August 2008

The Choke’s On Gregg

chokers.jpg

EDIT: Clearly, Gregg decided not to take me up on that whole “changing my mind about him stinking as a closer” thing. Hence the change in the title of this post. 

Last night’s blown save was probably one of the most horrific things I have watched all season. And now, in has last five opportunities, Kevin Gregg has blown three games. Come on, Marlins. Time to stop sending him out there to see if he can get it together. You benched half the lineup for their putrid hitting. Bench Gregg for essentially blowing our season. 

*   *   *

Feeling down after last night’s gut-wrenching loss in Atlanta?

I’ve got just the thing to cheer you up. How about a magic trick? I’m going to make our chances of October baseball disappear…

*poof*

Am I throwing in the towel, then? Not exaclty. I mean, miracles do happen. And with the way the Fish are playing games lately, a miracle is exactly what we’ll need to count on for any hope of post-season play. Because with just 30 games left to go, the Fish seem to be doing everything they possibly can to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

On a related subject, there is a small matter that I would like to discuss. No, I am not reacting to last night’s blown save with a bitter dissertation on my dislike of Kevin Gregg. I would just like to calmly explain, without a shred of rage, why I have very little confidence in our closer right now. And why last night’s loss–however much the defense behind him stunk–sits mainly on his shoulders. No boiling blood here. Just an emotionless list of facts: 



1)
It is true that two of the hits Gregg gave up last night were flares that just fell in. His fault? No. And if those two hits had resulted in the blown save, I’d shrug my shoulders and move on. But he didn’t give up two hits, he gave up five. And to open up the bottom of the ninth, Gregg gave up four straight hits to the Braves.


joker.jpg2)
Gregg also issued a walk in the ninth. Yes, it was intentional–for once. That usually isn’t the case, as Gregg has issued 34 free passes this season. In fact, of all the closers in Major League baseball, only one–Joel Hanrahan–has walked more batters than Kevin Gregg (and we all know where the Nats rank this season).

3) We can gripe at the defense, and they deserve it. Hanley failed to turn the double play that could have ended the game, yes. However, we wouldn’t have needed to turn a perfect double play if Gregg hadn’t already given up four hits and two runs without any help from our crummy defense. Hanley may have blown that play, but he didn’t load the bases.

The same goes for Uggla’s misplay. Sure, he shifted, and the result was a walk-off single. But the save had already been blown at that point. And while we’re on the subject of the defense, how many times have they bailed Gregg out this season after he’s gotten himself into trouble? Doesn’t it seem like he’s always “in trouble?” And even when he saves a game, very rarely is it without drama and/or baserunners of some kind.  

At the start of the inning, Gregg had a three-run cushion to work with, and he couldn’t convert the save. The FIFTH hit and FOURTH run he gave up in the ninth resulted in the loss. Sure, Gregg eventually made the pitches he wanted, unfortunately it was after a bunch of pitches that he (and the rest of us) didn’t want. Most of the time, a save doesn’t work that way.

4) Gregg may be ninth among closers for most saves (29), but he also has more blown saves than any closer in baseball. He also ranks 23rd among closers in SV% (78). Not exactly the kind of numbers that evoke confidence.

With only 30 games left, blowing 2 saves in the space of 5 games is the kind of thing that will seal the Marlins fate.

I like Kevin Gregg. He’s a good pitcher. And, aside from his terrible teleprompter reading, he appears to be a swell guy. He’s just not a swell guy that makes me feel very confident at all in a save situation.

That being said, with a month left to go, he is more than welcome to make those feelings disappear. Although it might very well be too late.

ONE OF THESE THINGS

With all the pressure we’ve been feeling as time runs out for the Fish to gain ground in the NL East, I thought we should all take a little break from the stress. And what better way to relax than with a nice, soothing game of “One of these Things?” That’s what I thought. Enjoy.

 

HLD&S would like to issue a public apology for the mean-spiritedness of the previous entry. We cite late-season pressure, mania due to blown leads, and a slight case of the stomach flu as culprits for the viciousness. Oh, and Pinto’s putrid efforts of late. Yeah, they’ve contributed as well.

Joy to the World, the Complete Game Has Come!


rejoice marlins.jpg

With the Marlins offense in a serious drought and the bullpen blowing leads like they’re C-4, a Marlins starter has finally figured out how to win a ballgame. Quite simple, really: go nine innings and don’t give up a run. Oh, and drive in a few of your own as well. That always helps.

 

Just a few hours after a hearty HLD&S pep-talk (no, I’m not taking all of the credit–but 73% of it at least), the Fish responded by, you know, winning a game. Now, last night’s win alone is enough to thrill me at this point. The Fish, however, had more than a mere “w” to celebrate as the final out of the game was recorded by the same pitcher who recorded the first one: The Florida Marlins have finally ended their 2 year, 301-game streak without a complete game. (!)

 

I’ve got to say I haven’t been one of the many who have been pining for a complete game from the Fish. Honestly, I’ll just take a win any way I can get it. But after Ricky’s brilliant performance last night, I have to admit that is an exceptionally entertaining way to win a game. But more importantly, Nolasco gave our weary bullpen another day to rest (and hopefully recover from sucking). And while we’re listing the positives of last night’s victory, almost as heartwarming as the performance of Nolasco’s career was the fact that the Marlins managed to score more than two runs. What is this world coming to? 

There was some question as to whether the single Nolasco gave up in the first should have been ruled an error. I will give no other comment than to say thank goodness. Had Ricky taken a no-hitter into the ninth only to give up a double, my life would have been ruined. Thank you, Mike Jacobs, for you six-notches-below-terrible defense. You saved Ricky from the agony of giving up a no-no with a few outs to go, and me from a lifetime of “if only.” 

Hey Scottie, you’re up next. (Come on, I say we start a two-year streak of complete games. Then South Florida sportswriters can whine about how long it’s been since the bullpen recorded an out.) 

Grrrrrrr (Yes, that’s the best I can do)

WARNING: If you suffer from optimism, the following post may be hazardous to your health. HLD&S is not responsible for any adverse effects that result from reading this blog. Side effects may include loss of all desire to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, blurred vision leading to the inability to see the glass half full or to look on the bright side, an overwhelming desire to go ahead and “be a-grumpy,” a sudden rememberance of your worries and your strife, the loss of your problem-free philosophy (hakuna matata), a severe longing to physically harm a certain Marlins lefty reliever, and/or vertigo.

3113452f.jpgMy day job (I moonlight as an obsessive Marlins fan) has taken me out of town quite a bit lately. I normally seethe when I am forced to miss multiple ballgames, but when it happened this past weekend, I felt something strangely akin to relief. (I know! The horror. I have considered checking myself into a mental institution–will keep you posted). For once I didn’t mutter a single complaint about all the games I would miss. In fact, after watching some pretty dismal Marlins baseball lately, missing a few games seemed exactly what the doctor ordered.

Still, even with a less-than-encouraging homestand, when I arrived home Sunday I was happy to be able to catch at least part of the final game. I sat down in front of the flat-screen just in time to watch Renyel Pinto take over for Chris Volstad, who had held the Cubbies scoreless through 6. Ahhh, the world seemed right at long last…

Eight runs later, the Marlins were out of the inning. Volstad’s shutout was wasted. The loss was recorded. The distance between the Marlins and the top of the NL East was expanded. And I was pretty much longing for another business trip to make it all go away.

Ugh.

Seems the Marlins have been playing musical chairs all season long to see which element of the team is going to suck real bad on a given night. In the first half of the season, the starting pitching was the odd man out. Luckily, the super-offense and bullpen were there to pick up the slack and help keep the Fish near the top of the division. Recently our starting pitching has come out blazing, and the offense has decided that this is a really swell time to go into hibernation. After working doubletime to make up for pitchers who averaged about 1 1/3 innings per start the first half, the bullpen is barely clinging to life. And the defense? Well, that has mainly stunk all season long, so it doesn’t really fit in this little analogy, now does it? (Well, not unless you compare it to that one smelly kid that your mother always forced you to invite to your parties, who just hid under a table the whole time and wet his pants while the other kids played games.) 

As the Marlins head out West to begin a 9-game road trip, I’d like to think that at some point we can begin operating on all cylinders. Put a string of wins together, like more than two. Instead, the only thought I can muster is: What’ll it be tonight, fellas? Are we gonna leave 23 runners in scoring position? Make sloppy mistakes running the bases? Lob the ball into the stands to add another error to our seemingly endless list? Will we take a shutout into the eighth only to watch the ‘pen give up 12 runs? Or how about a good old-fashioned blown save by our trusty closer? That’s always fun! 

Oh, the possibilities are endless. Makes me kinda happy that the games are out West, and I’ll be snoring through most of the carnage.

It’s in the Cards

DeadCardinal.jpgAs the Marlins begin a tough four-game series against the Redbirds, there is but one question in my mind: Any chance we could just keep running Josh Johnson to the mound every night for the rest of the season?

Didn’t think so. But it never hurts to ask.

I was getting set to complain about the injustice of the Mets facing teams like the Pirates while the Marlins have to battle the likes of St. Louis, but then I saw that the Mets bullpen decided to play Fish this afternoon and blow a game. So, thanks to Aaron Heilman, heading into tonight’s contest the Marlins are once again tied for second place in the NL East. Hopefully Philadelphia will suffer a similar fate tonight at the hands of Manny and the Dodgers, and the Fish can inch a little closer to first place. 

A mere 2 1/2 games stand between Florida and the cursed Phillies, and as is my custom, I am remaining thoroughly optomistic about the Marlins’s chances down the stretch. Feeding my positive thinking are the following facts:

~ The only Marlins reliever who doesn’t currently make me shiver in my boots has just been sent to the DL.

~ Scott Olsen injured his ankle in his start Friday night and could possibly miss a start.

~ Our beautiful infield grass is now a pile of rubble in the wake of the Dolphins’s cleats.

~ Norman Braman has yet to be assassinated.

Then again, they say every cloud has its silver lining. And ours is…uh…Paul LoDuca is a Marlin again!

October, here we come.

He is Mortal.

IronMoyer.jpgIf the wrinkles, scrawny muscles and twerpy exterior weren’t enough to convince you, his first career loss to the Marlins last night should be all the evidence you need. So go on, forget the notion that the 87-year-old Phillies pitcher is a supreme being…

THE MARLINS HAVE BEATEN JAMIE MOYER!!!

He can throw all the 23-mph pitches he wants, but the curse has been broken. Last night the Fish scored two runs off Moyer while Josh Johnson shut out the Phils through six, and that was just about all it took to get the job done.

Uh, almost.

As with every game in Philly, it couldn’t go off without just a little bit of drama. The Marlins pitching staff actually combined to shut out the Phils last night, but the box score doesn’t quite reflect that fact, since a Shane Victorino line drive foul was called a 2-run home run by third base umpire Dale Scott. Thanks to Alfredo Amezaga’s RBI single in the top of the inning it didn’t really matter, but had the game been tied as a result of the call, I’d be writing a blog of a very different nature this morning.

As Joe Frisaro reported for marlins.com:

“Tuesday’s game was being used for information gathering by the league regarding the possible adoption of instant replay. A special camera situated near the Phillies dugout was positioned down the left-field line for testing purposes.”

Coincidence? I think not. It was pretty obvious after he blew the call that Dale Scott is in favor of instant replay, and he was doing his best to sway the folks at MLB by making last night’s game a perfect example of why it needs to be implemented ASAP.

I’ve heard all the arguments on both sides, and all I have to say is that if it helps us beat the Phils, I’m all for it.

8-0, Marlins.

 

  

One Ramirez Too Manny

MannyRamirez.jpgI am not shedding any tears this week after the Marlins talks with Boston fizzled out, and Manny Ramirez ended up in LA. I mean, come on. Is this team seriously in need of another player with defense that is on par with the rugrats I umpire in rookies division Little League? One who mauls sweet elderly folk when he doesn’t get his way? Probably not.

I’m not gonna lie, Manny may have been entertaining to watch. But I doubt he would have been much else, and I’m content to never know for sure.

At the same time, though, I don’t see what Boston was thinking here. I’m sure that all the Marlins asked was for the Sox to give Manny to the Fish for free, then throw in a few million dollars, plus two or three of their top prospects for good measure. In return, they likely would have received Jeremy Hermida (who, as every one knows, hit a grand slam in his very first major league at-bat, which makes him indispensible to any team). Not sure why the Red Sox wouldn’t positively jump at the chance to make a deal that sweet, but I guess they have their reasons.

While the Marlins didn’t end up doing anything too exciting before the trade deadine, I still feel as though I’m watching a brand new team. The final piece of the puzzle that is the starting rotation has returned from the DL, which–to me anyway–is more thrilling than anything the Marlins could have traded for. Ricky Nolasco, Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Chris Volstad…Ahhhh. It is an odd feeling to be confident that the Fish have a really good chance of winning every single night. (Uh, subject to change as soon as the Marlins land in Philadelphia Tuesday to face the antichrist also known as Jamie Moyer).

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