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Marlins better off than you might think


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Posted on Sat, Jul. 03, 2004

 

 

 

 

COMMENTARY | DAN LE BATARD

 

 

Marlins better off than you might think

 

 

The yawning offense seems to be swinging spatulas. Landfills produce better smells than the one coming out of Florida's bullpen. And, ever since the season's first week, the team has been playing losing baseball.

 

Which is another way of saying the Marlins have everyone right where they want them.

 

It's easy to criticize the flawed defending champions today, especially some baffling managerial moves, but South Florida should lower the volume on that. And not just because it was only a few months ago that triumphant Marlins president David Samson was putting out a celebratory cigar on Babe Ruth's Monument Park head in the quietest Yankee Stadium you've ever heard. Fact is, the Marlins, despite obvious limitations, despite two months worse than the Brewers, Indians and Devil Rays, are in a pretty perfect position even after another depressing loss Friday night.

 

They've spent more days in first place than A-Rod's bloated, gluttonous Yankees. If someone had told you before the season that Florida's two best pitchers would be hurt, the relievers would be pelted like extras in the movie Dodgeball and the offense would be dreadful, you would have accepted any transaction that had that team hovering near the top of the standings as the All-Star break approached.

 

At this point last season, remember, the Marlins had a worse record than they do today, and we all saw how that turned out. This starting staff -- the one that beat Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and the Yankees at the height of baseball last postseason -- can still get this team righted upon the return of a healthy Josh Beckett. There isn't anyone in this sport who wants to see these starters come October.

 

HITTER NEEDED

 

Yes, the offense is nothing more than Cabrera And Lowell And Pray Someone Else Finds A Hole. And it hurts to see Pudge Rodriguez as the best hitter in one league and Derek Lee as the hottest hitter not named Bonds in the other. But Florida still ranks ninth in the league in offense. You know where last season's champions ranked? Eighth.

 

In other words, this team isn't built around the flimsy bats, although it would be nice if Jack McKeon stopped using so many of them to bunt, giving away outs for a team that makes enough of them without his help.

 

Bullpen criticism? It's unnecessary. A team on this kind of budget has to save somewhere, and it has chosen to do so in relief. You get what you pay for there -- which isn't much. That can be fixed later in the season, just as it was last season with Chad Fox and Ugueth Urbina.

 

You know who should be worried? The first-place Phillies. They have money and stars and haven't been able to create any kind of gulf between themselves and the wheezing Marlins. They haven't proved they can beat Florida, either, having lost to them 18 of the past 20 times.

 

''We're formidable on all cylinders,'' left fielder Jeff Conine says. ``If you are playing great and a game out of first, uh-oh. But if you are playing terrible and only a game out, that's encouraging.''

 

BOSTON SOBBING

 

This winning stuff isn't easy, you know? Ask Boston fans. Actually, don't. You won't understand them over all the sobbing. That's difficult to understand from South Florida's viewpoint, of course. What's so hard about winning the biggest trophy, Boston? This city has done it twice in the past seven years. What's so hard about toppling the Yankees, Boston? The Marlins did it the last time they saw them.

 

The trick now is to find this year's Cabrera, this year's Dontrelle Willis, although he'll probably come this time via trade instead of call-up.

 

Bleak as the Marlins have looked lately, though, the Phillies still can't like what they see too close in that rear-view mirror.

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Loria/Samson must have let him in on some big news.

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You got that right...

 

It is a sad day among the fans when Le Batard is the one being seen as positive.

And right. There are a few of us here who have been saying for some time that the sky is NOT falling. This team is primed to make a run. The Phillies are the favorites, dont forget that. They have the money, the new park, the new bullpen, the big bats. But they havent been playing very well and their starters, most importantly, have been pretty bad. Ours havent been good either, but we have the talent and the track record (see '03) to give us a blind man's chance. Even Le Retard can see that.

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