Jeter: “When you compete, you’re competing to win”
This might have been an aberrant blip, a small respite before the spigot turns back on and resumes spewing mostly losses.
It might have been legit, the first real indication and evidence that the franchise reboot is actually working.
It might have been somewhere in between, of course.
Heck, it might have been be a dream! Maybe the alarm goes off and none of it really happened.
Whatever. Don’t overthink it. Enjoy this recent little run while you can. If you are a Miami Marlins fan, you deserve it. If you are a Marlins fan who still goes to the ballpark, you might have forgotten what this even felt like.
Winning. The Marlins have been winning. They’ve been fun to watch.
Even with Thursday’s loss at Marlins Park — 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants to prevent a three-game Marlins sweep — Miami has been on a two-week ride that has to rank among the great in-season turnarounds South Florida sports has seen from any of its teams.
Only a couple of weeks, yes. But when you’re in the gutter, even the curb is a big step up.
In mid-May the Marlins had lost seven games in a row, the last two by shutout, and had a record of 10-31 (.243), worst in the majors. Speculation about manager Don Mattingly’s job security was gaining traction. The then-rotting Fish were on pace to finish with a worse record than the infamous 1962 New York Mets (40-120, .250), widely regarded as the lousiest team in MLB history.
Since then, Miami has won nine of 13 games even with Thursday’s loss that prevented a third Marlins sweep this month, after the team had none all last season.
“It’s really been a team thing,” said Mattingly of the recent run.
Sandy Alcantara left with a 1-0 lead after six innings on his own RBI single, but relievers Tayron Guerrero and Adam Conley together managed to rip the victory from Alcantara’s mitt.
“My stuff wasn’t too good today,” said Alcantara, although six shutout innings without his best stuff is itself pretty encouraging.
The recent wins have been against pretty bad teams, yeah, but that’s OK. Try to feel good without guilt, would you? Don’t feel the need to parse and “yeah, but” every little thing. Remember that, at 10-31, Miami was losing to everybody, bad teams included. So call the second half of May progress if nothing else, in a season all about baby steps and the search for reasons to try on optimism and hope it fits.
Quick aside: When owner Bruce Sherman and CEO/frontman Derek Jeter took over the team before last season, I and many others figured Jeter might be an absentee boss, more figurehead than hands-on. I’m pleased to say we doubters have been wrong about that. He’s doing the work. Earlier this month, as an example, Jeter flew to the Southeastern Conference tournament in Alabama and then to California to personally scout a couple of guys the Marlins might select with the fourth overall pick of the MLB Draft on Monday.
Jeter understands his job is two fold: Sustainable success on the field, and growing the fan base almost from the ground floor after years of losing and customer distrust that this regime inherited from the Jeffrey Loria years.
Building a winning team won’t be easy. Filling Marlins Park might be even tougher.
Thursday’s attendance — granted 1 o’clock weekday starts always are a hard sell — was 7,371. It was one of those crowds where you saw a fan casually walking after a foul ball because there was no competition for the prize. The park was so quiet at times you could hear the air conditioners humming.
There has been a very modest uptick at the gate with the recent winning. At 10-31, Miami averaged 9,360 in 23 home games. During the 9-4 run, Miami is averaging 9,932 in six home dates. Again, baby steps. Gutter to curb.
It might take a lot of winning for a long time to ever make a Marlins game a tough ticket in this town.
The second half of May has offered a nourishing little hint of hope, at least.