April 2008


1960020.jpegThe Fish are back in town after a very decent road trip, still leading the NL East and still five games above .500. This is not only proof that miracles do exist, it is also proof that I was not completely out of my head when I ripped to shreds my Baseball Prospectus 2008 upon reading their “predictions” for the Florida Marlins this year. (Incidentally, if you are in need of a good belly laugh, go and skim through their 2008 projections for Scott Olsen. Comedians, those fellas. Comedians.)

Miracle or not, the Marlins are having a better April than anyone other than God could have anticipated. And of course it thrills me to see the Marlins win games, but I am not quite ready to jump up and down in excitement. For once, this isn’t the voice of pessimism; it is the voice of someone who has seen 3/5 of our starting rotation pitch with all the dependability of a bipolar crackhead. Sure, the Fish have overcome the shaky starting rotation for a month, but barring some sort of gift from above, we all know that Badenhop and Miller will catch up with us eventually. I just wonder how long the Marlins plan to let these boys work out their growing pains on the big stage. 

Miller takes the mound tonight to face the Dodgers, as I take to my knees to pray against the inevitable. Control, Lord, control. Amen.

I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful.

fish half empty.jpgWelcome to my happy place. My alternate universe. A strange new world in which the Marlins keep winning ball games.

As with most dream worlds, we’re assured it won’t last (especially watching the boys kick it around like Rookies division Little Leaguers last night). And yet, we’re 14 games into the 2008 season, and I can still happily write that the Marlins are leading the NL East. Sure, it’s early, but I am still pleasantly surprised at the Marlins’ strong start to 2008, especially given the issues with our starting rotation.

Not only are we winning ballgames, we’re also beating pitchers like Tim Hudson. The Marlins had a team batting average of about .002 against Hud before last night, and I was prepared for a 90-minute snoozefest of a contest in which the Marlins would manage only one base-runner the entire nine innings. I was almost looking forward to lamenting our failures here on Hook, Line Drive & Sinker once the loss was officially recorded.

The Fish, however, had other plans. Plans like actually getting hits and scoring runs and beating the Braves for the second night in a row. In keeping with the upbeat attitude you’ve come to expect from me, though, let me just say: All good things must come to an end. Every rainbow has its cloud. No matter how good things are, be assured they will be crappy again shortly (or something like that).

We’ll look forward to a reality check tonight against Smoltz. Or perhaps the insanity will continue. How’s that for a game prediction? 

And now for a little segment I like to call…

“I don’t think we’re going to see the Bash Brothers as much. We’re going to see a little more focus on the defense.” – Fredi Gonzalez on the team’s newfound pride in defense 

I think somebody forget to send that memo to Jorge Cantu, who is the proud owner of five of the Marlins’ 12 errors this season.

Well Now You’re Just Showing Off…

homers.pngThe Marlins have a total of two starters thus far who are able to go more than 4 innings into a ballgame, so they’ve had to be pretty creative at times this past week to keep their lead in the NL East (yeah, so we’re on the wrong end of the season for me to be excited about this fact; I still love to say it).

Tonight’s strategy? Ignore everything hitting coach Jim Presley tried to hammer into your skulls this off-season–you know, all that mumbo jumbo about not living and dying by the home run–and just jack the ball out of the park. Repeatedly.

Breaking a franchise record for most home runs in a game, the Marlins hit six longballs against Roy Oswalt and the Houston Astros tonight. Uh, I guess a total of seven team home runs in one game is the minimum requirement for any attention on the MLB homepage (or sportscenter, for that matter)– anybody aware of the exact rule?

Incidentally, Jim Presley was ejected from the game. Hmmmmm.  

“Scott Olsen is My Hero”

Cub Scott.jpgNo, it will probably never be a slogan for the local chapter of Cub Scouts. But in my teal universe, where quality starts have been few and far between (1:1,000,000,000), Scott Olsen might as well be Mother Theresa right now.

7 2/3 innings pitched. Three earned runs. A break for our battle-weary bullpen. Apparently Scottie has heard my pre-season cry, and has taken matters into his own hands to grant me my wish. Of course on the night somebody in our rotation finally decides to go deeper than 1/12 of an inning into a ballgame, FSN Florida chooses not to broadcast it. So I didn’t actually get to witness the glory firsthand, but that’s not stopping me at all from basking in its warm glow. Thank you, Scott Olsen. Thank you. My firstborn will be your namesake. (Yes, I am that happy, people.)

I guess the Fish didn’t want to give us too awful much to be thrilled about last night, so our defense managed to pull another couple of errors out of their bag of tricks. In all fairness, it really wouldn’t have been a proper return from the DL for Hermida otherwise. For Jeremy, nothing says “I’m ba-ack” quite like a classic misplay of the ball. It’s almost comforting, in a way.

I’m also thinking it’s a pretty good thing Cantu‘s bat has decided to wake from its coma, mainly because our new third baseman has committed nearly half of the team’s total errors all by himself. By my calculations, we’re on pace to lead the majors in E’s this season with 150…About 60 of those will belong to Jorge. Sure, we may miss Miggy’s bat, but thank God we’ve replaced his shoddy defense at the hot corner. It’s like Larry Beinfest always says: offense may be sexy, but good defense wins ball games.

Real glad you’ve made the necessary moves in that direction, Lar.

In closing, congratulations are in order for Burke Badenhop. Not only does the young pitcher have one of the best names in baseball, he also pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Fish in his Major League debut last night. Kudos, Hop. Thanks for not suc*ing. (And please be aware that the previous writings of goodwill are likely to be retracted if we do not see six or seven innings just like that in your start Sunday. Just so you know.)

Expletive Deleted

FREDI.jpgThe Fish have got two series under their belts, and I must say the first six games of 2008 have been quite a ride. Walk-offs, grand slams, Web Gems… Not only are the Fish at .500 for the first time in what seems like forever, they are also tied for first place in the NL East (yes, I know we’ve only played six games. Please just let me enjoy writing this stuff while I can).

It has been very encouraging this first week to see the fruits of the Marlins’ off-season labors. You know, that “serious focus” on pitching and defense we heard so much about from October to March. I was especially impressed yesterday, as Vanden Hurk pitched a solid 2.1 innings, and our team committed a very respectable three errors.

A mere six games into the 2008 season, I can already see the worlds of progress that have been made. Our rotation has averaged 4.1 innings per start, and our defense has committed six errors. At this point last season, our starters had averaged 5.1 innings, and the team had committed two errors.  Now, I’ve never claimed to be a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that’s one less inning pitched per start, and triple the errors. Sure, it’s early, but so far we’re on pace to once again have the most overworked bullpen in baseball, and to lead the majors with 300 or so errors. Swell.

There was also plenty of talk this off-season about the fact that the Fish were going to stop living and dying by the home run. That seems to be working out nicely thus far. Let’s see. We won two games this week via the walk-off home run, and one game courtesy of a Mike Jacobs grand slam. It’s nice to know Jim Presley’s pep-talks have been taken to heart.

In a nutshell, so far the Marlins have shown improvement in none* of the areas they set out to improve upon after their highly disappointing 2007 campaign. Yes, it is still just a tad early to judge, but so far the progress is extremely encouraging.

* In all fairness to the Fish, we’ve seen several outstanding defensive plays over the last week. Unfortunately, there are still a few guys who have yet to receive the “better defense” memo. Like our pitching staff.

Hello Helms, Hit the Road Hurk

HELMS.jpgWhile I still haven’t quite forgiven him for his year in Philstripes, the Marlins have welcomed Wes Helms back with open arms. He was acquired from Philly late Saurday night, and I will admit I am not quite ready to rejoice. Especially not when he struck out in his first plate appearance, and– much worse– carried a Phillies team bag into the clubhouse with him yesterday afternoon. Seriously. Own you no other luggage, Wesley? I don’t want to have to bust out the .jpeg of you leading the pack of Phils from the dugout last season in the infamous benches-clearing melee, but I will if you push me (and fyi, carrying anything Philadelphia-related into Dolphin Stadium is pushing me).

Jason Wood was DFA’d to make room for Helms’s new hairdo on the 25-man roster. 

Thumbnail image for HURK.jpgIn another unexpected move, pitcher Rick Vanden Hurk was optioned to double A Carolina after the game yesterday. Seems the Fish aren’t all that appreciative of Vandy’s propensity to throw 62 pitches per inning, and last fewer than 3 innings per start. Go figure. I will now officially have very good reason to type the name “Burke Badenhop” as much as my heart desires, since Burke is expected to join the team and the rotation in Washington today. It’s the simple pleasures in life, folks, it really is.

Hopefully Burke has figured out strike three, a pitch that has eluded Vanden Hurk the past few starts (and one that is pretty necessary, when winning is the goal).

On to our nation’s capital!   

Tech Support


Dr. M.L. Blogue: Welcome to our brand new, FREE hospital!

Me: Hello Doctor. Um, I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but my leg has just fallen off.

Dr. M.L. Blogue: Your leg should definitely not have fallen off.

Me: Uh, well, it sort of did anyway. Apparently my leg isn’t concerned with what it ‘should’ be doing.

Dr. M.L. Blogue: We’re really excited about our brand new, state-of-the-art hospital. It is a million times better than our old hospital. And it’s FREE! You are excited and/or happy about these changes. You really are.

Me: Yeah, but my leg is gone. And I kinda liked my leg. I kinda need my leg, or at the very least, some sort of prosthetic limb to take its place.

Dr. M. L. Blogue: I appreciate your patience as we work out some of the bugs in our all new, far-better-than-the-old (not to mention FREE) hospital.

Me: Uh, sure. But, well, what do I do in the meantime? I’m bleeding profusely.

Dr. M. L. Blogue: Hmmm, you shouldn’t be doing that.

Me: Well I am! My leg has fallen off! 

Dr. M. L. Blogue: That’s odd. Are you sure it fell off?

Me: Uh, yeah. It’s definitely gone.

Dr. M. L. Blogue: It definitely shouldn’t be. Have you tried looking harder for it?

Me: Yes, but there is a bloody stump where my leg used to be. I’m almost positive that means it is gone.

Dr. M. L. Blogue: You should really double check and make sure you’re looking in the right place. That should take care of the problem.

Me: I looked in the right place! Theres only ONE LEG! The other one, as I have explained to you already, has fallen off. It is laying on the ground, and I cannot use it unless I try to pick it up and wield it as a weapon. Like to club you over the head.

Dr. M. L. Blogue: We appreciate your constructive feedback as we all adapt to our wonderful new hospital.

Me: Can you at least check me out? Give me an X-ray or something?!

Dr. M. L. Blogue: That won’t be necessary. I just checked on my own legs, and they’re doing fine. I also checked the legs of all of our other patients, and they all seem to be there as well. Everyone’s legs are OK. Look here at Jim’s legs. They are functioning so well!

Me: But MINE aren’t!!!

Dr. M. L. Blogue: Have you tried adding more tags to your tag cloud?

Me: [no response. I have bled to death.]

2007 The Sequal

opening day 2008.jpgI would love to post a cheerful account of my opening day experience for your reading pleasure, but I’m not going to. Mainly because the only detail I can recall is the number of times I had to stand up to allow intoxicated New Yorkers to stumble past me in order to urinate the 983 gallons of Bud Light they consumed before the final out. So instead, let me just say that I despise Mets fans, and leave it at that.

I realize that we’re two games into the 2008 season, but for some reason, it feels as though 2007 never ended. That could have something to do with the fact that our starting pitcher just put in a supremely efficient 3-inning outing, and in the spirit of last season, our bullpen has been called upon to piece together 2/3 of a ballgame. OK, so it may be a tad early for me to be overtaken by despair. Having said that, though, so far I’m not seeing the big improvements we were supposedly making in pitching and defense. At this time last season, our starters had gone more innings. At this time last season, the Marlins had fewer errors. I know, I know. It’s game two of a very long season. Obviously, I’ll give it a few more days before I allow the eternal pessimist within to have free reign of this blog. But still.

In other news, I have discovered at last how to remove the nightmare-ish “aquarium from hell” (thank you, Russell) from Hook, Line Drive, & Sinker. I apologize for any undue horror (or possibly seizures, as one reader reported) the old background may have caused you.

Have I mentioned that I hate Mets fans?