Now that our great city is pretty much done riding the wave of the Heat’s run to a championship, it goes without saying that all eyes will be on the Marlins. With the poor way the Marlins have been playing for the month of June, those eyes will now be looking for answers to a few questions. And if those questions aren’t answered to the satisfaction of fans, it may put a serious strain on this franchise being able to sell all of us consumers on the direction that this team is going for the rest of this season and beyond – even with the new stadium in place.
First, for those that weren’t giving 100% focus to the team during the Heat run, the question would have to be “What happened?” For these fans, the last focused glimpses of the team were a soaring bunch that was able to be tied for first place. Now, they are in last place and continuing to plummet downward faster than an anvil in a cartoon. A lot of us would answer that this is the result of a combination of things. The main reasons would be that the hitting continues to struggle and it has now combined with pitching that is now becoming ordinary – very ordinary. Before, the team struggled to win with good pitching because the offense didn’t support them. During the winning in May, the team was basically living off of Giancarlo Stanton’s hot streak of homeruns and the homeruns and extra base-hits from others, while still not executing on offense in the ways needed for long-term success. Now the team may have no chance of even competing with the pitching showing signs of a massive meltdown. But what was supposed to be expected? The Marlins starting pitchers were under the pressure of starting games feeling that they needed to pitch shutouts in order to win. Relievers had to pitch nearly every night trying not to make any mistakes. It was only a matter of time before these human beings would break down.
Can Ozzie motivate this group of players? Now, let me clarify this question. Ozzie is a great manager. He is a proven winner. He is full of the fire that can probably motivate a turtle to win the Boston Marathon as Ozzie displays moments that can make him seem like a Latin Mickey Goldmill (Rocky movies). And best of all, he holds players accountable for not performing to their capabilities. I will sign up for a manager like that every single season. However, not every athlete can be motivated. So, my question is more in line of whether the players on this roster can be motivated by Ozzie. Do the players on this roster have the mental fortitude and the professional pride to play up to their abilities and become winners? Again, can Ozzie motivate this group? This question needs to be answered yesterday if there is any hope for this and the following seasons.
Can this team’s struggles be turned around? This can be simply answered in words, but much more difficult to be placed into action. Yes, this can be turned around and the Marlins can make the playoffs if our pitching gets back into a nice groove and is supported by the offense finally being consistently effective for the first time in over a year. See, it was an easy answer, but how difficult will it be to be remedied with action and performance? Things were promising after a third of the season and now look pretty gloomy heading into the halfway mark.
Is Hanley done? This may not be as premature a question as it may seem. Hanley has not hit up to his abilities for way over a season and a half. Ever since he won the NL Batting title in 2009, we have seen a concerning decline. Everything seems out of whack. He’s been playing more like a guy that is at the back end of his prime than someone that is supposed to be in the middle or at least the early part of it. While many can have their theories about his stance, distance from the plate, timing, etc., the fact remains that even when he seems to be locked in on pitches, he doesn’t get them. Further, he spends many moments looking like he’s trying to overcompensate for a hidden weakness at the plate, as he hacks away for the fences as though he were the second coming of Dave Kingman. If Hanley can’t get things going for the remainder of this season, it starts to become clear what the answer to this question is and what may be needed to remedy it.
Will Ricky Nolasco ever earn his contract and be a benefit to this team? With so many outings for the last couple of years, Nolasco has left no doubt to anyone that the Marlins may have made a mistake in signing him to an extension. In fact, I’m sure that many were like me in applauding Jack McKeon last year for calling him out. If he is to prove that it wasn’t a mistake, he needs to get started this very second and continue to be consistent through the expiration of his contract. This is truly important since the Marlins could’ve used the money for other more dependable parts like say, giving that contract to Anibal Sanchez. If Nolasco doesn’t get it going, it may not be the end of the world, but it does put a strain on what the Marlins can do to upgrade, unless they come to the conclusion that many of their fans have – Nolasco would benefit this team better by being moved so he can underachieve somewhere else.
Will the Marlins hitting finally perform to its capabilities? I remember when the Marlins were done with the Winter Meetings and many analysts were talking about how they would have a dynamic offense and how their biggest concern was pitching – whether it was the starters or in the bullpen. It is amazing how a little over a couple of months into a season can change that assessment. The Marlins seem to only score when they hit a homerun or get a big extra base-hit. They rarely put together any innings in which they execute an effective offense. Too often they have many wasted at-bats in which hitters’ pitch selection was awful. I can’t even count how many times during this season that a hitter has failed to make solid contact on mistake pitches. On mistake pitches alone, hitters have been behind the pitch, grazed the pitch, rolled over on the pitch, hit it off the end of the bat, and many other horrible results that led to not being effective. And remember, this is just the mistake pitches that I am talking about. It would take a novel to address the poor results on hittable pitches. Baseball is hard to play as it is. Among us, only a special few on this planet can do it at the MLB level. If a player cannot execute to his capabilities, he has no chance to succeed. This team has failed to do so for over a year. Will this change any time soon? This brings me to the next question.
How long will Eduardo Perez have a free pass? I know that this question may ruffle a few fish scales in the Marlins organization and probably in the community, but this question has to be asked. First, I will point out that Jim Presley was fired a couple of years ago while having more successful results with the offense for a longer period of time than Perez. John Mallee was fired after having a short period of time with this team’s offense and getting unsatisfying overall results. And he actually had a history of success with some of the younger players that are here struggling under Perez. Under the guidance of Eduardo Perez, this offense has been inept. Despite very few occasions and a couple of individual successes, overall, the offense has failed for over a year – the entire tenure of Eduardo Perez as the Marlins Hitting Coach. Many of us understand that the Marlins would probably want to give Perez every opportunity to build his resume for a future managerial job. However, we also know that the hitters that have been struggling have had past success under other hitting coaches. At some point, something has got to give in the accountability department. Do the Marlins avoid laying blame on Perez by placing it only on the players or do they follow the norm in sports and hold the coach accountable? As fans, a lot of us love Tony Perez and understand the difficulties that the Marlins organization would have in holding his son accountable, but a team has to determine if they are in the business of keeping staff happy or keeping its consumers happy. The offense continuing to struggle and causing the Marlins to lose games is not going to keep the consumers happy, no matter how many times Tony Perez can wave to the fans or give autographs. Considering how fast the Marlins are falling, this question also needs to be answered yesterday.
While there are many other questions that can be put out there regarding this team, I felt that these were important for now. As for the responses I gave, remember that these are just my thoughts. In the end, my thoughts and your thoughts are not the relevant ones – the Marlins’ answers and thoughts are. At some point, the organization will need to answer these.