“The Marlins don’t run like they should,” stated former Marlins manager Jeff Torborg now an analyst for Fox Sports during a telecast a few weeks ago. Torborg’s Marlins of 2002 and the first month of 2003 led the Major Leagues in stolen bases. This year the Marlins are currently 14th in National League in steals and have relied too much on a failing power game in the middle of the lineup to manufacture runs. Yet the Marlins incredibly sought to deal A.J. Burnett a great young starting pitcher to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield, who is a misfit entering the twilight of his career. Sheffield, a power hitter would have done little alleviate the Marlins problems in manufacturing runs with a short/running game. Everyone around the team would admit freely that the Marlins have underachieved this season. The big question is can the team meet expectations in the second half of the season and if the team continues to under perform will heads roll?
The Marlins starting rotation is among the best in the Major Leagues. All Star Dontrelle Willis has 13 wins and one of the best ERA’s in the National League. A.J. Burnett and Brian Moehler have been solid as well. Josh Beckett’s injuries have hurt the Marlins recently but Beckett should return to form in the second half. Al Leiter, the highest paid Marlin has been a disaster, but even Leiter’s poor play cannot diminish the strength of this staff.
Todd Jones has proven to be a good stopgap as a closer, replacing the very disappointing Guillermo Mota. The rest of the set up men, and middle relievers have been inconsistent. While the bullpen has blown games they have often times been the victims of fielding errors and poor clutch hitting.
GRADE C +
Carlos Delgado was one of the biggest free agent signings in the MLB’s off season. Delgado has good statistics despite a late June slump but has stranded too many runners when he has had the shot to knock in critical runs. Considering the likely National League MVP is longtime Marlins first baseman Derek Lee, now starring for the Cubs, the pressure will really be on Delgado in the second half of the season to improve his overall performance.
GRADE B -
Luis Castillo is having his best season since MVP caliber 2002 season. Castillo and Alex Gonzalez still represent a great double play tandem, and Castillo is showing great speed again on the base pads this season. Castillo has finally become comfortable hitting second and he has seen better pitches this season hitting ahead of the newly acquired Carlos Delgado.
Alex Gonzalez has sacrificed power for average as a hitter this year. His fielding has not been a rock solid as it once was but he’s still one of the best Shortstops in the league.
Mike Lowell is probably one of the nicest guys in professional sports. He’s also a home grown Miamian. Nonetheless, when you are trying to win a championship sentiment has little place in the lineup. Lowell’s poor hitting and below average fielding have cost the Marlins dearly. Either Lowell needs to improve soon or Jeff Conine needs to replace him as an everyday player.
GRADE D -
Juan Encarnacion has been solid, if unspectacular. He provides a steady bat and is among the best fielding right fielders in the game. Encarnacion may be the only hitter in the Marlins lineup who has gotten timely hits in the first half of the season. The Marlins have spoken about trading Encarnacion for a middle reliever. I hope they don’t make the serious mistake of dealing him.
Juan Pierre has had a disappointing year as a lead off hitter, and seems to have lost a step as a base runner. Pierre is liability in Center Field because of his weak arm, though he has amazing closing speed. Nobody on this team works harder and is more consciences of his game. Expect Pierre to rebound with a strong run after the All Star break.
Cabrera has improved his fielding from the error prone 2004, and is one of the top young players in the game. He is the cornerstone of this franchise and continues to improve his hitting and leadership almost every month.
GRADE A +
Paul LoDuca was named to the All Star team as the backup catcher. He is a solid professional backed up by Matt Treanor who is a very promising young reserve.
MLB all time pinch hit leader Lenny Harris, Damion Easley and Jeff Conine lead one of the most potent benches in the National League. This group has been very valuable providing several clutch hits in pinch hitting situations.
Trader Jack McKeon has run his course with this franchise. McKeon injected life into an underachieving team two seasons ago and led the team to the World Series Championship. McKeon’s old school methods don’t seem to be working with this team and his in game management has deteriorated substantially over the past season and a half. McKeon will not be around next season. Hitting coach Bill Robinson has been criticized by the local media and his job is probably in more immediate jeopardy than McKeon's.
The Marlins have remained fairly healthy all season with a lineup that boasts four All Stars and several more former All Stars. Yet the Marlins find themselves only two games above .500 and struggling to develop any consistency. Surely, the Marlins have all the tools to make a strong second half run, but they cannot wait until August. They need to go on a big run right after the All Star break. The Marlins have one of the best road records and one of the worst home records in Baseball. This inconsistency will persist if McKeon continues to push the wrong buttons. Considering Atlanta wil likely win the NL East again, the Marlins will be fighting for a Wild Card against better a managed club (Mets) a more argueably more talented club (Phillies) and more gritty clubs (Astros, Nationals). The Marlins better figure out what has gone wrong and fix it quickly if they want to have a shot at postseason.
Providing Unique Commentary and Insight into Politics, History and Society since 2005
- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.