May 2007

SUPER DUPER SATURDAYS

Obviously, it takes more than America’s favorite pastime to spark the interest of South Floridians. Good baseball just isn’t enough to woo the most fickle, passionless fans on the planet, so the Marlins have to work a little harder to get our ungrateful butts into the orange seats 81 times a year.

Enter Super Saturdays.

For the price of a mere baseball ticket, fans can enjoy a concert, a fireworks spectacular, and heck, while they’re at it the Marlins will even throw in a ballgame (we couldn’t stop them). It’s good, but it might not be good enough. We’re dealing with Fish fans, after all.

I’ve come up with a few ideas to kick the promotion up a notch:

- Fight Night! Guarantee a benches-clearing brawl in the top of the sixth. (None of this shoving nonsense, though. We want to see the D-Train take somebody down.)

Gaynor_uggla_6Have Gloria Gaynor croon on the field during the game. Attendees can enjoy the concert without sitting through a game first, and Gloria can help our guys field ground balls.

- Add ‘foul poles’ to the list of items the Mermaids dance on.

- Weigh Miguel Cabrera live during the seventh inning stretch.

- Dress Amezaga in tights and a cape for his superhuman Superhero_amezaga_1_2 escapades in center field.

- Air Ollie’s anger management therapy sessions on the jumbotrons.

- Have the audience vote a player off the team at the end of the game.

- Whenever a Marlin strikes out or issues a free pass, make him down a bowl of cockroach innards, Fear Factor style.

Mermaid_leadoff_2Bat a Mermaid in the leadoff spot.

- And if you’re really interested in seeing attendance skyrocket… Make the Marlins wear Mets unis.

One, Two, Skip-a-Few: 23,000 Mets Fans

"The Mets used a four-run fourth inning as a springboard to forge past the Marlins, 6-4, before 23,622 mostly Mets supporters." – Charlie Nobles

Apparently, when you cover a team with a mere 17 losses on the season, you need more than a win to keep the interest of your readers. So while most journalists were busy taking notes at Sunday’s Mets-Marlins contest, MLB reporter Charlie Nobles had bigger fish to fry. He had the daunting task of making another ho-hum Mets sweep a little more interesting.

Always an entertaining subject, Chuck hoped to touch on the Marlins attendance issues at least once during the series. Unfortunately, it had only been a few days since John Kruk employed the standard joke on Baseball Tonight (“What a great play! Of course, nobody was there to see it…”). Another blow was the second-largest attendance of the season at Saturday’s game, which would take some of the bite out of those clever jabs at Marlins fans. Despite these obstacles, Nobles was determined to make the joke work. And so, on a windy South Florida Sunday afternoon, the writer took on a task that has never before been attempted by a reporter. Chuck decided to count the Mets fans in Dolphin stadium.

Since the Marlins no longer require attendees to present fan registration cards at the gate, counting Mets supporters wasn’t going to be easy. But Nobles refused to let that get in his way. He enlisted the help of injured outfielders Carlos Gomez and Shawn Green, who were getting really bored watching hit after hit from the bench, and welcomed a way to kill time.

Section by section, Charlie and his hobbling assistants hand-counted fans. Attendees wearing any form of Mets garb received a count for New York, as did two of every three people in plain clothes (the guys figured they were “giving” a few to the Fish here). Additionally, every third fan in teal & black was counted for the Mets, since Chuck reasoned they were simply in denial of their true feelings.

A small issue arose about halfway through the count, when Gomez made the mistake of asking Alfredo Amezaga’s mother if she was really rooting for the 23-27 Fish. Shawn had to help Carlos back to the clubhouse to ice his black eye, but Chuck continued on without them, undaunted.

In the end, as Mr. Nobles mentioned in Sunday’s Mets.com article, the 23,622 fans at the game were “mostly” Mets supporters.

He would know. He counted them himself.

Fish Won’t Let Sleeping Bats Lie

The Marlins, though dropping three in a row to the Mets, did manage to continue their campaign of goodwill for struggling hitters. Adding to their reputation of being a veritable ER for slumping ball players, The Fish once again lent a helping hand, this time to the comatose bat of Carlos Delgado.

Entering Friday’s contest batting .224, and coming off a week-long rbi drought, Delgado was the perfect candidate for the Marlin’s humanitarian efforts. The Fish immediately went to work on the flatlined slugger, in what proved to be one of the most successful resuscitations this year.

The results of the awe-inspiring revival included two mammoth homers, a five rbi night, and the first baseman’s most productive game of the season.

In honor of the team’s relief efforts, the Marlins Community Foundation is raising funds to erect a monument in the visitor’s clubhouse. The 15-foot bronze effigy will serve as a symbol of hope, inscribed with words of inspiration to guide drought-ridden hitters to freedom:

Give me your tired, your sore, your slumping sluggers yearning to break free,
The wretched refuse of your droughting poor,
Send these, the homerless, 0-for-the-year, to me:
I lift my glove beside the stadium door.

To donate, please contact the Marlins Community Foundation.

Feelings, Whoa-oh-oh, Feelings…

"I hate the Phillies, and I don’t want to see them celebrating. They’ve been beating us up all year."  -Scott Olsen

When I first read the words of fiery starting pitcher Scott Olsen last September, I’ll admit my inner fan was in complete agreement. The Phillies took 13 of 19 games from the Fish in 2006, and tension between the two teams seemed to build with every meeting. At the time, "hate" didn’t appear to be a strong enough sentiment.

Unfortunately, those heated September emotions are now a great source of personal shame.

After this week’s tumultuous series, I am beginning to rethink the whole "rivalry" mentality. Several interviews with various Phillies players have opened my eyes to the deep emotional damage that this 23-year-old pitcher has inflicted upon our division opponents. Scott’s recent demonstration of completely unprovoked animosity has only served to pour salt on the still gaping wounds embedded in the hearts of Philadelphia.

Utley_wimp_2In the third inning of Tuesday night’s game, Chase Utley innocently called for time when Scott was already in his wind-up. Home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez awarded the late call, and Olsen sailed the pitch high. After the timeout, Utley promptly struck out, and the inning continued without further incident. In the top of the sixth, however, Utley again called for time in the middle of Olsen’s delivery. This time he walked, and Scott inexplicably lost his cool. Chase stared out at the mound with a smirk on his face. To the average observer, I am sure this appeared to be some sort of provocation, but I am convinced Utley’s look was meant to be apologetic.

I watched in shock and horror as Olsen returned Chase’s attempt at peacemaking by yelling furiously. Scott’s tantrum was entirely uncalled for, as Utley explained in a postgame interview:

"As a hitter, you want to be ready, and at that point [on a 3-1 count, in the middle of the pitcher's delivery] you’re not ready, so you call timeout," he explained, his voice trembling, "Most pitchers understand that." Wiping away tears of hurt and frustration, he added, "It’s a guy who doesn’t necessarily respect everyone on our team."

Chase broke down at this point, unable to regain his composure. As Pat Burell held the weeping second baseman, stroking his hair, Shane Victorino took over, revealing his own angst over Scott’s emotionally devastating words of last season. "That’s what I didn’t like," Victorino said, dabbing at his eyes with a lace hankie offered from Cole Hamels, "To me, the word ‘hate’ is a big word."

Seeing the raw emotion Scottie’s harsh statements have caused, I was ashamed of my team. And I was shamed further as Dontrelle Willis instigated a bench-clearing incident on Thursday, without an ounce of provocation at all from the Phillies.

What has our team come to?

The players of yore would roll over in their graves to see such scandalous behavior. Teams hating each other? Rivalries? Pushing and shoving on the sacred diamond that has always stood as a symbol of peace and a beacon of hope to all who view it?!

Perhaps it is the youth of the Marlins players, and the organization itself. Established teams, rich in history– such as the Red Sox and Yankees– would never dream of “hating” each other. Rather, they warmly greet one another with loving embraces at the start of each game, smiling in brotherly adoration while opposing fans come together in unity, holding hands stadium wide as the organist plays “We are the World.” And as A-Rod hits one out against Matsuzaka, both dugouts, joined by Red Sox and Yankee fans alike, erupt in cheers of congratulation.

Harmony.

This is the legacy of baseball.

When did the Marlins forget this? Was it when two Phillies pitchers, noted for their outstanding control, pegged Miguel Cabrera in his injured elbow last season? Was it when they started employing annoying and potentially harmful delay tactics with Scott Olsen, knowing from previous experience that this would rile him? Was it when Lieber plunked our first baseman, and still felt the need to attempt a beaning of our ace pitcher as well? Or perhaps it was when the heckling began from the Phils bench on a simple retaliation pitch from Willis.

I simply cannot understand why any of the aforementioned incidents would be viewed as anything other than acts of love and offerings of peace. Certainly nothing the Phillies ever do demands less than the highest level of "respect," so I totally understand where Chase Utley is coming from.

It is time for an olive branch, folks. I, for one, will no longer stand for any form of animosity at the ball park. No more cheering when the opposing pitcher gives up a run. No more boos when Cabrera is intentionally walked. The events of this past week have led me to the conclusion that baseball just isn’t the place for rivalry. It is simply too hurtful. As Chase Utley and his team have so graciously reminded us through their crying to the media, baseball players are human beings with fragile hearts. When you cut them (uh, or say that you hate them) they bleed.

Scott Olsen, I love you as a Fish, but your viciousness toward the poor Phillies is simply unacceptable. I believe you need to dig deep within the recesses of your heart and soberly ask yourself: Can’t we all just get along?

And then send Chase Utley a dozen roses.

 

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