Miami Marlins fans — the ones who go to home games, who wear the jerseys and hats, who stay up ’til 1 a.m. watching West Coast roadies on TV, who cannot stop caring about a franchise that gives them so many reasons not to — you people deserve a medal. A proclamation. A raise. Something.
(I’d even say a winning team and competent ownership, but let’s not get crazy.)
South Florida has no greater sports fans, none, than stubborn Marlins loyalists who just don’t quit, no matter what. Few fans of any team in any sport in America must work harder to keep the faith.
The Marlins are cursed. That we know by now. There is no other explaining it. Marlins Park was built on the hallowed acreage of the razed Orange Bowl, but it’s more than those old ghosts at work here. You could build your home field over a sacred Indian burial ground or play in a floating stadium on the Bermuda Triangle and not have luck as bad as the Marlins’.
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When your most beloved and best player dies, in his prime, in a horrible boating accident, this is a clear indication the baseball gods hate you.
Yes, the Marlins somehow won World Series championships in 1997 and 2003, but that turned out to be the deal with the devil, obviously. The payback has been a torrent of haplessness and embarrassment and nothing else going right.
Miami has not otherwise been in the playoffs, even once. Of 122 teams in the Big Four sports, the Marlins are one of only four to make the postseason as few as two times since 1993, along with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers.
This would be the Marlins’ eighth consecutive losing season since the last winning record in 2009. Only five of the 122 franchises have made their fans wait longer for a winner.
This was supposed to be a year of celebration to help assuage the Jose Fernandez tragedy. It’s the 25th franchise season, and the Marlins in July will host the All-Star Game and related festivities for the first time.
What’s happening, though, suggests Miami won’t be in a very festive mood for a party.
The sadsack Marlins just completed an unimaginably wretched 1-8 homestand that made it 19 losses in the past 23 games for Les Miserables entering Saturday night’s game. It felt like the lousiest homestand in baseball history or perhaps in the annals of all civilization. It wasn’t. But it was the worst homestand of at least that length in MLB since the Arizona Diamondbacks went 0-11 in July 2004.
If this is the season that is supposed to honor Fernandez with those “16” uniform patches, it’s been a dishonor to this point. The Marlins should be embarrassed. Fernandez himself would be blistering that clubhouse with anger, challenging it. In his place, somebody needs to.
Miami was at .350 entering the weekend, great for a batting average, not so much for a winning percentage. That was within fractions of being the worst in all of baseball. (No All-Star Game host team since the 1964 New York Mets finished with a worse winning percentage (.327) than the Marlins' current .341.)
Sometimes the baseball gods tease Marlins fans, like when Lucy would hold the football for Charlie Brown then snatch it away as he was about to kick it.
Spring training began with the parade-worthy news that hated owner Jeffrey Loria, the scourge of Marlins fans since 2002, at last planned to grant South Florida’s fervent wish by selling the team.
Then came the equally buoyant news that a marquee ownership group headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter had emerged as the front-runner to buy — with an “agreement in principle” reportedly in place.
These are the Marlins, remember. So now comes the news, reported by Bloomberg on Thursday, that the Bush-Jeter group just lost a $150 million investor that leaves it scrambling to maintain its $1.3 billion offer. And Forbes has reported that a second viable bidding group, led by Tagg Romney, is out of the running.
Suddenly, the sale of the team doesn’t seem so imminent, and the sale of it to the favored Bush-Jeter group doesn’t seem so certain. Unless he wants to keep lowering the price from his original $1.8 billion, might Loria decide he isn’t in such a hurry to leave, after all?
Now that would be a Marlins fan’s luck!
I mean, this is the franchise that completely dismantled its ’97 championship team before the confetti had even stopped falling.
The franchise that once (in 2002) ran out of hot dogs on Opening Day, which is sort of like running out of fireworks on the Fourth of July. That might have been a harbinger. It was Loria’s first Opening Day as owner. They also forgot to order game programs.
What other franchise but this one sees a beautiful new ballpark built, but amid picketing, anger and controversy over the burden on taxpayers? And then christens that ballpark (in 2012) by wheeling out a feeble, Parkinson’s-riddled Muhammad Ali on a golf cart as the home crowd gasps.
My own favorite only-the-Marlins Opening Day moment might have been 2015, when there was a rain delay. “I’m pretty sure I thought we had a roof,” I recall Loria noting, deadpan. (Yes. But what they didn’t have was someone who remembered to order the retractable roof closed in time.)
That was sort of funny, though, compared to when then-manager Ozzie Guillen forgot where he was and praised Fidel Castro. In Little Havana. Where Castro might have been the only man more despised than Loria.
So here’s to you, diehard Marlins fans, loyal as Labrador Retrievers, imbued with the patience of Job, or perhaps just masochists.
In any case, may your faith, one of these decades, find its reward.