(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays).
Two years later, the senseless death of superstar pitching phenom Jose Fernandez still hangs over the Miami Marlins. Fernandez would have been only 22 at the start of this season and unquestionably the staff ace, if not for that unfortunate boat wreck in the dark of night off South Beach where he was found to be legally drunk. And, chances are management would not have chosen to conduct yet another fire sale.
Gone is the entire outfield, led by Giancarlo Stanton and his 59 homers who signed with the New York Yankees to give baseball its most dynamic middle of the order in this generation. So this is truly a rebuilding year in South Florida with a new ownership group headed by Yankee great Derek Jeter. And while letting Stanton, Christian Yelich (Milwaukee) and Marcell Ozuna (St, Louis) go, the Marlins are building for the future with a lot of money to spend.
Manager Don Mattingly is known for patience and he will need every ounce of it. Vegas has the Marlins at 64.5 wins, lowest in the majors. No surprise there. South Point has them at 500-1 to win the World Series and 100-1 to win the AL East. Nothing shocking here. Frustrated Marlins fans are not buying into Jeter’s plan, but he is sticking to it and fully confident that Miami made all the right moves for the future.
We’ll see. The Vegas Golden Knights shocked the world in the NHL. The Marlins resemble preseason Vegas in every form. Oh by the way Dee Gordon, his 60 steals plus 201 hits have gone to Seattle. So who is left?
Well there are two solid pieces in catcher J.T. Realmuto (17 HR, 65 RBI, 278 BA) and first baseman Justin Bour (25 HR, 83 RBI, .289 BA). Dan Straily is penciled in as the ace and has popped off on Stanton’s criticism of the staff. Jose Urena is the No. 2 off 14 wins and a 3.82 ERA and veteran Brad Ziegler takes over as the closer. How many times he will have the chance at closing is a whole other matter.
So Jeter cleaned house seeing that the Marlins were not progressing in the division and Stanton was way too expensive to keep especially with him putting aside his no trade clause. Marlins media seems to think CF Lewis Brinson, one of three top prospects obtained in the Yelich deal, will blossom into a bigtime player. He is slated to start Opening Day.
Whether fans will have the patience of Jeter and Mattingly, remains to be seen. For bettors there’s no other way to look but fifth place and lucky to win 60 games.
Encore: The Marlins get hit right from the start with home games against the Cubs and Red Sox, then heading to Philadelphia.
2017 record: 77-85
2016 record: 79-82
2015 record: 71-91
World Series win odds: 500-1
Odds to win NL East: 100-1
2018 season win total: 64.5