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"Florida Marlins slumping across the board"


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Sorry if this was posted already:


Tough times for Marlins -- and their fans

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer

May 8, 2006


MIAMI (AP) -- The vendor climbed the steps in the stands behind home plate, searching for customers amid the empty seats during the Florida Marlins' latest loss.


"Buy some peanuts -- you'll feel better," he shouted.


Marlins fans, that scarcest of breeds, are hurting because their team is beyond bad. Not only are the Marlins last in the major leagues in attendance, but they have the fewest wins in the NL, their batters have the most strikeouts, their pitchers have the most walks and their fielding percentage is the worst.


They're even last in the majors in sacrifice flies.


On the bright side: Florida has grounded in the fewest double plays of any team. That's because double plays require base runners.


It seems $15 million -- the size of the Florida payroll -- doesn't buy as much as it used to.


"Bad baseball," said Dontrelle Willis, a 22-game winner last season. He was talking about his most recent performance, which dropped his record to 1-3 and hiked his ERA to 5.15. But "bad baseball" sums up the whole situation.


"Early in the season we couldn't hit," Willis said. "Now we're hitting and we can't pitch."


The Marlins are 8-21 with 10 consecutive home losses, one shy of the franchise record. They have a good chance to tie it Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves, given that starting pitcher Brian Moehler is 0-3 with an ERA of 9.27.


Perhaps the stadium atmosphere -- or the lack of it -- contributes to the absence of any home-field advantage, explaining the Marlins' 2-12 record in Miami. Whatever the reason, the defeats grind on first-year manager Joe Girardi, who spent much of his career at the other end of baseball's food chain with the New York Yankees.


"I hate losing," Girardi said. "I was on a team that won 114 games, and those 48 games we lost, I was miserable. So I'm going to be miserable when we lose. That's just who I am.


"I'm frustrated because I hate losing. But I'm not frustrated with our effort."


Last weekend ranked with the worst in franchise history. A bid for state money failed in the Legislature for the fifth time in six years, leaving the Marlins stymied yet again in their pursuit of a new ballpark.


To compound the misery, Florida fell behind 7-0 three games in a row, losing them all to the St. Louis Cardinals.


"You've got to keep battling every day, even though the situation is kind of tough right now," rookie pitcher Scott Olsen said.


Fans have protested the lousy play primarily by staying away or switching allegiances. Average home attendance is 12,774, less than half the major league average. The only boos are directed at fans who cheer for the visiting team, which will likely happen a lot this week with the neighboring Braves in town.


A single sign disparaging the Marlins was visible Sunday, but the fan holding it used it to shield himself from the sun. He appeared to be asleep underneath.


"Obviously it has been a rough start," said rookie second baseman Dan Uggla, whose .278 average and four homers make him one of the team's few bright spots. "But we feel like we have a chance to win every day."


In this age of competitive imbalance, the Marlins' woeful play isn't unique. They must contend with Kansas City and Pittsburgh for the distinction of being baseball's worst team.


And Florida's poor record is hardly a surprise. For the second time in eight years, ownership ordered an offseason fire sale, leaving the Marlins with the smallest payroll and youngest team in the majors.


With up to six rookies in the lineup, they're learning as they lose.


"You hate to see young players struggle," Girardi said. "You get frustrated because you know they're better than what they're showing.


"You're going to see a different bunch of guys in July, August and September. You're going to see guys who have learned a lot in a quick amount of time who were thrown into the fire."


Still, these are dark days for a franchise that won two World Series titles in the past nine years. The Marlins are on a pace to finish 45-117, which would leave them 19 games behind the 1993 Marlins, an expansion team.


In other words, this franchise appears headed in the wrong direction. Peanuts, anyone?


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