November 2007

Puerto Rico or Bust

800pxflag_of_puerto_ricoBaseball season may be another four months away, but so much is happening in the great Fish Bowl that I scarcely have time to long for Spring. Marlins fans are bracing themselves for the painful loss of yet another franchise face, progress on a new stadium has taken a sharp turn downhill, and all signs seem to be pointing to a future void of the Fish… So yeah, basically the same ol’ same ol’ of a Florida off-season. At least ten years as a Marlins fan have prepared me for this.

Although it seems to be the hottest topic on every Marlins message board and blog, I refuse to discuss any potential Miguel Cabrera trades. Sorry, but it would really interfere with my decision to live in denial of the inevitable. Please give me another week in my happy place. Once the Winter meetings commence and the hearts of South Floridians are ceremonially ripped to bloody shreds (charming custom), I’ll be more than happy to give my two cents on the matter.

For now, there is a far more pressing issue at hand…

When I first heard the news that the Marlins are considering playing one of their home series in Puerto Rico next season, I was outraged. Like everyone else, I balked at the idea of being gypped three precious home games so that the Fish could go traipsing all over the Caribbean. I also fumed over the fact that the Marlins, and not the Mets, would be the team giving up a series at home in order for this international mission of athletic goodwill to take place.

As soon as my indignation subsided a bit though, I saw the Puerto Rico series from a very different perspective. I tend to avoid the park when the Mets are in town anyway, and what could be better than disappointing thousands of transplanted New Yorkers by denying them a series with their precious team? Furthermore, what could be a more convenient excuse to skip the ballpark than the fact that getting there would require a jet? I can sit at home guilt-free and cozy, enjoying the delightful banter of Ricardo y Tomas, and never once will I have the urge to thrust my fist through the skull of a drunken fool in orange and blue. Suddenly the idea is growing on me.

Of course, there is a chance the Puerto Rico games won’t happen. If disgruntled fans are taken into consideration in the Marlins’ decision-making though, I can almost guarantee they won’t be concerned with the fans that wear teal and black.

Hey, any chance at hosting the Phillies in Bosnia in ’08? I mean, as long as we’re going international…

Diviértanse en Puerto Rico, Pescaditos! (a loose translation from get-your-español-on.com…yeah, I need to learn Spanish).

EDIT: Just hours after this blog posted, the Marlins made the decision to shelve talks to move the Mets series to Puerto Rico. Clearly, this affirms my long-time suspicion that the Marlins consult Hook, Line Drive, & Sinker before making any major moves. In which case, Larry, you really should consider shelving this absurd Cabrera business as well. Will it really hurt that much to wait until next season to unload him?

We got no fans, no park…our PLAYERS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!!

Dumb_dumber6Over my last ten years as a Marlins fan, I’ve received many valuable gifts at the ballpark. Or at least I would have if I enjoyed weekend games. But since I prefer to kick it at Dolphin on exciting weeknights such as Monday, I can probably count the giveaways on my fingers. And possibly a toe or two.

I’ll just level with you–almost every single token of the Marlins’ appreciation has been a worthless piece of trash. Ugly duffle bags, water bottles that usually get left under my seat, baseball cards that are either smashed in my pocket or soaked in the rain by evenings end…nothing much to write home about (uh, and yet here I sit, writing home about it. Hmmmm).

At first glance it may seem that the Fish just give gifts at random to appease the precious few attendees they’ve scraped together. I discovered this past season, however, that the Marlins strategically plan giveaways around top secret front office codes. Codes that offer a glimpse into the future of the ball club, and that only the most intelligent of Fish fans–namely mecan crack. These subliminal messages are fed to fans all season long to subconciously prepare us for what is to come.

Jj_umbrella_3For instance, many fans grumbled and complained when the Marlins gave away life-sized Josh Johnson posters the same weekend it was announced that JJ would miss the remainder of the season. Not me. I knew that the gift was not merely a way for the Fish to unload a bunch of posters that proved worthless in 2007. Just a few innings into the game, my hunch was proven right.

As the rain began to pour over Dolphin for the twelve-billionth time that season, entire rows of people were able to huddle beneath JJ’s massive likeness. Sure, a Dan Uggla poster may have seemed a more fitting choice of giveaway (seeing as he actually played in more than three games during the season), but would his 5’10" frame have given refuge from the storm to a family of eight? I think not.

Not only did team officials accurately predict the weather that night, they also gave us a glimpse into the future of our stellar young starter. As the game ended and thousands of soaked and shredded images of the pitcher lay mangled on the wet stadium seats, J.J.’s fate seemed sealed. A few days later, Josh was visiting Dr. Andrews to have the surgery that will keep him on the DL for the entirety of next season. Coincidence? Doubtful.

CabreracollectablePerhaps the most telling promotion of all, though, was the night Marlins fans received a lovely Miguel Cabrera collectable figure. I was fairly excited, as this giveaway would more than make up for the World Series replica ring I lost after hurling it at a drunk Cleveland fan weeks earlier.

I opened the box, took the plastic Miggy from its protective styrofoam, and then watched in horror as our star third baseman’s head promptly FELL OFF, tumbled to the ground and rolled down the giant spiraling walkway to the stadium gates.

I nervously tried to shrug off the incident as merely a fluke. That is, until I glanced a few feet away where a small boy stood weeping brokenheartedly, Miguel’s body in one hand and the all-star’s decapitated head in the other. This was the scene throughout Dolphin Stadium the remainder of the night, and so it came as no shock to me when it was announced the Marlins would look to trade Cabrera this winter.

To the team’s credit, they did try to prepare us.

Collectively, 2007’s giveaways followed one very depressing theme. I can only hope things improve a bit next year, but I’ll tell you this: If I am handed a Dontrelle Willis jigsaw puzzle on opening day, I’m afraid my tenure as a Marlins fan will officially come to an end.

Hot Stove Mail Bag

As the stove gets hotter and hotter, I am being inundated with questions concerning my opinion of the Marlins’ off-season dealings. As I am always striving to better serve my readers, I will dedicate this entire blog entry to answering your questions.

Josh_on_ebayKirk J. of Ft. Myers, FL writes: It’s time for the Marlins Annual FIRE SALE! Everything -I mean EVERYONE- MUST GO! I just saw Josh Willingham up for auction on Ebay. Opening bid was $50. I bid $55.01 but I think the Phillies are going to outbid me. Other items at auction included baseball cards of all former Marlins players (collect all 7,891). Hey! Ever been to a Marlins reunion? Just go to any away game! Ha! They truly are the halfway house of MLB. 

Kirk—The online auctioning of human beings is a serious allegation and a practice that is expressly prohibited in ebay’s terms of use (They also frown upon the sale of human organs–I had to learn this the hard way, unfortunately). I have forwarded your message to the FBI, who will be better able to deal with the issue than I. And in all fairness to the Marlins, so far only the most popular player in franchise history is being traded, so this cannot really be considered a “fire sale.” More like a blue light special.

Armando_benitezAndres C. from Florida City, FL writes: The other mornig you mentioned that you’d be ok with a Cabrera trade as long as the Malrins re-sign Armand Bonitez. Was that a joke?

Andres- I don’t recall mentioning an "Armand Bonitez." One thing I am positive I have never mentioned in the "mornig," though, is this blog. In which case I can only assume you are a stalker. Be warned that I am signing up for martial arts courses immediately. But for future reference, as all my listeners and/or readers can attest, sarcasm is not my forte. What you hear or read is what you get. No underlying meanings. No “jokes.” Ever. Baseball is serious business. If by chance you’re referring to my statements regarding the stellar set-up man Armando Benitez, I can only say that the Marlins would be shooting themselves in the foot if they let him get away. Personally, I feel that he should be given his rightful position as closer, which will really help add an element of nail-biting excitement that was just missing in the final inning when Kevin Gregg closed last season (to be fair, Kevin was given very few opportunities to blow games in the ninth, as that was normally taken care of an inning or two earlier).

Mike (who will not reveal his location, but is strongly suspected by HLD&S tech support to be a resident of Philadelphia) writes: We all have to deal with trades. Its not like the Marlins are the only team trading players. Why do Marlins fans always complain about it? 

Interesting question, Mike. And I’ll answer it with my own: Have you ever met anyone that has been involved in a horrific traffic accident, and now has an irrational fear of riding in cars? Or someone who was bitten by a dog as a child, and now trembles at the site of any canine, even Snickerdoodle, your pet Chihuahua? This kind of emotional scarring can only be understood by someone who has experienced a similar ordeal. Clearly, you haven’t. Enjoy your stable franchise, your lovely (if not slightly cramped) baseball stadium, and the assurance that your team will still exist in 2010. We do not all have those luxuries.

Billy2Meghan R. from Homestead, FL writes: Will you still be a Marlins fan if they trade Cabrera?

In a word, yes. And in several more words, a team is so much more than one player. Unlike Yankees fans, who will undoubtedly give up on baseball entirely now that Alex Rodriguez is departing, I will remain true to my team for eternity (or until they move to Oklahoma). I will level with you, Meghan– as fans go, I’m Larry Beinfest’s dream come true. I don’t really care who plays at third for the Marlins next season, so long as there is a next season. Heck, stick Billy the Marlin there if you have to. If he can manage to make contact every now and again, he’ll do. (I doubt Billy could commit more errors if he tried.)

Julio B. from Hialeah writes: Are you going to the Marlins exhibition games with the Yankees in March?

Julio, I will be the first in line for tickets. I think it is a fantastic way to kick off 2008. You know, with more attendees at an exhibition than we’ll probably ever see during a regular season game, a 17:1 Yanks fans-to-Fish fans ratio, and a splendid reminder of the many thousands of baseball fans who live in South Florida, but refuse to support South Florida’s team. I am really, really excited.

If I didn’t get to your questions today, I apologize. Fret not– there is another HLD&S Q&A session set for November of 2014.

Facetime

RealiIn an otherworldly turn of events, I found myself today agreeing wholeheartedly with Jay Mariotti…OK, forget it. I absolutely cannot go that far, even for the sake of this blog. But it was at least three-quarters-heartedly, I swear. Mariotti’s 30-second rant on the Marlins’ willingness to part with Miguel Cabrera capped off yet another riveting episode of Around the Horn today (or it looked riveting the few times I surfed by during the commercial breaks of a show that doesn’t annoy the snot out of me).

Since ATH has ignored my repeated requests to be Bill Plaschke’s replacement on the show, I will instead have to use my–very prominent–MLBlogs forum to voice my personal feelings on this latest development in the annual saga also known as the Florida Marlins off-season.

First of all, Mariotti: CALM IT. Panicking is what they want you to do! I haven’t quite figured out why, but in my ten+ years as a Fish fan, it has become quite clear that the organization is not satisfied until they have managed to alienate whatever is left of their fan base at the end of each year. Whether this means backing out of promised contributions to a new baseball stadium, threatening to move to Idaho, or dangling the face of the franchise in front of teams that are willing to pay obscene amounts of cash for him, all I know is that complete psychological and/or emotional torture of Fish fans is the ultimate goal. So when you freak out at the first mention of a potential Cabrera trade with the evil New York Empire, Jay, you are playing right into their hands. Good God, man, get it together!

As a fan that is well-versed in the art of dealing with these miserable Hot Stove shenanigans, I can tell you that it is far too early to panic. This is a game we play every year, and overreaction only leads to agony. Agony that may not even be necessary, since Cabrera could very well begin next season as a Marlin. (Then again, as a long-time wearer of teal and black, I am living in the only place that offers a reprieve from the bitter realities of this franchise: a perpetual state of denial. As you will learn, Mr. Mariotti, this state of being is an absolute necessity for self-preservation.)

I’m going to give you some advice, Jay. You must embrace the pain. When you are a fan of Florida (as you have so obviously declared yourself to be this past year, spending at least 45 seconds discussing them on the show) you will learn to make peace with agonizing heartache. To wear sorrow as a warm blanket. To bask in the burning pain in your soul.

OK, so the loss of Miguel Cabrera could be a devastating blow to what is left of the Marlins’ fan base. So you finally "get" why people aren’t busting down the gates of Dolphin Stadium. So you’ve experienced the teensiest taste of the nail-biting, stomach-turning, jaw-dropping, dismaying and downright unjust reality of Marlin fannery…well, welcome to my everyday life! Please enjoy your stay.

Trust me, Mariotti, you’ll kick and scream at first, but after a few dozen blows, the fight will go out of you. And then like any good victim of abuse, no matter how many times they hit you, no matter how many times they kick you when you’re already down and bleeding, no matter what heinous torture and heart-shredding they put you through, what will you do? You will roll over, pick your teeth up off the floor, wipe away your tears, and (leaning heavily upon crutches and several prosthetic limbs) you will take the hand of the one who has mangled your soul beyond repair, and you will agree that it is your fault they did this to you. Because you aren’t good enough. Because you aren’t buying enough tickets or going to enough games. Because you made them do it.

And then you’ll believe them when they tell you they didn’t mean it; that things will be different now…that you shouldn’t press charges because it will never happen again. And so you will calmly explain to the authorities that you fell down the stairs, again, and the vicious cycle will continue.

It’s all a part of the glorious experience of being a Marlins fan.

Of course, I could have completely misinterpreted Jay’s motives behind speaking about the Marlins on the show today. I guess it could have just been a slow news day or something. In which case…forget everything I just said.

Happy Hot Stove to all, and to all a good night.

Will Coyote Undo the Ugly?

Right off the bat (what a fitting place for the use of this stellar idiom) I must take a moment to officially address the swirling rumors of Miguel Cabrera’s position on the chopping block. Uh, alleged position, as I feel the need to remind Peter Gammons.

I have only one response to these sickening rumors: Stop panicking, people. It’s like I–and Matt Sosnick–always say, until I’ve heard it from Glenda at the Piggly Wiggly, nothing is official.

And in other news…

WileynwillisWhile Fish fans nationwide settle into their familiar off-season rituals (mentally preparing for Cabrera to become a filthy Yankee, fighting off nausea whenever we log on to the Marlins’ website, muting the television every time Buster Olney opens his mouth), a bit of good news has surfaced. It is official. Mark Wiley is the new pitching coach of the Florida Marlins.

OK, so it’s been official for two days. Back off, this isn’t ESPN.

Now that the change is in place, what every Fish fan is falling on their knees and begging of the Lord each day is that the mere presence of Mark Wiley on the staff will magically turn things around for our starters. Perhaps just sharing the same team as their new coach will spur our fallen heroes to their former greatness (or just not-so-terrible-ness), and solve at least 9/10 of the woes they suffered through Last season.

Why the sudden, slightly unrealistic expectations, you ask? I give you two words: Dontrelle Willis. Yes, please try and scrape the horrific images of 2007 from your minds eye, and recall the D-Train of yore. Dontrelle in top form–in ship fish shape, if you will. Under Wiley’s tutelage in 2005, Willis won an amazing 22 games and finished second in the Cy Young voting.  Last year…well, he mainly did the opposite of that, only a lot worse. With a side of severe badness. Was the entire difference Florida’s pitching coach? Uh, probably not. Is that reality going to keep me from putting all of my eggs into Mark Wiley’s basket? Of course not.

Only time will tell if Wiley’s return is enough to overcome the ugliness that produced the highest starting staff ERA in the major leagues this year. There is just no way to predict what will happen, especially considering the injuries still plaguing the rotation. But ideally, Willis will take the mound on opening day and pitch a no-hitter, followed by a long string of wins and a couple of no decisions. And then obviously the rest of our pitching staff will follow suit, and we will all be celebrating in October next year.

I am a Marlins fan. Dreams are all we have.

Welcome back, Coyote.

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