June 2009

Citrus Series Canker to Marlins Hot Streak

crying oranges.JPGThings didn’t go so well for the Marlins at the Trop this weekend. 

Or, I guess more accurately, things went pretty badly for the Marlins at the Trop this weekend, as the Rays swept the three-game series, shoving the Fish back to three games behind the Phillies and a game under .500.
Here’s a quick (yet extremely informative) recap: The Marlins starting pitching wasn’t too terrible overall, until Big Game Andrew struggled Sunday, but the bullpen pretty much made up for that, getting tagged with two losses in the first two games. Really though, first prize for making the sweep a reality goes to the Marlins cold, lifeless offense, which couldn’t put much of anything together all series long and combined to go 2-for-68* with runners in scoring position (*this is a completely fabricated number. We’re too lazy to look it up). I heard somewhere once that scoring runs can be helpful when a win is the goal. Maybe someone should fill the Fish in on that.
The Marlins teased their fans mercilessly in the top of the ninth Sunday, refusing to go quietly without one last display of the art of leaving men on base. The Fish loaded ’em up and even scored a run on a Wes Helms walk before ending the game with what they’d been doing all series long: leaving multiple runners in scoring position. Paulino and Gload struck out to finish things up, and that’s all for the Citrus Series. 
The Marlins end interleague play at 10-8, going 1-5 against the Rays this season. Remember when we used to win more games against them than we lost? That was fun. Good riddance, Tampa Bay. 
The Nationals are looking really inviting right about now.

The Sunshine Series

citrus series.jpgThe Citrus Series is back, folks, and with it HLD&S’s ongoing objection to its title. 

Although our multiple letters, emails and phone calls to the office of the commissioner of baseball have been ignored, we still maintain that “citrus” gives the Rays an unfair advantage in the matchup. 
Forget for a moment that the Marlins lead the all-time series 36-28. We have a point to make.
First of all, Central Florida, not South Florida, boasts the top citrus-producing county in the state. Second, you can’t really get much more citrusy than “Tropicana Field.” What on earth does citrus have to do with the Marlins? (Well, aside from the fact that there’s a lot of orange paint slapped on the walls of Land Shark Stadium.)
Florida is the Sunshine State, not the Citrus State. The interleague series is a matchup between two Florida teams. It is not unreasonable to request a change in name to the “Sunshine Series,” considering that the sun is at least something the cities have in common. 
And while we’re on the subject of unfair advantages, can someone please explain why the Rays broadcasters are handling both series this year? Isn’t there typically supposed to be a 50/50 split? It is slightly disconcerting that this is the second series of the season in which we will miss several broadcasts of “Marlins Live,” any pro-Fish commentary, post-game interviews with Marlins players, and Tommy Hutton’s sweater vests. Then again, there’s Dewayne Staats’s mustache and hairdo to keep us entertained, so…
Official HLD&S position: SUNSHINE Series!

Fish Continue to Ruffle Feathers

angry birds.jpg

Maybe it’s the month of June. Maybe it’s interleague play. Maybe it’s Hanley’s rediscovery of the joys of hitting the long ball. Or maybe we just find it difficult be intimidated by a team whose mascot is about as formidable as a cotton ball. 
Whatever the reason, the Fish keep winning, and we keep liking it.

The Marlins pounded the Orioles 11-3 Thursday night, sweeping their second set of fowl in the last two weeks, and improving to 7-2 against their feathered friends this season. Just in case you were keeping track. (We thought so.)

The series finale was a good old-fashioned clubbing of the Orioles, as Sean West threw a shut out through six innings, and the Fish took batting practice off of Rich Hill in the meantime. Every Marlin in the starting lineup had a multi-hit game, save Chris Coghlan. Cody Ross and Dan Uggla each hit two-out, two-run shots, and Hanley hit another *yawn*–excuse us– grand slam. We vaguely recall a time when those things were rare and exciting. Vaguely.
HLD&S would like to extend a warm welcome to Tim Wood, who made his Major League debut for the Marlins in the seventh inning, and was greeted heartily by being nearly decapitated before he went on to pitch two scoreless innings. We would like to extend a similar, though slightly less warm (let’s say roughly room temperature), welcome back to Chris Leroux, who gave up three runs to Baltimore in the ninth inning. To be fair, we can certainly understand why a three-run ninth would be what the pitcher thought was expected of him.
The Marlins find themselves two games above .500 and only one game behind Philadelphia as they head to Tampa this weekend to finish up interleague play. Good thing devil rays are often* referred to as the birds of the sea. 
*by “often,” we obviously mean once. On this blog.

Stormy No Longer Raining on Your Parade.

lindstrom dl.jpg

As your leading source of up-to-the-minute Fish coverage, HLD&S is the [three-thousand-and-] first to report that Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom is on the DL with an elbow sprain, and is expected to miss at least the next six weeks of the season.

Don’t panic. 

We realize that the Marlins are suddenly down one extremely satisfying target of fan fury, but relax, people. With just some minor shifting of ill will, you can be back to blasting Matt on message boards and sports talk radio call-in shows in no time. 

Simply transfer all Lindstrom-related anger from “inability to close games” to “you’ve been playing with discomfort in your elbow for a @#%!$ month, Matt?!?!” and you’re good to go.

See how that works? Malice intact. Crisis averted. However, If you don’t find it satisfying enough to rail on a player who no longer has an impact on the games at hand, we recommend you find a new player on whom to focus all your hatred. Now, if only we could think of such a player. Hmmm.

Leo Nunez is the most likely candidate to replace Lindstrom as closer, but he wasn’t available to pitch Wednesday night as the Fish took on the Orioles in game two of their series. Dan Meyer took the ball instead, and recorded his first career save with a perfect inning. 

Maybe Fish fans have just been conditioned for drama like Pavlov’s dogs, but we felt oddly let down as out number three was recorded without so much as a three-ball count or a fly ball to the warning track. Our fingernails remained intact through all three outs. Not a single expletive erupted from our throats. Our hearts did not skip a beat– not even a minor palpitation. Meyer came in and, well, closed the game. 

Three up, three down. 

Apparently Dan hasn’t read the same version of Closing 101 that our last several ninth-inning men have.

And speaking of other ninth-inning men, does anyone else find it odd that Fish closers always seem to come down with some sort of  mysterious “injury” at the most convenient times? Jorge Julio, Kevin Gregg, and now Matt Lindstrom. We’re not conspiracy theorists by any stretch, but consider our curiosity piqued. 

In other late-breaking news, the Marlins and Ricky Nolasco won game two against the Orioles, extended the team’s winning streak to four games, and are a game over .500. 

Another Stormy Night at Land Shark Stadium.

stormy stadium.jpg

And we aren’t talking about the weather.
When Jorge Cantu slapped a single to left to score Bonifacio in the bottom of the 12th, a 5-year-old Orioles fan scrunched up his face, threw back his head and wailed unabashedly and inconsolably, tears gushing down his little cheeks. 
If it were socially acceptable for grown adults to express their feelings in such a manner, HLD&S would have created a similar spectacle in the top of the ninth, when Matt Lindstrom obliterated a beautiful start from Andrew Miller, a grand slam from Hanley Ramirez and the Marlins’ 3-run lead.
“Stormy” recorded the first two outs in the ninth inning against the Orioles Tuesday night, then proceeded to give up two runs on four straight hits. After Lindstrom was lifted, Brian Sanches allowed a run to score, sending the game into extra innings. 
And that is the last time HLD&S will turn to our neighbor in the top of the ninth to remark on what a charmingly fast-paced game we are enjoying.
After a few scoreless innings from Burke Badenhop, and some stellar defense from the Fish, luckily–or perhaps more fitting a word would be miraculously–Bonifacio managed not to swing at four balls from Brian Bass to draw a leadoff walk in the twelfth. Emilio then took second on a wild pitch and scored on Jorge Cantu’s single, almost making us forget about all the rest of his at-bats in the game. (Almost.)
We’ll just save the whining about Lindstrom continuing to close. To say that Marlins fans are growing weary of the ninth-ining theatrics is stating the overly obvious, and anyway, who else is going to pitch the ninth? Kiko Calero is already on the DL, and Leo Nunez was taken out of the game in the eighth inning Tuesday due to an ankle sprain. Plus, given Fredi’s “stick with him” position, resistance is futile. Matt Lindstrom is the closer, and we will all continue to experience elevated blood pressure, mild strokes, panic attacks and hyperventilation in save situations until he finally learns how to get that third out, or blows enough games to be demoted from his current role. 
Incidentally, after nearly every game Brett Carroll plays, there is an intense struggle between our desire for all major news outlets to shout from the rooftops the greatness of his cannon of an arm, and the selfish desire to keep Brettley as unheralded as possible so that teams will continue to foolishly try and run on him. What to do, what to do.
The Marlins seventh win in the last ten games brings them back to .500 for the first time since May 13th. 


In a HLD&S exclusive, Bullpen catcher Jeffrey Urgelles was seen displaying a bit of a temper after the Fish Matt Lindstrom blew the lead in the ninth against the Orioles Tuesday night. Fans who witnessed the scene were mildly surprised, as it’s pretty rare to see a show of emotion from the Marlins bullpen. Um, but then again, it has to be extremely physically taxing trying to hold that “please enjoy my bottom, ladies” pose through extras. (We recommend Icy Hot, Urgs.)

Fish, Birds and Bids.

hula girl.JPG

Move along, Girardi and Burnett. There are some new… old faces in town tonight as the interleague parade of former Marlins continues at Land Shark Stadium. The good news, though, is that these faces will more than likely not attract a crowd of 30 thousand excessively noisy haters of the home team, or increase your chances of getting punched in the face at the ballpark by 67%. And we’re perfectly OK with that.
Marlins fans may get a chance to see former Fish Robert Andino in action tonight at short as the Fish open up their three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, we like Dino and we wish him the best in tonight’s game, but most fans would agree that the trade has worked out very nicely for both teams involved. Andino has been impressing in Baltimore since Cesar Izturis went on the DL, and obviously Hayden Penn has been just huge for the Fish this season, so…  
And hey, remember Mark Hendrickson? He was really, uh, tall for the Marlins in 2008. We’ll more than likely see him out of the bullpen at some point during the series, and if memory serves correctly, goodie. 
FSN Florida Fantasy Auction
Tonight is Fox Sports Florida’s Fantasy Auction to benefit the Florida Marlins Community Foundation‘s “Cornerstones for Kids” program. This means a couple of things. 1) About halfway through the night you will be willing to donate your entire life savings to the FMCF if FSN promises to stop broadcasting shots of their tiki doll instead of pertinent game replays, and 2) fans at the park and at home will have a chance to bid on some very exciting items, which the foundation has decided should not include HLD&S’s suggestion of a prize pack that would be sure to bring in loads of cash for charity:
We’re assuming it would take less than 30 minutes to have Bonifacio sent down. 
I guess if the goal is to not make as much money as possible, I can understand the foundation’s exclusion of our suggestion this year. Bid on something, like our favorite Fish site does each year. It’s for a good cause. 

Happy Father’s Day. Now Go Away.

empty land shark.jpg

It was a pretty depressing scene at Land Shark Sunday as thousands of dejected fans filed out of the stadium after Derek Jeter grounded out to end the game. 
Oh. Wait. This is a Marlins blog. After spending three days rubbing elbows with a stadium-load of New Yorkers, listening to louder cheers for Jeter than Ramirez and hearing deafening chants of “Let’s go Yankees,” we got a little turned around there. Strike “depressing scene” from the record, please. Let’s go with “joyous event” instead. 
At least the small percentage of Dads sporting teal and black enjoyed a nice treat for Father’s Day. (Well, as nice a treat as possible, anyway, when surrounded by thousands of sore losing Yankees fans who–according to reports from the stadium– were all apparently spoiling for a fight.)

After four straight losses it appears Volstad may be back, folks. Chris went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and earning his first win in nearly a month. And while Volstad was busy remembering how to put together a quality start, Hanley Ramirez was working on a little memory-jog of his own, at last recalling how to hit for power. Nothing says “Happy Father’s Day, Fish fans” like the first HanRam home run in 101 at-bats. 

Of course, Matt Lindstrom did his level best to make the day even more special for the Dads in attendance, giving up two runs after recording two outs in the ninth. I guess he figured one-run nail-biters are far more exciting than a ninth inning void of theatrics and multiple runs, and he wanted to help make the game as memorable as possible. Mission accomplished, Matt. And thanks, as always.
One incredibly disappointing aspect of the game for Marlins fans was CC Sabathia leaving after just 1 1/3 innings when he decided it was too hot to pitch  experienced some tightness in his bicep. We may be pushing it to complain about any aspect of a series victory over a team whose bat boys make more than the majority of the Marlins starting lineup, but seriously. First A-Rod sits two games, and now this? Come on Yankees, how often do fans get the pleasure of watching a Cy Young winner pitch against… Oh. Right. This is now a weekly occurrence for the Marlins. Never mind.
Unfortunately, according to Joe Girardi, the Marlins win is null and void due to a botched double switch in the eighth inning, which–as everyone who watched can attest–had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game. So just when you were all geared up for several more years of Yankee-free baseball, there’s a chance the two teams will have to go at it again.
While you’re protesting that, Joe, I’ll be protesting the unfairness of trying to enjoy one of the best series of the season feeling like an unwanted guest in my own home. If the Marlins do have to play the end of the game over, HLD&S votes they do it in New York. 
The real one.

The Yankees are Here!!!

this is our excited face.jpgWell golly, interleague play just keeps getting better and better.

After the Fish dropped two of three in Boston, Marlins fans are being “treated” this weekend to a three game series against everybody‘s favorite team, the New York Yankees.
I guess a teensy part of me can understand a bit of the hoopla surrounding the almighty Yankees and the fact that they have been so kind as to deign to make a royal appearance in lowly South Florida. Since a nice big chunk of SoFlo are transplanted New Yorkers, and since the Yankees are worshipped as gods, and since they visit here so infrequently, a little part of me gets it. But understanding the hype does not equal enjoying the hype. Absolutely NO part of me will like this. 
HLD&S made a decision after leaving Land Shark last night: We will never again complain about Mets fans taking over the stadium when our NL East rivals are in town. OK, we will, but during said complaining, we’ll secretly be thanking our lucky stars it’s the Mets, not the Yanks playing on our home field. Seriously. While Mets fans just may be obnoxious and loud enough to make a 50/50 split of fans seem more like 90/10, the jerseys don’t lie. And for every fan sporting Marlins gear at Land Shark Stadium last night, another seven or so were decked out in the glorified Yankees pinstripes. They outnumbered us, outcheered us, and out…obnoxioused us by far.
Game one of the series didn’t go so well for the Fish as rookie Sean West gave up five runs and lasted just 4 innings, and most of the Marlins bats decided that the middle of a ballgame against the Yankees was the perfect time to go into a collective coma. The bullpen (which, by the way, once again includes Renyel Pinto) was one of the few bright spots in the game. Unfortunately, holding a team scoreless when they’re already up four runs only proves to be helpful if your team can manage to score in the meantime. That didn’t happen. 5-1, Yanks.
Tonight it’s JJ vs. AJ in what promises to be one of the most exciting match-ups of the season so far. It’s a shame we’ll be far too busy hating New York to be able to enjoy it.
Official HLD&S Position: Don’t want to be a part of it! New York, New York!!!

Interleague play totally, like, rox my sox.

sox-fish hat.JPGNo, really.

Here’s the deal: I don’t actually have a real reason to dislike Boston. I honestly don’t. But the dislike is there anyway, and try as I might to ignore it, it is presently filling my nostrils with its unpleasantly… bean-y scent.
There’s just something in me that bristles at playing this team. Maybe it’s the fans and their inability to pronounce the letter “r.” Maybe it’s the team’s history that gets on my nerves– sort of like a 16-year-old boy failing miserably to relate to a great-grandfather who spouts condescending stories about how when he was a lad, he walked barefoot through 40-foot snow drifts to get to his one-room schoolhouse where he ate lunch from a tin pail and wrote on a slate, and spent his free time splitting logs, not “tweetering on this newfangled internet.” 
Maybe it’s the fact that a Red Sox player sneezing during batting practice probably has a better chance of making SportsCenter’s highlights than a Marlins player pitching a no-no or hitting for the cycle.
Or maybe it’s simply the fact that nobody ever told anyone in Boston that the plural of “sock” is actually spelled s-o-c-k-s. I don’t know. I really don’t. But there it is. 
And so it is with a giant chip on our shoulder– the roots of which cannot be identified– that HLD&S looks ahead to these three games in Boston.
What I would LOVE to see at Fenway PaRk tonight would be something similar to what I experienced the last time the I saw the Red Sox in South Florida: A flood of 25,000 or so Marlins fans decked out in teal and black converging on the park, buying up the best (and second-best and third-best) seats in the house and banishing the Fenway Faithful to the nosebleeds where only a high-powered telescope will provide them with a half-decent view of the game, which–by the way– includes a hearty pummeling of the home team. (I’m not bitter or anything.)
Since all of the above is probably not going to happen, though, I’ll settle for a win in the series opener. Chris Volstad, a word of advice: Forget everything you have ever heard, thought, or fantasized about Fenway Park. It is merely a field on which men just like you play baseball.  Uh, sure, they may get paid more to do it. And maybe a few more people show up to their Tuesday night home games than yours. And maybe they do have the second-best record in baseball while your team sits a game under .500. And maybe… Aw, forget it.
Official HLD&S Position: Two out of three in Boston!

Fredi’s Got Your “Emotion” Right Here

fredig.JPGUnless you’re blind and hearing impaired, odds are you’ve read and heard countless complaints about Fredi Gonzalez’s–inexplicably infuriating–even-keeled temperament. Eh, maybe you’re one of the people doing the complaining. I don’t really care. Until somebody puts together the mathematical proof that men with short fuses and boisterous personalities win a significantly greater percentage of games/championships, it’s not a conversation I care to have.

But this afternoon the media finally got a taste of the elusive “fire” critics seem so concerned with. Don’t think this is quite what everybody was looking for, but…
According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald’s Fish Bytes:

A visibly angry Fredi Gonzalez kicked reporters out of the clubhouse following Sunday’s victory over questions concerning remarks made by Hanley Ramirez suggesting he was hit intentionally with a pitch and implying the Marlins should have retaliated, but didn’t… 

There are a few other accounts here and here.
Is it just me, or does this seem like the wrong time for tempers to be flaring? The Marlins just enjoyed a sweep, every Fish in the lineup but Hermida had a multi-hit game, Josh Johnson went nine, tomorrow is an off-day, all is right with the world. Time for cigars and smiles. So it seems odd that Hanley’s complaining evoked such a passionate response from Fredi.
Maybe I’ve just gotten used to a Marlins team void of “superstars” over the last few seasons, but Hanley whining to the media– essentially calling out Fredi and Josh Johnson for knowing that the hit was intentional and not doing anything about it– is unprofessional, and it reeks of prima donna sports star antics. If Hanley had a problem, why didn’t he talk to Fredi instead of calling him out to the media?
Are we going to have to start dealing with this now? Disgruntled bazillionaire ballplayer vs. manager? Hanley threatening the team with being too terrified of the consequences of hitting home runs? (First of all, please. And second, Hanley, you DIDN’T hit any home runs against the Jays this weekend, in case it slipped your mind. Maybe you should have gone with “I’ll just be too scared to play baseball at all.”)
If Hanley is making threats over something as trivial as the Marlins’ failure to retaliate when he’s hit by a pitch, what happens when they want to something that actually matters, like move him from shortstop to another position?
Maybe I’m being melodramatic or just reading too much into Hanley’s pouting, but I could really do without the spoiled sports star bit.  You didn’t hear Baker or Hermida griping after they got plunked. Even if you think Fredi is dead wrong, the way Ramirez handled seems unclassy.
I’m not going to complain about the way Hanley is playing the game, but in this first season of his multi-million dollar contract, I’m already tired of his whining. I want to believe the best of him, but I have to wonder if this isn’t a sign of things to come. 
Hopefully Hanley was just taking the bait dangled in front of him by reporters, but Fredi’s reaction to him today speaks to a bigger issue than a lousy HBP.