February 2008

And So It Begins.

Fish_surgeonJust two games into spring training, the Marlins seem pretty intent on starting this season in the same way they started 2007. You know, since 2007 worked out so well for them.

OK, so it isn’t like they plan these things, but still.

Sergio Mitre, who is slated for one of the top three positions in the rotation, was pulled from the game yesterday after pitching to three batters. He walked two, retired none, and then complained of discomfort in his elbow. Sweet.

Sure, it’s too early to panic, but when has that ever stopped me? (the answer you are searching for right now is ‘never.’) I have actually sat up nights this off season, worrying about Sergio Mitre and his precious right arm, wondering if he would follow in the footsteps of those young pitchers who have bravely gone before him. Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Logan Kensing, Ricky Nolasco, Henry Owens…it might take a while to type the entire list of pitchers who have ended up under the knife or spent significant time on the DL since 2006.

I will admit I was expecting something to go wrong with Sergio this season, just maybe not so soon. He had an innings hike of 108 from ’06 to ’07, he struggled with a "tired arm" most of the second half last year, and he wears a Marlins uniform. Those facts typically add up to a scalpel. So I have been mentally prepared for the worst. What I am completely unprepared for, however, is another season like the one we just endured.

Mitre will have his arm examined Friday. With any luck, my fears will be laid to rest, and Sergio will magically recover and take on a pivotal role in the rotation. Either that, or he could be shipped off to Dr. You-Know-Who for a little procedure by the name of Tommy.

Maybe I’m easily freaked out. I have earned the right to be, after watching our pitching staff fall apart before my eyes last season. With Anibal Sanchez having a set-back in his recovery from shoulder surgery, Dallas McPherson sitting out with "discomfort" in his side, and Mitre visiting a doctor’s office, I’m feeling just a tad uneasy.

Anybody else experiencing déjà vu?

Oh, Happy Day.

CelebrateI’ve said it before, but it bears repeating– whoever said there is no crying in baseball never spent any time as a Marlins fan. Thursday’s tears, however, had nothing to do with the usual searing pain of loss that is part and parcel of Fish fandom. The tears, for once, were that of joy. (C’mon, you at least got misty-eyed. Don’t even try to deny it.)

Since becoming a Marlins fan in 1997, I have been longing for the day the Fish could stop living out of a suitcase at the Huizenga Hotel, and have a home to call their own. To be honest, I could care less about the comforts of a new stadium. I would be willing to suffer the heat, the rain, the bad sight lines, etc., so long as I was guaranteed the Marlins would stay in South Florida. Obviously, I’m one of very few who feel that way, and since a new stadium is the only way to ensure a future for the Marlins, it has been at the top of my wish list for years.

Thursday night, after more than seven hours of whiny, annoying bickering discussion, Miami-Dade county commissioners voted 9-3 in favor of a binding agreement for the funding of a 37,000 seat, retractable-roof baseball stadium in Miami. The agreement passed earlier in the day with the City of Miami commissioners, meaning that the Marlins are on the verge of having a 35-year future in South Florida.

Let the heavens rejoice.

Admittedly, my excitement isn’t translating that well to print. But no matter what I write, if you’ve never rooted for the men in teal, there’s just no way for you to fully comprehend the plethora of emotions coursing through Fish fans right now. With the exception of former Expos fans, most people never have to consider the possibility that their favorite team won’t exist in a year or two. While the average baseball fan worries about reversing stupid curses next season, Marlins fans are busy biting their nails over whether or not there will even be a next season. Instability makes each and every trade, fire sale, payroll cut, and cracker jack price-hike a stressful situation. A stadium isn’t about comfort at this point– it’s about the difference between having a team to cheer for, and having memories of a team that I used to cheer for before they skipped town.

Uncertainty has become a way of life for fans of this franchise, and now that a sign of stability is on the horizon, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. I’m almost afraid to hope that this could be the end of the drama, but the fact that hope is even a consideration right now makes me ecstatic. Experience tells Marlins fans not to count their chickens until the bulldozers hit the Orange Bowl, but I can’t keep the excitement at bay…THE MARLINS ARE STAYING IN SOUTH FLORIDA!!!

If David Samson were in this room right now, I would grab the little guy and plant one right on him. (Please don’t be alarmed; intense states of euphoria have been known to cause mental breakdowns. I’m sure the feeling will pass.)

Destroy the Manatees

Im_manatees_080212Please, before you go to the comments section of this blog and express your shock/awe/envy at my supreme reign as the master of photoshop, you may want to read the rest of this post.

I had nothing to do with the picture to the left. Nothing. I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t think of it first, but the reality is that I can’t take a lick of credit for this hairy, rotund fellow standing there in women’s Marlins apparel with a come-hither look on his furry face.

This guy is not the punch line of a Marlins Mermaids joke. He’s not a victim of some other angry and imaginative Fish blogger. Rather, he is the Marlins’ latest attempt at drawing a crowd to Dolphin Stadium (and a really good argument for the implementation of random drug testing in the Marlins marketing department).

The Marlins Manatees are set to be the first ever male dance squad in Major League Baseball, and they’re also a great reminder that firsts are not always a good thing.

A couple questions come to mind when I think of this latest attempt at entertaining the, uh, masses: Do they honestly think that choreographed unshaven dudes with beer guts are going to add to the fan experience, or is it just a great way to give even more ammunition to the ever-growing list of Florida Marlins critics?

Look, it’s been established that the Fish don’t have the payroll to entertain us exclusively on the field. We get it. Parade the Mermaids and the concerts and the fireworks if you must. But can you leave Fish fans with some miniscule shred of dignity? Please?!

As I see it, the Marlins Manatees are good for two things: drawing a few laughs from drunken Super Saturday fans, and providing fodder for Marlins haters.

Add Fish Fans to the list of endangered species. I am henceforth cheering for the Rays.

Last Chance for Romance

FishentineI like to think of Valentine’s Day as my yearly "Going Out of Romance Sale." You know, one last love hoorah before a six month (subject to change depending on play-off runs) hibernation period.

During baseball season there is simply no room in my heart for love. And even if there were extra space, it is inevitable that at some point said love would be gruesomely impaled by the razor-sharp point of the giant sport fish that has taken up residence in there. With games nearly every night, I just don’t have time for the carnage.

My strict ‘no dating’ policy goes into effect each year just a few days after all the heart-shaped Whitman’s Samplers hit the clearance rack at Walgreens. So please delete my number from your blackberry. Erase my name from your little black book. Forget that you are aware of my existence. (Unless you happen to be an attractive and mute season ticket holder, in which case my number is (305) 770-****).

If you’re a little braver than I, and you plan to attempt a mix of love and baseball this season, I have some advice.

1. Expect to hear the following irrational groanings quite regularly (often shouted; accompanied by sobbing):

"You haven’t called me in three weeks!"
"Why are you so much more interested in what Rich & Tommy have to say than what I have to say?!"
"You love baseball more than me!"

2. Expect the following responses to these groanings to be very poorly received:
"Well, the Fish haven’t had an off-day."
"Because Rich and Tommy are infinitely more entertaining to me than you are."
"Finally, something we can agree on."

Good luck to you all.

Fish in the Sea, You Know How I Feel

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Dan Uggla (right) chats with a young fan at FanFest on Saturday. (Robert Vigon/Marlins)
Just out of curiosity, how many of you think that we could have figured this one out sans caption?
______________________________________

The sun sparkles brightly in the crystal blue sky. Birds chirp sweetly in the trees. Gusts of wind fly through palm branches, creating a delightful, swishing chorus. A really bad golfer outside my balcony yells "****!" due to the atrociousness of his game.

OK, let’s just focus on the sun and the birds, shall we?

Baseball season is a mere 7 weeks and two hours away, and Marlins pitchers and catchers report Saturday to Roger Dean Stadium. I am confident that the Marlins organization chose to kick off spring training this Saturday as a birthday gift to me and Sergio Mitre, and I would prefer not to hear any more arguments to the contrary (I am talking to you, 1-877-Marlins receptionist).

It has been a long, emotionally taxing off-season, and I am ready to roll. I don’t care if the staff of Baseball Tonight thinks the Marlins will have 4 wins in 2008. Let’s get this party started (even if it ends up being one of those parties that you kind of wish would end early, or that you could sneak out of because it’s super lame and some guy spilled a keg of beer all over your jeans so that you’re uncomfortable and sticky and you stink and now no chicks will talk to you).

I don’t care how it’s going to end; the season could not come soon enough. I miss getting rained on. I miss coming within about 4 seconds of suffering heat exhaustion and requiring hospitalization. I miss rude people–who hate baseball but love Joan Jett–standing in front of me while I try to watch a game. I miss sweating until I can’t tell which thing I’m more soaked from, the monsoon that just hit, or that flippin’ sauna they call a stadium. I miss walk-up songs and bullpen warmups and eagerly anticipating that this will be the year a Mermaid finally eats it after a misstep on the dugout. I miss Rich and Tommy talking through mouths full of greasy stadium food and Craig Minervini interrupting pivotal points of the game to interview somebody’s grandma. I miss frozen lemonade! And heaven help me, I think I might even miss Mets fans. Then again, I haven’t taken my anti-dementia meds today.

It is posts like this one that must make various baseball sites and publications confident in my ability to write serious, hard-hitting, sports journalist-y spring training previews. Yeah, that must be why they keep asking. Either that, or all the other guys they asked first shot them down.

Take Me Out to the…Concert

"In our continuing effort to provide the best entertainment value in South Florida, we are proud to once again present the best promotional line-up in Major League Baseball."   ~Sean Flynn, Marlins VP of Marketing

Mirror_dice_1I don’t know about you, but Mr. Flynn’s words are certainly a relief to me. I was starting to get a little worried that the Marlins had stopped caring about providing us with entertainment of any kind. Silly, I guess, but they did sort of trade away the team’s most entertaining players this off-season, so my concerns weren’t completely unfounded. Apparently, though, we can now breathe a collective sigh of relief. The Fish still care about us!

Whew.

Every team has its own strategy for building and maintaining its fan base, and I guess this is the Marlins’. Some teams ignorantly use their budget to sign top-of-the-line talent. Ridiculous! Where has this ever gotten a franchise, besides the World Series? It is baffling how teams continue to waste precious cash for a quality starting lineup, when those dollars could be so much better used to provide a killer post-game lineup. Obviously, the members of an active roster are of significantly less value to baseball fans than the ex-American Idol contestant who will be crooning to them after the game.

Some Clubs just don’t get it. You see, when I spend my hard-earned cash on a baseball ticket, I need to be assured that my night at the ballpark will be a musically gratifying experience. And no, a passel of scantily-clothed **** jobs in spandex undulating to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is not what I have in mind.

For years I naively believed that “the best entertainment value” in Major League Baseball is what happens during the game. You know, a quality product on the field, nine innings of good baseball 81 times a year, blah blah blah. But the Marlins have opened my eyes to the truth. The best promotional lineup is what every true baseball fan is after. A quality product on the field is completely unnecessary, so long as I’ve got fireworks and a super neat plastic bobble head to take home with me.

We may not have any wins in 2008, but by cracky, we will have music. And the best darned fuzzy mirror dice MLB has ever passed out at a front gate (to inquire about season tickets, please call 1-877-Marlins).

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