Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Random Evidence of a Cluttered Mind: High hopes for Marlins’ opener; pregame a concern

Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez throws during spring training baseball workouts for pitchers and catchers at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter on Feb. 20, 2015.
Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez throws during spring training baseball workouts for pitchers and catchers at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter on Feb. 20, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

The teams are ready, your fantasy lineup is set and you just hung up with your bookie. That means it is almost time. Play ball!

Major League Baseball unfurls Monday for most teams including Miami, where hopes for the Marlins are as high as they’ve been in (um, let me think) three whole years! It was 2012 when a new, star-studded team illuminated the brand new ballpark, and everything was great until the losses started coming in a torrent, Ozzie Guillen loved Fidel Castro and they took a torch to the roster.

Check that. Things actually went sour on an ominously foreboding Opening Day, when the crowd was aghast during pregame ceremonies to see a feeble, Parkinson’s-stricken Muhammad Ali wheeled out on a golf cart. An astonishing feel-good fail. A record-setting buzzkill.

Three years later, Marlins fans again seem buoyed and upbeat about this maybe being a playoff season as Henderson Alvarez takes the mound for Game 1, although indications are sketchy. The Las Vegas betting over/under for Miami is 82 1/2 wins, just an iota above .500, not a playoff number. And ESPN’s forecast pegs the Fish for third place in the National League East with a disappointing 78-84 record.

The good news?

On Monday night, Ali may be floating like a butterfly in our sweetest memories, but he’ll be nowhere near Marlins Park.

▪ A major show-jumping competition concluded Saturday on the sands of Miami Beach. I don’t wanna say those horses are pampered, but an “equine psychotherapist” was on hand. Seriously. Am picturing a typical session. Sad horse sighs as it lays on couch. Psychotherapist: “Why the long face?”

▪ That reminds me. Materiality won the Florida Derby and seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. “How worried do I look?” said the smiling ghost of Affirmed.

▪ The Panthers were facing elimination from the playoff race and needing a miracle entering Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay. For the 17th time in 21 franchise seasons, the Stanley Cup playoffs find the Cats on the wrong side of the glass.

▪ I don’t wanna say the Panthers are dead on ice, but their season has less life left in it than my NCAA bracket.

▪ By the way, ever wonder how the tradition of cutting down the nets began in basketball? Turns out it was started by the American Association of People Who Sell Basketball Nets.

▪ Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart was found not to have bet on baseball but was fined by MLB for placing illegal bets with bookies on other sports. What’s next, Cosart? Jay-walking!?

▪ Answer: Reggie Jackson, who bought them, put up for auction the 10-foot-tall letters that spelled out “Yankee Stadium” on top of the old ballpark, but there were zero bidders. Question: What comes to mind when you think “terrible investment”?

▪ Rory McIlroy is the betting favorite at the Masters this week at Augusta, but as much attention was being paid to Tiger Woods on whether he would play. He will. But it speaks to the shaky state of his game that even his fans sort of wished he wouldn’t.

▪ The 12th-ranked Hurricanes baseball team will unveil a Ron Fraser statue April 24. That’s good. Even better: Drop Alex Rodriguez and name the stadium after Fraser.

▪ NFL scouts raved about the Hurricanes’ talent at UM’s annual Pro Day, and it seems the Canes will have a sizable impact on the NFL Draft’s early rounds. That sound you hear is one more excuse for a 6-7 season running away from Al Golden.

▪ Phillip Dorsett ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at the Pro Day. I don’t wanna says he’s fast, but when Dorsett flips off the light switch in his bedroom he’s under the covers before the room goes dark.

▪ Countdown: It is 25 days till the NFL Draft, and Mel Kiper Jr.’s 943 mock-draft versions (so far) indicate the Dolphins’ first-round pick could be anybody, at any position.

▪ The Dolphins this week signed quarterback Josh Freeman after gaining a court order to exhume the remains of his career and conduct an autopsy for signs of life.

▪ Fins had free agent running back Stevan Ridley in for a look. Stevan is best known for wishing his parents had spell-check.

▪ The Aaron Hernandez trial is wrapping up. I love the defense: That Hernandez would never, ever have killed the deceased because he was the “blunt master” who rolled Hernandez’s marijuana cigarettes just the way he liked them. No, seriously.

▪ The NFL suspended Browns general manager Ray Farmer four games for sending text messages to his sideline during games. Cannot confirm Farmer responded by sending out a sad-face emoji.

▪ Line judge Sarah Thomas was hired as the NFL’s first full-time female official. Apparently as a little girl she always dreamed of a profession where she would be constantly questioned and booed.

▪ MLB says the reinstated Yankee Rodriguez will be subject to increased drug testing. I’ll bet. A-Rod will be urinating more than a frat boy at a keg party.

▪ To NBA writers raving what a close, unpredictable MVP race there is this year: Golden State’s Stephen Curry will win easily. Book it.

▪ Parting thought: New seats are being installed at the renovated Dolphins stadium. Here’s guessing Dolfans are far more interested in whether a winning team also is being installed there.

Visit Greg Cote’s Random Evidence of a Cluttered Blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote and also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Hot list

Today: Marlins Opening Day starters: Most Opening Day starts in the franchise’s 22-year history:

Starts

Player/position

Years

8

Luis Castillo/2B

1997, 1999-2005

7

Alex Gonzalez/SS

1999-2005

6

Mike Lowell/3B

2000-05

6

Hanley Ramirez/SS

2006-11

Note: Tied with five are RF Gary Sheffield (1994-98); C Charles Johnson (1995-98, 2001); LF Jeff Conine (1993-96, 2004) and 2B Dan Uggla (2006-10). RF Giancarlo Stanton will join list with his fifth Opening Day start on Monday.

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT

1. MARLINS

Opening Day! High hopes as Fish debut Monday: Major League Baseball opens its season with Cardinals at Cubs on Sunday, but all other teams take the field Monday. Here is your pump-up music, South Florida: The Yankees, Red Sox and Giants are the only three teams that have won more World Series since 1997 than the Marlins’ two.

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Finally, NCAA Tournament decides national champ: Kentucky and Duke were five-point betting picks in Saturday’s Final Four and favored to reach Monday’s championship title game in Indianapolis. Which presented the likely dilemma of a who-do-you-love-to-hate-more coaching face-off between John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski.

3. HEAT

Miami hangs on to precarious playoff position: This season has proved to be exciting like hanging on to the edge of a cliff is exciting. Miami had lost five of its past seven games and slipped to eighth in the East entering Saturday. Fans have gone from debating what first-round playoff opponent they’d prefer to just praying Heat gets in at all.

4. TENNIS

Championship weekend for Miami Open: Two weeks of tennis nirvana in Key Biscayne end with Sunday’s men’s finale, after Saturday’s women’s title was won — again — by Serena Williams. [Note: I wrote this before Serena Williams played Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, but I’ll swim the backstroke from Miami to Barcelona if Serena lost].

5. HURRICANES

UM loses heartbreaker in NIT title game: The bad news? The Hurricanes, with two starters out injured, lost to Stanford 66-64 in overtime in the final of the NIT. The good news? We narrowly avoided having to cringe with a condescending smile while listening to coach Jim Larrañaga claim straight-faced that his team just won a national title.

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