent Harris and Marlins’ J.T. Riddle.

▪ Biggest letdowns:

1) Derek Jeter as the Marlins’ new owner. Traded three of best players, with finances driving every franchise decision.

2) Heat failing to land Gordon Hayward. Was Miami’s best chance to rise from .500 or so team to something more. And worse yet, he went to Eastern Conference rival Boston.

3) Dolphins following 10-6 season with a 6-9 debacle.

4) Ryan Tannehill’s injury. Essentially doomed the season by early August.

5) Jay Ajayi. Went from one of South Florida’s best players to a traded malcontent averaging 3.4 per carry.

6) Jay Cutler. Wowed during the first day of practice after signing with Miami. Went downhill from there.

7) UM’s 10-0 season foiled by unacceptable loss in Pittsburgh and a drubbing by Clemson.

8) Marlins losing Edinson Volquez for half of 2017 and all of 2018 after Tommy John surgery, Wei-Yin Chen’s continued health problems and major regression by Tom Koehler (now a Dodger) and Adam Conley.

9) UM losing Mark Walton in the fourth game and never having a fully healthy Ahmmon Richards, either.

10) (tie) David Beckham’s bid for MLS team in Miami experiencing yet more delays and Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker’s failure to emerge.

▪ Best players:

1) Stanton, whose 59 homers tied for ninth most in a single season. 2) Now ex-Marlin Marcell Ozuna. 3) UM’s Jaquan Johnson. 4) Dolphins’ Ndamukong Suh. 5) Heat’s Hassan Whiteside.

6) Now ex-Marlin Dee Gordon. 7) Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry. 8) Heat’s Goran Dragic. 9) Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov 10) UM’s Richard McIntosh Jr. and Shaquille Quarterman.

▪ Nicest gesture:

Heat donating $10 million, and Dolphins and Panthers $1 million apiece to Hurricane Irma relief efforts, and new Marlins ownership donating $200,000 to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

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