PBMarlin Posted July 3, 2005 Share Posted July 3, 2005 A very nice read by LeBatard Loose Marlins managing to minimize stress BY DAN LE BATARD Knight Ridder Newspapers NEW YORK - (KRT) - It doesn't look like a clubhouse in panic. The Wconversations? Dirty jokes in Spanish and English. Vietnamese torture techniques. The religious statuettes in Luis Castillo's locker. And the $1,000 a TV network is offering a Marlin to wear a microphone during Saturday afternoon's game. You know, the usual stuff. They are tired and hurting, yes. Most teams are during these hot months. Saturday's game at Shea Stadium against the Mets is a day game after a night game, and the travel is exhausting, which is why amphetamines are a bigger baseball problem now than steroids. On their last road trip, the Marlins spent nearly seven hours stuck on a tarmac waiting for an allegedly quick flight from Atlanta to Tampa Bay. On this one, they arrived at their hotel here at 6 a.m. Friday after a rain delay and flying all night. "Everything here is tranquil," Castillo says as groggy Marlins eat breakfast in this cramped visiting clubhouse space, closer Todd Jones drinking his straight from the blender. The smell of eggs and sausage and sweat fills the room. The home team usually has a comfortable and roomy clubhouse area. Major-league. What the visitors get, like this straight out of the 1980s at Shea Stadium, usually stinks. Home-field advantage. Miguel Cabrera, child prodigy, is strutting around nude. He is so very comfortable here at the top of his sport. He is like his favorite player - lovable airhead Manny Ramirez. And the no-brains, no-headaches approach works for him, obviously. Let the opposing scouts and coaches spend the night pouring over spray charts, as Marlins infield coach Perry Hill did his big Friday night in this city, trying to figure out exactly where to position Castillo for Brian Moehler's first pitch to Cliff Floyd. Cabrera will just take all of their advance scouting and hit it over the left-field fence. "Soy un caballo!" Cabrera shouts in Spanish at Hall of Famer Tony Perez, the Marlins' Latin liaison. I am a horse. It is the highest form of Hispanic baseball compliment, being a horse, and Cabrera is playfully paying it to himself. He lets this echo without response from Perez, then amends it. "Soy un caballote!" he shouts at Perez. What's that? "A horse that is bigger than a horse!" Cabrera explains, not boasting as much as speaking the God's Honest Truth. John Smoltz, no slouch, was asked the other day what the Braves say in their pitching meetings about how to pitch Cabrera. "Don't know how to do it," he said. "Don't know how to get him out. I hope to pitch long enough to figure it out." Manny Ramirez, on his way to the Hall of Fame, says Cabrera is going to be better than he is. To this day, one of the most jaw-dropping moments in South Florida sports history was a rookie Cabrera getting knocked down by Roger Clemens in the World Series and then getting up to hit a home run off him to the opposite field. Nobody does that to Clemens. Nobody. That's part of why, when asked what team in the National League he fears most, Smoltz says the Marlins. "They're better than anyone else if they can put it together," he says. "Their pitching staff is so dominant. I don't know why they don't score. If they score three or more, they're winning. Facing them is basically Fear Factor." FLOUNDERING OFFENSE Ah, yes, the lack of scoring. It might be a fatal flaw. Mike Lowell's woes have mathematically offset the addition of Carlos Delgado, leaving Florida looking like the same offense that wasn't nearly good enough last season, ranking in the league's lower half. This slump is ravaging poor Lowell, as proud and professional a player as this franchise has ever had. He wears the pain on his weary face, suffering this game now more than playing it. It is amazing to see what a couple of bad months can do to the confidence of even a three-time All-Star like Lowell, undoing what he has spent a lifetime building. So cruel, baseball. But the Washington Nationals are the most catchable first-place team in the sport. They are a mirage. They give up more runs than they score, and baseball's mathematicians say that'll make them .500 by season's end. You fear Esteban Loiza? So the Marlins appear to have everyone in baseball right where they want them. They've never lost a playoff series as the wild card, after all. Panic if you must. Call for the firing of Jack McKeon and hitting coach Bill Robinson, the benching of Lowell, the trading of A.J. Burnett and the promoting of outfielder Jeremy Hermida if it makes you feel better. But know this: The Marlins are good enough to win this division if Lowell and Juan Pierre start playing to their career norms and GM Admin Beinfest partakes in his usual midseason boldness. A couple of other ways of looking at this: Moehler, Saturday's winning pitcher, and Jones have been everything Al Leiter and Guillermo Mota haven't been. And the Marlins still have a better record today than a Yankees team with the highest payroll in the history of games. They're better, too, than the Mets, who spent more than $150 million this winter on free agents Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez alone. MCKEON IS SAFE McKeon, .500 since winning the trophy in 2003, has earned some cushion. You can't fire someone a season and a half after a championship, no matter how exasperated you are by his ordering bunts in the first inning. Players don't like how much of a detached curmudgeon he can be? Too bad. They didn't like it in 2003, either, when he'd do things like point to the wrong bullpen in San Diego on a pitching change. The manager mispronouncing names is a lot cuter when you are winning the World Series in Yankee Stadium, evidently. This temporary weariness and pain can be wiped away quickly by a stretch of feel-good winning. The perfect reminder floated through the clubhouse like a ghost Saturday afternoon. Broadcaster Jeff Torborg was 19-29 before McKeon replaced him and produced maybe the most unlikely run in South Florida's sports history. Adrenaline is the greatest bandage in sports. Works even better than amphetamines, and without the side effects. Link Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Join the conversation
You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.