July 2007

The Agony (Anguish, Misery, Torment) of Defeat

HeartbrokenI suppose it is time for me to admit to myself and the rest of the world that the last seven days actually happened.

I would prefer to continue to live in full denial of a six game losing streak, four blown leads, a return to the error-filled ways of yore (last month), and the news of Josh Johnson’s date with Tommy John. Unfortunately, all of my readers but a few have access to SportsCenter, so there isn’t any point in continuing this charade. You all know the truth.

The Marlins celebrated their breakthrough winning homestand last week with a road trip that was, at very best, the worst thing I have ever seen. FSN Florida broadcaster Rich Waltz described the 1-6 effort as "heartbreaking." While the Pacific Ocean could not sufficiently hold the tonnage of respect that I possess for Mr. Waltz, I have to disagree with him on his summation of the road trip.

Heartbreaking? No. Heart ripped from chest, shredded with razor, thrown on ground, stomped over by herd of mammoth beasts, scraped up, tossed in wood chipper, spewed over vast expanse of desert land, and rotted in sun? Yes. The latter is a decidedly more accurate description of this past week’s roller coaster of emotion.

I suppose I may have taken the losses a little harder than Rich, who was at least monetarily compensated for watching the entire ugly thing unfold. I, on the other hand, have been wandering around in a dangerous state of sleep deprivation-induced mania for the past week, forcing my eyes to remain open (with the aid of duct tape) night after night, only to see my hopes repeatedly raised and then brutally crushed.

Of course, being the epitome of positivity that I am, I have put all of my energy into discovering the silver lining on the toxic cloud of this last road trip. Although six of the seven games were emotional torture, there were a few minor highlights to the death spiral. For instance, the Fish managed to keep Bonds from celebrating any historical moments in our presence, some of our bats stayed hot, and Willis seems to be making a triumphant return to his former glory.

The best part of the road trip, though? The stinking thing is OVER.


Photo courtesy of deviantart.com, embellished courtesy of me.

Byrnes Me Up

Byrnes_amezaga_1It’s a shame I feel like strangling him right now, because if I didn’t, I might be able to admit that Eric Byrnes is the kind of player I love to see in the game. But since the wounds are still too fresh, I am instead fantasizing about unique and exciting ways to see him destroyed. So far, my favorite scenarios involve the capsizing of his kayak in McCovey Cove after he is hit in the head by a Miguel Cabrera Home Run Derby ball, and the accidental clubbing to death by teammates in a post walk-off celebration.

Watching him play these last four games, Byrnes reminded me a little bit of my favorite Marlin, Alfredo Amezaga. Not only the fact that he can be thrown all over the place and still overachieve, but the way he approaches the game of baseball in general. You know, with the hustle of an ADHD 2-year-old on crack.

Some day I’ll get over my desire to set his disheveled mop on fire, and will join Diamondback fans in wildly cheering for his success.

It won’t be today.

One Step Forward, 572 Steps Back

Newton_1 Sir Isaac Newton‘s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Now, I am no genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I can say with some conviction that–were he alive today–I am pretty sure Ike would be a Marlins fan.

It seems no matter what goes right for the Fish this season, there is always something waiting in line to go wrong, rendering any shred of positive momentum null and void.

Before you go accusing me of completely misinterpreting Newton’s laws, let me give you some scientific examples:

ACTION: The Marlins win three in a row, and finally appear to be heating up.
REACTION: Hanley jacks up his shoulder and has to miss a series, and the offense takes a nosedive.

ACTION: The Marlins play very well on the road.
REACTION: They can’t manage to put anything together at home.

ACTION: At long last the Fish manage a winning homestand.
REACTION: Immediately they begin to struggle on the road, dropping three straight in Arizona.

There are countless examples like these. Take our pitchers, for instance. After two months without a win, Dontrelle Willis finally gets some of his groove back, and the sizzling bats promptly freeze up against a very beatable pitcher.

Then there is Sergio Mitre. He’s our best starter this season, sporting a miniscule ERA, and when he takes the mound against a team that is known for its meager offense, he gets knocked around. And of course, on the same night, the Marlins struggle against a pitcher who had one win in his ten previous starts.

And Scott Olsen? He pitches his best game of the season for the Marlins, and then proceeds to get arrested mere hours later, undoubtedly losing the focus necessary to excell on the mound (as we witnessed in last night’s miserable outing).

Let’s not forget about injuries. Mike Jacobs finally returns from the DL, and Booney goes down almost instantly. Josh Johnson finally comes off the DL, but can’t shake off the rust or win a game. Then JJ finally starts clicking on the mound, and all of five dazzling innings later, he’s back on the DL.

Such is the nature of this season. If the offense is on a tear, the pitching is lackluster. If the pitching is good, the run support is nonexistent. If half the roster is healthy, the other half is decrepit.

I could probably go on for days, but I think you get the general idea. It’s been a season of trade-offs, and so far those trade-offs have kept the Marlins from putting together the wins necessary to make any kind of waves in the NL East. Is it just bad luck? Bad karma? Bad physics?

Whatever it is, it’s beginning to wear on my nerves.

Lex Luther

"Davis [had] one of his best outings of the season, allowing three runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out a season-high eight batters and walked only two, to which the Major League leader in walks jokingly said, Hooray."   diamondbacks.mlb.com

Even Doug Davis knows that recording season-high strikeouts against the Florida Marlins is similar to winning a 400-meter dash because the guy racing you breaks his ankle. I’m pretty sure it would be a good idea for all strikeout records broken by the Fish to simply be "stricken" from the record books.

Monday night, though Dontrelle finally managed to pitch a decent game, the Marlins decided to continue their trend of making mediocre pitchers look brilliant. Didn’t I discuss this in our midseason pep talk? You know, the words of wisdom that were supposed to inspire the team to greatness in the second half?

Oh well. It’s not exactly a shock, since the Marlins always struggle against soft-tossing lefties. As I predicted before the series, our Super Offense was due for a little drought, and those irritating, 2 mph pitches were just the kryptonite needed to make it happen.

Though I never enjoy losing a ball game, I was extremely grateful for Doug’s dawdling on the mound, which gave me ample time to complete a long list of activities (mow lawn, build barn, write 700-page dissertation on evils of steroids in baseball), and still not miss a single swing of the bat. At least the evening (or early morning) wasn’t a total waste.

And I thought Jamie Moyer was leisurely.

Insomnia: A Guide for Fish Fans

Hanley_1If not for one miserable inning Thursday night, the Marlins would likely have swept the Reds this weekend. I’ll try not to be too greedy, though, and be happy with three consecutive routings, two series wins in three chances, and a winning homestand at long, long last.

The Fish very nearly escaped the series without an injury, which would have put the frosting on the cake of this eerily positive homestand. Unfortunately, Hanley Ramirez is a big fan of tradition. In keeping with this year’s custom of physical trauma at every possible turn, Hanley partially dislocated his shoulder on the second pitch of his at-bat yesterday. He is listed as day-to-day, and will likely miss at least two games (lucky Arizona). Given the offensive surge of this past week, the injury is probably for the best. We simply don’t want to give fans too much to be excited about at once, now do we?

As we head into a seven-game road trip beginning tonight at Arizona, I feel the need to offer some advice on the proper physical and mental preparation for seven games out West.

West Coast Preparedness Kit:

Nodoz_4 1) No Doz – Any supplement or energy drink will suffice, as long as you have plenty on hand. Illegal amounts of caffeine could very well mean the difference between ending the road trip happily employed, and losing your job after your boss discovers you passed out in your cubicle, drooling on the keyboard in the midst of a much-needed REM cycle.

Prozac_3 2) Prozac – The dreamer in us all would love to see Willis take the mound and dominate like the D-Train of yore, but his last several starts did little to make me believe it will happen. No clear problem has been identified, so expecting a solution may be too much to hope for. Your best bet to enjoy Dontrelle’s start tonight? Happy pills. Lots of them. (Please note that prescription anti-depressants can create feelings of peace and acceptance following a loss, however HLD&S is not responsible for the effects of the pills on the off-chance the Marlins actually win the game. You get arrested dancing naked in your neighbor’s front yard, you’re on your own.)

Stressball_2 3) Stress ball – Marlins fans have been spoiled the last four games, watching the Fish score no less than 35 runs against Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the boys tend to follow high-scoring games (and games against teams whose bullpens do not need to be obliterated from Earth) with serious offensive droughts. Have something on hand to squeeze the life out of while witnessing season-high strikeouts and two base runners per game.

Blindfold_2 4) Blindfold – The odds of Hank Aaron’s sacred record being desecrated before our very eyes are looking better and better. We can only hope Bonds can manage to hit three in the Giants’ series with the Braves. The record will be broken either way, I’d just prefer that our pitching staff has nothing to do with it. Not because I am anti-Bonds, mind you. I could care less about ethics and baseball purity and all that muck. It is losing due to a three-run jack that I’m worried about.

Tissues_1 5) Tissues – I am not one to be overly sentimental, but Ollie‘s reunion with best friend and former Marlin Randall Jerome Messenger promises to be a real tear-jerker. Quite frankly, it couldn’t come at a better time. Scott is obviously in need of a little, uh, counsel (beatdown), and the Mess is precisely the right person to provide it.

Anger (Mis)Management

When I saw the news of Scott Olsen’s Saturday morning arrest, my initial feeling was to allow civil justice to run its course before weighing in on the pitcher’s latest transgressions (pardon me, alleged transgressions) here on this site. However, after HLD&S recieved an obscene number of hits in response to the arrest, I came to the realization that the readers of this blog simply haven’t the time to bother with something as trivial as justice. Therefore, I have decided to release a brief statement concerning this latest predicament Olsen finds himself in, after which I will drop the matter until the case is settled in court.

Official Statement:

"The Hook, Line Drive, & Sinker organization is aware of the charges facing its favorite hot-headed pitcher, and naturally we are deeply disappointed. Not so much with the drunken driving or the fleeing and eluding police or the resisting arrest with violence, but rather the $105 outstanding fine for littering. Dugout smackdowns and drunken disorderliness can be tolerated to a point, but HLD&S has never stooped so low as to defend an action as repugnant as soiling the well-groomed grounds of South Florida neighborhoods.

While we take the events of this weekend very seriously, we are forced to question the necessity of tasering a young man who simply wanted to sit in a plastic chair in his front yard. Seriously, what is the world coming to when one can no longer drive home and enjoy a 4:00 AM respite in one’s own lawn furniture, without being attacked by local law enforcement? Furthermore, we must question the validity of this alleged "failed" sobriety test. How many people, exactly, are able to walk a straight line and/or find their nose with the tips of their fingers after being electrocuted repeatedly?

As the investigation is still pending, we are unable to comment further on the arrest. We do, however, wish to express our gratitude to Dontrelle Willis for his stellar mentoring of the emotionally troubled Ollie, and for loaning Scott both his DUI lawyer and his obligatory post-arrest public statement.

Additionally, we are pleased at the fantastic endorsement deal that has resulted from this weekend’s seedy post-bar activity, and the probability of Scott pitching a no-hitter in his next start against Arizona (Messenger’s fist induced brilliant pitching last season, as did Sergio Mitre’s manhandling this past week, so I can only imagine the kind of fantastic effect a few jolts of the taser gun will have).

In closing, we wish to address Olsen himself and humbly suggest (please don’t hurt us) that you stick to verbally bashing the Philadelphia Phillies as an outlet for your blazing temper, and leave the early morning brawls with police–or teammates–to more capable athletes."

It Blows

"It’s still a loss. I don’t think any of them hurt any more than the others.
-Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez

Emotion_gauge_3Pardon me for disagreeing with the skipper.

It may be different for those in the dugout, but as a fan, a game in which we are shelled 19-0 is a lot easier to stomach than a game like the one we lost last night. Obviously, both losses show up on the record the exact same way. On the scale of fan fury, however, they don’t even come close.

In case you happen to be one of those exasperatingly even-keeled creatures that has never lost sleep over a game, or thrust a blunt object at the TV screen following a blown lead, allow me to elaborate:

I liken the two types of losses to the passing of a favorite pet. Fluffy can die instantaneously, crushed by a Mack truck, or she can develop an incurable illness and "fall asleep" in your arms as a veterinarian kindly sends her to the heavenly dog pound in the sky. The preferable scenario is clearly the latter. Think about it– one moment you are frolicking happily in the meadow with Fluffy, playing a game of fetch, and the next you are staring at her lifeless, mangled body on the street. Oh, the anguish. On the other hand, if Fluffy is diagnosed with an incurable disease, there is time to accept the inevitable and say your goodbyes. Having experienced both, I assure you, a long and drawn out termination is much easier to deal with. Sure, Fluffy is dead either way, but at least with a nice infectious disease you are somewhat prepared.

Losing is never good, but when winning is such a delicious possibility, and your eighth-inning man comes in and gives up a three-run shot to a guy with fewer homers than the average relief pitcher, it is utter torment. I lost sleep (and quite possibly a television) over this one.

**** hath no fury. And neither does Fredi, apparently. Probably best that he’s the one running the team.

Woe is Willis

Don_t_panic_button_1Dontrelle Willis failed to snap out of his funk last night.

I would love to leave it at that, and go drown my sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but that would be irresponsible to the faithful readers of HLD&S (not to mention my waistline), so I will go on.

Dontrelle’s überpositive outlook on life and baseball can’t help but be contagious, so I know that I am not the only Marlins fan who expected him to magically emerge from behind the dark clouds that have lingered of late, and shut out the Redbirds on 3 hits.

He didn’t.

Instead, the D-train gave up six runs on eleven hits in a little over three innings before being yanked. Last night’s loss was the sixth consecutive for Dontrelle, and it lengthened his winless streak to nine games. NINE GAMES without a win, and this from our $6 million ace. Dontrelle insists he isn’t injured. He doesn’t think it’s mechanical. He felt positive about some aspects of his pitching last night (what, that his arm remained attached to the rest of his body? That a grenade wasn’t thrown at him from the stands?).

If it isn’t a physical or mechanical problem, then what in the world is up with Willis? I think Marlins Spanish tv broadcaster Cookie Rojas really hit the nail on the head last night, when asked his opinion of Dontrelle’s recent struggles:

"Something is wrong."

Well, now that we’ve cleared that up…

The one very positive aspect of last night’s game was the Marlins bullpen, which gave up one hit and no runs over six innings. Pretty impressive, but not quite as impressive as Kip Wells, who naturally chose last night to take a sabbatical from being the worst pitcher in the world. Kip entered the game with a 3-12 record and a 6.25 ERA, and the Fish–as is customary–proceeded to cure the pitcher of everything that has ailed him so far this season. The Marlins managed two measly hits against Wells over eight innings, adding another home series loss to the ever expanding list.

Fish fans do have a few things to look forward to, despite this latest setback. For instance, Cody Ross has been activated from the 60-day DL, so he is back just in time to join the mid-season slumping, and inspire an injury to fill the void that will be left on the DL in his absence. Additionally, the Reds are in town for a four-game series, and although their record is almost terrible enough to mean a four-game sweep of the Fish, they are on a "hot streak" of sorts, which may fool the Marlins into playing well against them. Ah, silver linings.

Mt. Olsen Erupts…Again.

Olsen_1Well, folks, it was only a matter of time before Scott Olsen’s blazing temperament made headlines again. Especially after Hook, Line Drive, and Sinker awarded Ollie’s previous outbursts of fury with gold and bronze status in the GameFish Mid-Season Ceremonies. I am sure the acollades, coupled with the fact that Scott was irritated at not sweeping the category, were the motivation behind Sunday’s dugout scuffle with Sergio Mitre.

Olsen, 23, was suspended for two games without pay for what Marlins officials are calling "insubordination and conduct detrimental to the team." While the Marlins are remaining hush-hush about the specifics of the melee, an eyewitness told reporters that Scott became quite enraged over a faulty button on his jersey. His "unprofessional" comments regarding the offending garment apparently disturbed several people in the dugout, one of whom was pitcher Sergio Mitre. According to the eyewitness, Olsen had to be restrained by two police officers, while Sergio Mitre looked at Scott as though he was "ready to kill him."

Now I am not one to defend Scott’s tendency to volcanic explosions of temper (as long-time readers of HLD&S are well aware), but I do have to question the validity of this supposed eyewitness account. Forgive me for being skeptical, but when, exactly, has Sergio Mitre not looked as though he wanted to kill someone? The man looks like he eats little children for breakfast, and I am almost certain that I have never seen even the slightest smirk cross his intimidating features. How can we be certain that his outraged expression was directed at Scott?

Furthermore, have Marlins officials never known the hideous annoyance of a deffective button? I, for one, know the stress it can cause, and am shocked that a mere pair of deputies were able to subdue the southpaw after such a vexatious inconvenience.   

I suppose we will never know what exactly transpired in the corner of the home dugout Sunday (at least not for a decade or so, when Olsen–kicked off of yet another MLB team for his incurable petulance–releases his memoirs). For now, we will have to be satisfied with the fact that in-house fisticuffs tend to bring out the best in Ollie on the mound. Last season, his shiner courtesy of Randy Messenger induced a winning spree of sorts, and the shoving match with Miguel Cabrera didn’t exactly hurt his ERA either.

And the Marlins are in the…WIN column

Champaigne20tnPour the champaigne. Kill the fatted calf. Put on the kettle.

Do whatever else it is that people do to celebrate monumentous occasions.

Yesterday afternoon, after a nearly two-month drought, the Marlins won a series at home. The occasion also marked the first time in three months that the Fish won back-to-back games at Dolphin Stadium. Granted, this weekend’s glorious victory was against the Nationals. But if you followed the win/loss trends of the Marlins over the first half of the season, you are aware that beating a struggling team is to the Fish what conquering Mt. Everest is to most 98-year-old paralytics.

Multiple home wins and triumph over a flailing ball club…This is progress indeed.

The true test of second-half improvement, however, begins tonight against St. Louis. Can the Marlins keep winning at home, or will the Cardinal’s losing record prove too intimidating? Can two Florida starters record back-to-back victories, or will Kimmie falter after his stellar outing vs. Jake Peavy and the Padres? I suppose we’ll know in a few hours. For now, I will enjoy the sweet savor of success. Mmmmmmm.