September 2007

The Marlins are Here to Ruin Your Life

Met_tearsSomebody once said, "I don’t derive pleasure from watching another team lose."

Well, I have just one word to say to that…

Snore.

I am certainly getting into this spoiler business. Honestly, with the Marlins’ season lost on about April 4th, this last week of baseball is starting to feel sort of like our World Series experience. And if watching Cubs fans writhe was fun, seeing the tortured panic all over the faces of NY and Philly fans is kinda like winning the lottery.

The Fish beat the Mets last night, shoving them out of the NL East lead, and I had the pleasure of seeing the Mets and their fans go into panic mode. Good times. Today, the Fish were pummeled by New York, and it brings me great joy to know that the Phils and their fans are suddenly under a lot more pressure in this afternoon’s game against the Nats. Good times as well. If the Nats manage to win today, then tomorrow’s contest at Shea should have all the intensity of a game seven in the NLCS. Who knew with all the struggles of Florida that I’d be biting my nails in late September? What fun.

Phil_fans_cheerOf course, the downside to all this is that the benefactors of the Marlins’ victories are the Philadelphia Phillies. But really, if you see things the way I do, Fish fans are in a win-win situation. No matter what happens over the next two days, one of our despised rivals will be devastated. If we win, we’re destroying Mets fans. If we lose, we’re crushing Phillies fans. It’s like Christmas!

The unfortunate reality is that there is no way to keep both the Phillies and the Mets out of the post-season. So the big question is this: Would I rather see the Mets advance? Or do I want the Phillies to pull it off? The answer, of course, is no. Picking which of those teams I hate more is kind of like answering that idiotic question, "would you rather be blind or deaf?" Personally, I would prefer none of the above.

What’s that saying? If you choose the lesser of two evils, you are still choosing evil. So whether the Mets manage to reclaim their lead or the Phillies clinch the East, a part of me will feel like throwing up tomorrow. I’ll just have to comfort myself with the fact that being eliminated in the first round probably cuts deeper than missing the playoffs entirely. Besides, everybody needs a team to cheer against in the post-season.

EDIT: The Nationals pulled out the win this afternoon, putting the Phils and Mets back in a tie for the NL East.

The Spoils

"I know the Marlins team, and there aren’t a lot of fans down there and not a lot to shoot for in terms of winning this thing, but they have some good players who I know would love to spoil it for us," ~ Cliff Floyd, Chicago Cubs

Bartman_bobblehead_1For all their talk of playing spoiler, the Marlins certainly haven’t been doing a fabulous job of it lately. With three losses to the Mets, our friends in New York are still enjoying a two-game lead in the NL East. When you couple that with the heartbreaking fact that the Phillies are in a tie for the Wild Card lead, there is very little for Fish fans to jump up and cheer about as the Cubs roll into town.

The Marlins swept their series at Wrigley field earlier this season, but Chicago has since righted the ship and the team now holds an almost comfortable three-game lead in the NL Central. Sure, spoiling would be fun, but the Marlins have done little to inspire me to believe that any such thing will take place over the next six games.

So what’s the next-best thing to destroying the playoff hopes of a contending team? Creeping out Cubbies fans. Nothing* brings me as much pleasure as watching the faithful Chicago followers writhe in fear. I have nothing against them, mind you. I am simply in need of some entertainment before I say goodbye to the season, and for whatever reason, Cub fan anxiety is very nearly as enjoyable to me as a Fish win.

Tonight will be my last visit to Dolphin Stadium this season, and I intend to relish every last drop of Chicago fan angst to the fullest. Cheering the Brewers via the NL Scoreboard, parading my I Heart_4 BARTMAN t-shirt, reciting aloud various baseball curses throughout the centuries…the possibilities are endless, and I plan to take every opportunity tonight to mercilessly heckle the away team and their fans.

Luckily, I won’t have to do all the work myself. It’s Fan Appreciation Night at the ballpark, and the first 10,000 attendees will receive a Steve Bartman bobble head doll and a 2003 NLCS hand towel courtesy of FSN Florida. During the seventh-inning stretch, Billy the Marlin will don the ceremonial sweatshirt, Cubbies cap and headphones for a riveting reenactment of one of the most fantastic and historic moments in Marlins history. The Mermaids will join the reminiscing as well, and will entertain tonight’s crowd with "The Bartman," a routine choreographed in special memory of that fateful October night four years ago. Set to Fallout Boy’s "Thanks for the Memories," the Mermaids pre-game dance is sure to inspire spine chills and knotted stomachs all over the stadium.

I say if we can’t spoil anyone’s playoff chances, at least we can cause a few ulcers and minor episodes of cardiac arrest over the next six days. A D-Train win tonight would just be icing on the cake.

*Obviously, I mean nothing aside from the destruction of the Phils and Mets, and/or the infliction of bodily harm upon any of their fans.

As the Tables Turn

"They hate us more than any team in baseball. Right now, we’re their favorite team."
~Cody Ross, Marlins Outfielder

Mars_venusThe chorus of Cher’s late-80’s hit "If I Could Turn Back Time" wafted through the clubhouse this afternoon as the Fish prepared for their upcoming series against the Mets.

"It’s from a mixtape Chase Utley just sent me," Scott Olsen said as Alfredo–always one to get into the spirit of things–danced cheek-to-cheek with assistant trainer Mike Kozak.

There has been an eerie shift in the Marlins’ universe of late, and the music isn’t all that has changed. Deliveries of flowers, chocolates, and giant teddy bears have streamed into the clubhouse since last week, and nearly every inch of space is covered with cards, boxes of Godiva candies, and bouquets of roses.

"It’s standing room only in here," said Dontrelle Willis, sidestepping a pile of heart-shaped boxes, "Uh, hold on. I just got another text message from Barajas. Please please please forgive me, Mr. Willis. Pretty please, with a cherry on top. Love, Rod."

So who has suddenly got it bad for the Fish? None other than our sniveling NL East rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scott_mixtape_2 It’s no secret that there has been little love lost between the Phillies and Marlins over the past several seasons, so why the sudden turn-around? To put it very simply, the Phillies are 2.5 games behind the Mets in the division. If the Marlins can manage to play half-decent baseball over the next ten days, the Phillies’ chances of making the post-season will greatly increase. So for this week at least, the Fish are Philadelphia’s new best friends.

Isn’t it lovely to be needed?

Sure it is. But even lovelier than being needed is being able to mock mercilessly once the Phillies are eliminated from both the division and the wildcard. I, for one, will not be swayed by any amount of last-minute good will from our evil NL East rivals. Would I go as far as to encourage the Marlins to tank against the Mets this week? Absolutley not. Just play like you’ve been playing, fellas, and the rest will take care of itself.

That only leaves one tiny problem– what to do with all those gifts.

"We’re sending them to the Nats," Scott Olsen said, "except for the chocolate-covered cherries; those are mine."

The flowers and confections are being FedEx-ed to RFK Stadium, where the Phils begin a four-game series with the Nationals tonight. I, for one, can think of no fate worse than a post-season that includes the Philadelphia Phillies, and can only hope the Nationals will play with as much annoying fervor as they did when they faced the Marlins last.

For now, though, let’s enjoy the fake friendship.

Musicnote1_4 If I could turn back time,
If I could find a way,
I’d take back those words that hurt you…
Musicnote2_1_1

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Help the Medicine Go Down

"A split [with Philadelphia] leaves the Rockies in need of a sweep against Florida at home. The Marlins are the worst team in the National League East."
~Troy E. Renck, The Denver Post

Spoonful_1When the Fish are on the road, I like to surf the web to see what the opposing city’s sportswriters have to say about our team. I must admit I was cut to the quick when I read the final sentence of Mr. Renck’s otherwise brilliant piece. Of course, I am certain that arguments could be made to validate his opinion (our record, for instance), but really–"worst" is such a relative term.

Isn’t it enough that we’re mathematically eliminated, 19 games under .500 and riddled with injuries? Rockies sportswriters of all people should know the despair of a losing season. Must they further demoralize us with such vicious declarative sentences? Is it really necessary to go for the jugular here?

When it comes to the Marlins and their lackluster record, I prefer a little sugar coating, and the use of less hurtful expressions than "worst." In case Troy was simply at a loss for words, I will share several alternative sentences that articulate the same point effectively, but with less sting:

"The Marlins have the fifth-best record in the National League East."
"The Marlins, though brimming with young talent, have been dealt a miserable hand of injuries, thus placing them (very, very shockingly) in fifth place in their division."
"The Marlins would certainly be the best team in the NL East, if not for the other four teams."
"If you turn the list upside down, the Marlins are on top of the NL East."

I think I speak for all Fish fans when I say that we would appreciate a more fair and balanced write-up in the future. Thankfully, staff writer Troy E. Renck can be reached at 303-954-1301, and I was able to leave all of the above thoughts on several voice mails (137, to be exact).

In closing, I would just like to say… Miguel Cabrera has just hit his first career grand slam, and the worst team in the National League East is kicking Colorado tail for the second night in a row.

The Ultimate Low

"That is what happens when two of the worst teams in baseball meet for a 1:05 p.m. game on a 91-degree September afternoon." ~Palm Beach Post

"It is pretty sad when you can count how many people are in the stands. You can’t blame people. It’s an afternoon game. It is hot, and it is on television. Not much is going to change unless we get a stadium with a roof on it." ~Mike Jacobs

Dolphin_3
(actual, non-photoshopped view of yesterdays attendance)

I didn’t bother to watch ESPN to see what the gang would have to say about the handful of fans that showed up for yesterday’s Marlins-Nationals game. It’s September, after all, so sports shows have already made the transition from mocking the Fish to not mentioning them at all. I did read quite a few articles that mentioned the empty seats, though, and I find it interesting that people are blaming the miserable heat for the low non attendance.

What I’m about to say may come as a shock, so brace yourself: EVERY game is hot and miserable! The agony is not limited by any means to afternoon contests. I am hot, sticky and disgustingly sweaty at 6:00 when I arrive at the park, at 7:05 when the game starts, during the first call to the bullpen, and throughout the 7th-inning stretch. Things start to cool off when the sun sets, or during the ubiquitous downpours, but there is always at least a portion of every game during which I have an overwhelming desire to murder myself.

So I think people have got this all wrong. Yes, day games are uncomfortable. Yes, the Marlins and Nationals are two of the worst teams in baseball. Yes, South Florida fans s*ck big time. But I don’t think that the aforementioned excuses are the entire reason that only six folks turned up for the game yesterday. While I agree with Mike that we need a retractable roof, even that would not have enabled me to be in the stands. The game could have been played in the fanciest stadium ever created. Giant air conditioners could have been blowing a refreshing breeze over the crowd. The Marlins could have given out free box seats and a complimentary snack buffet to the first 10,000 fans…I still would not have been there.

There are these things called jobs; people have them. There’s this thing called school; kids are in it. College classes are in session. Vacation days were used up long ago for family trips to the Grand Canyon. Yep, yesterday’s game was on TV, but how many people were sitting at home watching said TV on a weekday afternoon? Residents of local centers for the elderly? Stay-at-home moms and their toddlers? I will admit that I did watch part of yesterday’s game on the tube: the 10th through 12th innings, after I dragged in from work. Like everybody else I know, I followed the box score on my work computer for the first nine.

If you must gripe about yesterday’s 60,000 empty seats, please gripe at the people who decided to schedule an afternoon game on a September weekday. Both teams are off today, and could have played the game last night. The season ends for both teams in a couple of weeks, and there will be plenty of off-days and holidays for everyone to enjoy then.

If people won’t go to games when they’re perfectly able, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to show up when they actually have a fantastic reason not to. Holiday or not, the Marlins have enough attendance issues to worry about without handing people a perfect excuse to skip the ballpark.

Fish Dig the Long Ball (I Dig Wins)

Einstein_2I can understand why people are so captivated by a ball that leaves the park, especially if you consider how quickly a home run can change a game. In the fourth inning of last night’s contest, the Nats needed one powerful swing to go from a three run deficit to a one run lead. And it only took a few more powerful swings for the Fish to reclaim that lead, and ultimately win the game, 13-8.

Home runs are entertaining, I’ll give you that. Call me weird (I’ve been called much worse), but I’ve never been overly obsessed with the long ball. Of course it’s fun to see my favorite players go deep, but manufacture me a few runs and I’m positively beside myself with glee. Nothing thrills me quite like bunts, stolen bases, squeeze plays, singles and sac flies. And if you really want to rev my engine, just throw in a well-pitched game. Mmmmm.

It’s pretty obvious the Marlins do not share my affection for small ball. As of this post only one team, Milwaukee (204), has gone deep more than the Fish (190; tied with Cincinnati). Given the cavernous expanse of Dolphin Stadium, their accomplishment is not lost on me, but a quick glance at the Marlins record will tell you that the exorbitant long balls mean precisely jack (no pun intended) this season.

No matter how many times Miggy, Hanley and Dan (Josh, Mike, Cody, Jeremy, Livo…) launch pitches into the upper deck, they can’t make up for the mess that is the starting rotation. Marlins pitchers rank second-worst in the Majors in runs allowed. Only the Devil Rays, Reds and Orioles have a worse team ERA than the Marlins. Only the Orioles have walked more batters than the Marlins. As we showed last night, it’s possible to out-slug the opposition part of the time, but not enough of the time to counteract the woeful innings of our starters. When you add in the fact that the Marlins have committed more errors than any team in baseball, it is irrelevant how many times the Fish touch ‘em all this season (unless, of course, you’re one of the aforementioned Fish, in which case the power numbers are relevant to your personal stats. Lucky you).

I know you don’t want to count your chickens before the hen has even laid any eggs, but it does make you wonder. If we’ve got this kind of an offense next season, plus a few starters that can manage to stay away from the DL… Never mind. I won’t even think about it. With my luck, we’ll have a staff full of Cy Young candidates that average .003 runs of support per start. Isn’t that how it always seems to work?

Angst

When feeling downtrodden, there is only one way that I am truly able to express my feelings. (It’s a gift.)

Mathematically Eliminated: a Poem of Defeat

Weeping_2I was sure that we’d conquer the National League East,
or clinch the wild card at the very, very least.

Through loss after loss I did not give up hope
(though our pitchers at times made it real tough to cope).

But last eve my dreams got officially crushed;
all hopes for October were miserably flushed.

When Willis allowed five whole runs in the first,
he smashed our last chance at a post-season berth.

In darkness I sat with my bon-bons and sorrow,
not having a reason to wake up tomorrow.

But then some hope rose from my gloomy abyss
that turned those dark thoughts into bittersweet bliss.

The thing that can turn my depression to glee?
Spoiling the chance of the lousy Phillies!

This poem is obviously a work in progress. More to come (as soon as I can find words to rhyme with "pulverize," "annihilate," and "Utley").

Phightin’ Phair?

Miguelsitting_3 If you consider that the Phillies have nearly matched the Marlins injury for injury this season, it is baffling that our feisty rivals have such a better record than we do. Or at least it was baffling, until tonight’s game. Watching the Marlins defeat Philadelphia this evening, I really feel like I got some new insight into the team. As much as I hate to admit it, the Fish have a lot to learn from the Phils.

For instance, if your starting pitchers s*ck and your defense gets a bit shady, you’re gonna have to get real creative in order to prevent runs from scoring. The Phillies demonstrated their ability to do just that when Greg Dobbs dived atop Cody Ross, pinning him to the ground to try and keep him from crossing the plate. Thankfully, Cody’s stint in the WWE proved too much for Dobbs to handle, and he scored. Still, I thought the attempted smackdown was such a fresh approach to the game. I’m not sure why more teams in Major League Baseball have not adopted this unique approach to run-preventage. With all the throwing errors that have plagued the Marlins this season, it may be time for Miguel to just start sitting on base runners.

Sign_stealers_2Borrowing (stealing is such a strong word) signs from the opposition is another creative way to ensure you end up in the win column. I suggest, though, that the Fish use a bit more discretion than Carlos Ruiz did tonight. If the outfield hidden camera is malfunctioning, I understand the need to resort to plan B. But turning around and bending down to stare at the catcher’s hands is not exactly subtle.

Finally, I think that the Phillies coaching staff must hold classes to teach batters how to be as annoying to opposing pitchers as humanly possible. I’ve never in my life seen a team ask for time as much as the Phillies do against Marlins pitchers. Of course, that makes me question the umpires, who never seem to find anything wrong with awarding the requests for time after the pitch has already sailed halfway to the plate. Note to Marlins front office: find out what the Phillies are paying, and double it.

It may not have worked out for Philedelphia tonight, but the bottom line is that in order to win, a team must lie, cheat, steal, and possibly kill in order to gain every possible advantage in each game. If we had learned this lesson earlier in the season, we might be the ones in second place.

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Blogs

When there is no playoff race to ponder, or even mere wins to celebrate, my thoughts tend to wander. So before I delve into the stressful task of contemplating a weekend series against the Phillies, I thought I’d share what’s been going on in my brain the last few days…

Brettandwoody_7~ If you’ve ever wondered what Brett Carroll will look like in 35 years (I am sure I’m not the only one who’s been dying to have this mystery solved), look no further than ESPN’s Around the Horn. As I sat last night watching Woody Paige bloviate/scribble on his chalkboard of wisdom, the resemblance hit me like a mack truck. Down to the way his upper lip curls when he talks, Brett is a dead ringer for the ATH panelist. If you’ve ever seen an interview with our backup outfielder, though, you’ll know that their looks are where the similarities end (that’s a compliment, Brett).

Fl_team_love ~ The other day I saw an ad online for the new Majestic Select Team Love T-Shirts. At first, I was outraged by the exclusion of a Marlins version. Upon further consideration, though, I can understand why this particular shirt may not be the best way for fans to show their support of the Fish. I personally wouldn’t want to wear it, for fear the message would be badly misconstrued.

Bravescelebrate_1 ~ Due to the overwhleming emotions this photograph unfurls within me, I am left with no words to form a caption (except for the uncontrollable "Muahahahahahahahaha" that keeps playing in my head).

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