In mid-May now, the Marlins sit in the cellar of the NL East, a position they have occupied since Opening Day. At 11-31, the Marlins are tied for the worst record in baseball, which is sadly not all that surprising. Over the last month an half, the team has provided almost nothing even blog-worthy. However, a beacon of light, as small as it may be, is radiating from a few of the Marlins’ young stars, who look to be the future of this club.
When Giancarlo Stanton was sidelined by a hamstring injury at the end of April, Miami called up outfielder Marcell Ozuna to take his roster spot. In 16 games thus far, Ozuna is hitting .295 and has shown incredible pop in his bat, although he has only hit one homer. Earlier this week, Ozuna nearly launched a walk-off bomb against Aroldis Chapman, but the drive landed on the warning track, foiled by Marlins Park’s dimensions. Ozuna slid into third with a clutch, game-tying triple. The 22-year-old outfielder has also brandished his gun of an arm in right field:
At second base, Derek Dietrich, a 23-year-old out of Georgia Tech, has exceeded expectations after his May 8th debut. He is hitting .320 with 1 home run and 4 RBI in 7 games. Dietrich is also flashing the leather in the field, and has committed no errors thus far in his major league tenure.
Pitcher Jose Fernandez, the Marlins top prospect at the beginning of 2013, was called up to make his major league debut on April 7th, and has gone 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA since then. On May 4th, Fernandez pitched seven one-hit, shutout innings in Philadelphia en route to his first major league win. He struck out nine in the game, and has totaled 44 K’s on the season.
With injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison plaguing the Marlins’ roster, these young studs will need to keep producing if the Fish want to even keep their heads above water this season. But on the bright side, at least they’re not the Astros:
The baseball season is in full swing, and from the looks of it, the Marlins will experience yet another year of dismal fan attendance. It is a real shame because Marlins Park is a beautiful facility apart from its lime green walls and home run sculpture; however, money cannot buy wins, and losses cannot garner fans.
Last year, the Marlins assumed fans would show up for the new ballpark, revamped lineup, and awesome promotions. They also assumed that wins would come with all of this. Almost none of that was the case. After the hype of the first two or so months settled, and the Marlins began losing, Marlins Park looked like a blue Sun Life Stadium, only smaller and more baseball-friendly.
I thought that since the roster was diluted this offseason, and that fans now have even fewer reasons to want to show up for a Marlins game, the team would have some great promotional giveaways, and ticket prices would be lowered. Unfortunately, this year’s promotional schedule is less than impressive. But the Marlins still offer some of the cheapest tickets in baseball, so even though prices weren’t lowered with the expectations of the team, there still are some great seats available for relatively low prices.
Just like on those annoying multiple choice tests looking for the “best” answer when there exist multiple that are correct, the term “best” in this case is rather ambiguous. Therefore, I will take into consideration value of the tickets for view of the field, view of the surrounding park, as well as foul ball territory. Thankfully, the latter two categories sport their best seats on the first base side since that is were the majority of the batters (right-handed) hit their foul balls, and is also where fans can gaze through the left field windows at downtown Miami. In addition, I am not going to consider home run territory since Marlins Park may be the worst in baseball for the possibility, or lack thereof, of catching homers. Lastly, unlike in my breakdown of Nationals Park where I considered food options in grading a section, good food exists all throughout Marlins Park, and, since I’ve never actually eaten there, it’s not mine to judge.
Left Field: The Left field reserved sections above the bullpen and Clevelander are high above the field and with their backs to the view of the city. At $15-30 per seat, the value is not bad, but there are many better locations in the Park.
Baselines: The baseline reserved sections along both sides of the outfield range from about $20-40 each. The views get better the lower and closer to home plate the seats get, but the prices go up proportionally. The foul ball location for these areas is not bad, but since the sections are relatively wide, an aisle seat or empty row is necessary for any decent chance of catching a ball. The better view is on the right field line, as fans are looking straight on into left field at the city. In addition, the out-of-town scoreboard, positioned in left-center field, is in better sight for those along the right field line.
The baseline reserved VIP sections are priced at $47 for a single game. The value is not bad for its relative location, but the sharp angle looking right down the third base line is a deterrent, at least for me.
Base Reserved: These sections stretch from first or third base to short outfield. From $28-58 per seat, the price isn’t bad when compared to similar seats in around the league. Again, the first base line folks have, overall, a better view.
Home Plate Box: From $42-100 per seat, the home plate box sections sport some of the best views in the building. Prime foul ball range would most likely be towards the back of sections 12 and 13; however, there is no cross-aisle in these areas, and the press box overhangs the last few rows of each section. Therefore, the limited mobility greatly reduces ball-snagging chances. The best views, in my opinion, would be in sections 10-12 or 16-18. Sitting directly behind the plate all but eliminates depth perception; being offset by a small amount is beneficial to the spectator.
Diamond Club: As in any park, Diamond Club prices are not for the faint of heart. These seats do not even appear on the Marlins single game ticket listings, so they may be sold out to season ticket holders. Despite the extreme proximity to the field, I believe better views of the action exist up in the home plate box. However, for one interested in food, the Diamond Club may be the way to go as food and drinks are complimentary here.
Dugout Club: The Bacardi Dugout Club consists of three microscopic sections at the end of each dugout. The prices range from $115-$200 depending on the game and the section of the club. Food is free here as well. This “dugout club” is the prime characterization of the Marlins’ attempt to make things confusing for fans. There is no reason to put a partition behind the first three or four rows next to the field. Simply, the front office wants a reason to charge fans more money.
Lexus Legends Level: These may be the best seats in the building. The elevation above the lower deck provides unobstructed views of the entire field. Again, the closer to the plate these seats are, the better the vantage point of the spectator. At $40-$50 per seat for a single game, these are by no means the cheapest tickets in the park, but for their unbeatable views, quick access to food, and a free parking pass for every two tickets purchased, these seats are hard to beat.
Other locations in the park like the Home Run Porch in right field and the third-deck Vista Levels offer relatively cheap seats, and since Marlins Park is cozy, the views of the field are perfectly suitable for enjoying a baseball game. However, since the Marlins have an average attendance this season of about 19,000–a number only held up by the Opening Night game–very few fans will probably sit in the higher sections.
All in all, if I were purchasing season tickets at Marlins Park, I would be inclined to buy a seat in the Lexus Legends Level on the first base side, probably section 210 or 211. The Home Plate Box right below would be a good option as well. I hope to return to Miami in the near future for a regular season game, and I may compile a more extensive review of the park at that time.
Down 2-0 to the Braves in their home opener, the Marlins called on John Maine for the first time to pitch the top of the ninth inning. Maine, a 31-year-old veteran right-hander, had a shaky start, giving up two hits and a deep fly out to center. However, he was able to escape the jam by striking out Reed Johnson, and inducing a ground ball from BJ Upton.
Despite garnering two base runners in the bottom of the frame, the Marlins were unable to come through against Craig Kimbrel, falling to Atlanta 2-0. They are now 1-6 on the year, and were shut out for the third time already in this young season. John Maine pitched just the one inning, allowing two hits and striking out one.
Maine, a former Mets stud, is from my hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia where he attended North Stafford High School. After undergoing shoulder surgery in 2010, Maine had difficulty regaining his form, and bounced around the league, spending time with the Rockies, Red Sox, and Yankees before signing with Miami this past offseason. He is the first Marlin to ever wear the number 73.
Once I saw that the Marlins were going to open the 2013 season in Washington D.C., I immediately targeted Wednesday April 3rd to be my first game of the year. March was a particularly cold month in the mid-Atlantic region, and unfortunately the cold temperatures carried over into this first week of April, making Wednesday night frigid.
Thankfully, it was sunny and in the mid-50s when I arrived at Nationals Park at around 5:15. I immediately headed to the Red Porch as the Nats were taking their last few rounds of batting practice. But things were dead.
It is likely that a few different factors contributed to the quiet BP:
1) Early in the season, players are trying to get their swings down and spray the ball around the park, since they haven’t played in a real major league stadium since the previous season.
2) Due to the cold temperatures, hitters are even less likely to over-exert themselves, trying to avoid pulled muscles and other such weather-related injuries. In addition, pitchers are preoccupied with keeping themselves warm, and are therefore less inclined to interact with fans.
3) Even if a player were to have hit a long ball, the wind blowing in from left field would likely have killed it before it reached the seats.
A combination of all of these things led to a mostly dead batting practice. I spent 80% of the time between 5:15 and 6:30 at the Red Porch, and I believe only three home runs landed in the section. The first was an uncharacteristically deep blast hit by a Nationals righty I cannot name. It landed above the cross-aisle near some people eating at the tables, and bounced toward back of the porch to a stadium worker. The second one was a laser line drive that landed in the first few rows of the section, where it was more populated. I was standing near the back at the time, and I didn’t feel like fighting people for it. By 6:00 or so, the Red Porch was populated by a dozen or two sedentary fans who were not interested in catching baseballs, rather taking pictures or eating in their seats. This severely limited my mobility. The last homer to reach the porch was hit by a Marlins righty and landed at the bullpen-end of the section, and at the time I was standing on the other side by the batter’s eye.
Although I didn’t catch anything during my time out there, I was still able to have fun by snagging a pair of baseballs, and here’s how:
As always, there were small-ish kids populating the first row of the porch, begging for toss-ups from players. A little while into the Marlins’ session, a pitcher finally turned around and lobbed a ball to a pair of kids, but they bobbled it and dropped it into the gap…bummer. I could tell they were disappointed, and a guy who appeared to be their father thanked the pitcher anyway, and, after jokingly alluding to climbing down there and fetching the ball himself, appeared to give up. I walked down to make sure the ball was indeed sitting in the gap, and hadn’t fallen back onto the field, and told the guy that I could get it for him. I whipped out the glove trick and reeled the ball up within a few seconds, and gave it to the kids. Not that I really keep statistics, but I suppose that was my first ball of the season.
A few minutes later, Ricky Nolasco trotted out of the dugout straight to center field. He was chatting with some of the other Miami pitchers out there when a ball came his way. Lackadaisically, Nolasco fielded it, and seemed to be in no hurry to throw it in. The kids and other fans in the section let out their customary “here, ball please!” to Nolasco, but gave up after a few seconds. As soon as they stopped, I let out a simple, “Ricky!” And raised my arms. He spotted me in my teal hat and gave me a simple toss. That was incredibly gratifying. It got even more gratifying when I peered down at the ball in my glove and saw that it was a Marlins Park commemorative baseball. It came a year after I expected it, but I had finally snagged a Marlins Park ball!
Last season, the Marlins used these special baseballs at home for both games and batting practice, but on the road they used BP balls from the home team, and only threw with their own. Since I did not go down to Miami during the regular season, and I almost never beg for toss-ups from players, I was unable to snag a Marlins ball last season. I got one for my birthday, for its souvenir value, but I was much more satisfied when Nolasco threw me one on Wednesday.
That was it for batting practice: two gratifying baseballs. Then it was time to find out if the Marlins’ bats could be any warmer than the April air. SPOILER ALERT: They were not.
It’s the battle of World Series favorite versus the subject of some of baseball’s funniest jokes: Opening Day 2013 at Nationals Park.
Here is Miami’s starting nine:
1) Juan Pierre, LF
2) Chris Coghlan, CF
4) Placido Polanco, 3B
5) Rob Brantly, C
6) Donovan Solano, 2B
7) Casey Kotchman, IB
8) Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9) Ricky Nolasco, P
And here is Washington’s lineup, with NO easy outs in the batting order:
1) Denard Span, CF
2) Jayson Werth, RF
3) Bryce Harper, LF
4) Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
5) Adam LaRoche, 1B
6) Ian Desmond, SS
7) Danny Espinosa, 2B
8) Wilson Ramos, C
9) Stephen Strasburg, P
Both the Marlins and Nationals have all their outfielders as the top three batters in their orders.
There is no easy out in the Nationals’ order, as even pitcher Stephen Strasburg can hit–he was the NL Silver Slugger for pitchers last season.
The game has begun, and Juan Pierre started the season off the right way by drilling the second pitch of the game into center field, breaking up the no-hitter in the process.
When Nationals Park opened in 2008, the franchises of the Washington Nationals and the then-Florida Marlins were in similar situations. Both teams had young cores of promising talent, and both possessed glimmers of hope with the prospects of new stadiums and rejuvenated fan bases. However, since then, talent, trades, and above all, differences in managent have run their respective courses within each individual franchise, and today the Marlins and Nationals meet on Opening Day in two very different situations.
The Marlins boasted some of the best potential talent in baseball back in 2008. They thought they had it all figured out with a nucleus of Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Mike Jacobs, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco all about to enter their primes, and prospects like Gaby Sanchez about to break into the majors. At that time, the name ‘Jeffrey Loria’ hardly circulated the web. But as it always had troubled the Marlins, money problems took their tolls as the team struggled to keep fans in the stands, and subsequently stars on the field. However, things looked bright when the Miami Marlins came of age and looked to open the new stadium.
Loria, the now-famous owner who had earned a bad name for himself by swindling the city of Miami into publicly funding the new park, sought forgiveness from the city of Miami by signing a plethora of big-name stars prior to the 2012 season, and promising a big year filled with the hype of even a reality TV series on HBO. But that plan exploded in Loria’s face, going up in flames like the fuel tanks at Miami International Airport, after a record-terrible month of June.
It got worse for the Fish and their fans after the season when Loria held a fire sale, shipping off the remainder of big name stars aside from Giancarlo Stanton. Sports journalists across the nation frenziedly fed off the rotting carcass of the Miami Marlins. Jeffrey Loria became even more of a household name among baseball fans as the media exploited the near-criminal behavior of his tenure as team owner, of both the Marlins and Expos.
And now, just hours away from the first pitch of 2013, all that remains of the inferno of 2012 hype is a dwindling flame, the few known players that will don Miami jerseys to start the season. Ricky Nolasco, previously the number four pitcher on the team, will take the mound as ace tomorrow, heading a staff of incredibly young and inexperienced arms. Jose Fernandez, the top prospect in Miami’s farm system, was just called to the big leagues as a starter–Fernandez has never pitched above class-A ball before. And possibly worst of all, the Marlins’ marketing staff has resorted to baiting fans into buying Opening Night (April 8th) tickets by placing deals on Groupon, a move that speaks for itself. And the relentless sportswriters have exploited these as well. Whether or not the media is blowing this dismay out of proportion is debatable. But the facts are all right here. The expectations are low. And the 2013 season might be a really long one for the Fish and their fans.
Tomorrow, Ricky Nolasco faces Stephen Strasburg, who is coming off a 2012 season in which he was shut down, a controversial decision made by Nationals management, who insisted on preserving him for the future. Since 2008, the Nationals have followed a steady trend of improvement. Little by little, GM Mike Rizzo and company transformed the franchise from a 103-loss program to a 98-win powerhouse.
Washington looked within their own organization for some answers after a disappointing first season in the new park. They developed Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, and Steve Lombardozzi. With two number one draft picks, the Nats struck gold with two of the highest-touted prodigies in recent history–Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The signings of Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez, and Adam LaRoche filled the gaps that the Nationals could not fill themselves. And in 2012, everything fell into place.
From June on, the Nationals held tight to first place in the National League East, riding the winning momentum all the way to a 98-win season, and the top seed in the National League. Unfortunately, inexperience caught up to the team in the playoffs, after the shutdown of Strasburg. The Nats collapsed in game 5 of the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, and ended their 2012 campaign on an overly-sour note after dominating the regular season.
This offseason, Washington’s front office set out and improved the team even further. They signed another power arm in Dan Haren, a shutdown closer in Rafael Soriano, as well as a veteran center fielder in Denard Span. On paper, the Nationals are the team to beat in the National League.
Fully expecting another playoff berth, and hopeful of a World Series Championship, the Nationals are all in for the 2013 season. No inning restrictions will limit Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper looks to hit the ground running after winning NL Rookie of the Year, and Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth will start the season healthy after injury-plagued years in 2012.
Things are looking up in D.C., unlike the situation in Miami where most Marlins fans have lost patience and hope. The two teams will meet in the District at 1:05 tomorrow afternoon for the start of a three-game series and the 2013 season. Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins have historically had great success when playing at Nationals Park, but they had their fair share of struggles last season when the Nationals were contending for a pennant. The last time Strasburg started a regular season game was at Nationals Park, against the Marlins, on September 7th. This final outing of the year for him was hardly a fairytale ending to the season, as the Marlins battered him for five earned runs on six hits over just three innings. Miami won the game 9-7.
Tomorrow, Strasburg and the Nats will look to get a solid start on this year, in which they look to rebound from a disappointing 2012 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, the Marlins might only be looking to save face and survive the season.
A lot has happened since 2008 when the Marlins and Nationals were both looking forward to potentially bright futures. The Marlins have disappointed, and the Nationals have met the challenge. Now the teams are set to start the 2013 season as two very different franchises.
Giancarlo Stanton returned to the team on Sunday for the first time since his departure for the World Baseball Classic. Stanton batted third in an order that Joe Frisaro reported is likely to be the Marlins’ Opening Day lineup. Ricky Nolasco toed the rubber for the Fish as they took on the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. The lineup appeared as follows:
1) Juan Pierre, LF
2) Placido Polanco, 3B
3) Giancarlo Stanton, RF
4) Rob Brantly, C
5) Justin Ruggiano, CF
6) Donovan Solano, 2B
7) Casey Kotchman, 1B
8) Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9) Ricky Nolasco, P
Nolasco threw six strong against St. Louis, who donned vibrant, green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys. He struck out five and walked no one while allowing six hits, but not a run. Doug Mathis, Steve Cishek, who was also returning from the World Baseball Classic, and Mitch Talbot each pitched one inning, finishing off the shutout for the Marlins.
One of the major questions this spring was who would protect Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. It appears that manager Mike Redmond has settled on Rob Brantly, for now. The catcher went 3-for-4 in Sunday’s game. All of his hits were an RBI singles.
Casey Kotchman, who appears to have won the Opening Day first base job, went 2-for-3 in the game, and is hitting .469 for the spring. Kevin Kouzmanoff relieved Kotchman later in the game. Kouzmanoff plays both corner infield spots, and is likely to make the club as a backup infielder.
Chris Coghlan has had a superb spring, filling in for an injured Justin Ruggiano in center field. Coghlan is 14-for-44 with five extra base hits so far. Ruggiano has only played in five games thus far, but the Marlins may be counting on him to duplicate the success he had last year. Nevertheless, Coghlan will certainly make the team as a fourth outfielder.
Power wise, Christian Yelich has been the most productive Marlin so far, but the management wants him to be seasoned before he makes the jump to the majors. Joe Frisaro reported that unless Yelich is named the starting center fielder, he will start the year in the minors, likely Double-A Jacksonville, in order to get experience. Yelich, who is hitting .359 with 4 homers this spring, has never played above class-A in his professional career.
Manager Mike Redmond named Ricky Nolasco the Opening Day starter. Nolasco was the only household name who remained in Miami’s rotation after the November firesale.
The Marlins open on April 1st in D.C. against the defending National League East Champion Washington Nationals.
Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek will be participating on Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. From March 7-10, Team USA will play in Phoenix in the first round of the tournament with Mexico, Canada, and Italy. If USA advances to round two, Stanton and Cishek will be playing at their home, Marlins Park. The Championship round will be played on March 17-18 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Stanton’s departure from camp in Jupiter opens up opportunities for many of Miami’s up-and-coming players to display their abilities in the middle of the batting order. Stanton will likely hit third this year for the Fish, but it is unclear who will hit behind him. Rob Brantley and Justin Ruggiano are both potential candidates.
As of today, Steve Cishek will be Miami’s closer.
Team USA scrimmaged the White Sox on Tuesday, and tied. Giancarlo Stanton recorded 3 RBI in his USA debut. They will also scrimmage the Rockies on Thursday before beginning pool play on Friday against Mexico.
The Marlins have long lacked left-handed power. Since Mike Jacobs did it in 2008, no left-handed Marlin has eclipsed 30 home runs in a single season. However, that soon might change as Joe Mahoney and Christian Yelich, both lefties, have brandished some hefty power this spring.
In Spring Training, Joe Mahoney, who was picked up off waivers from the Orioles in the off-season, is getting substantial playing time at first base with Logan Morrison sidelined, recovering from knee surgery. It is possible that Morrison will not even be ready for Opening Day, opening the door for Mahoney. In just 14 at-bats this spring, he has 5 hits, 2 homers, and 5 RBI.
Christian Yelich, who was a first round draft pick in 2010, is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. He was a first baseman in high school, but the Marlins have converted him to an outfielder. Yelich has 6 hits in 13 at bats, with a home run and 3 RBI this spring. He will most likely start the year at AA Jacksonville, but he is a viable candidate to be called up during the season, or at least in September.
Greg Dobbs, Logan Morrison, and Chris Coghlan are the other lefty power threats currently on the roster.
A cold front has swept across the southeast, engulfing Grapefruit League spring training sites in sub-60 degree weather, much to the chagrin of of players, coaches, and reporters. Joe Frisaro, Juan Rodriguez, and Ricky Nolasco all took to Twitter to express their concern over the weather. But had Joe Frisaro not included a picture of the Marlins’ practice field in his tweet, it would have been unclear precisely where in the solar system he was:
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) February 17, 2013
According to Wiki answers, the temperature on the planet Jupiter ranges from as low as -108 degrees Celsius to as high as 70 degrees Celsius, depending on the atmospheric pressure.
Also on twitter this morning, I found a hilariously sad meme from MLB Memes. Enjoy!