Thank you, Boston Red Sox.
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Miami Marlins fans all over South Florida are rejoicing about the epic detonation of your All-World, All-Star, All-Money “team.”
The surprising and mind-boggling salary-dump trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the suddenly rich-and-glazy-eyed-crazy Los Angeles Dodgers made the Miami meltdown a mere flesh wound compared to Boston’s reconstructive surgery.
Sure, for all the preseason hype thrown the Marlins way by pundits from all four corners of the diamond, the season has indeed been a major disappointment. After a team record-setting 21-8 May brought the Marlins to a respectable 29-22, a half game behind the then first-place Washington Nationals, the slowly rotting Fish have won only 29 games since, while dropping 49.
It has been a league-wide embarrassment — and one that could’ve spawned several more shameful months of ridicule from the so-called experts. But a funny thing happened on the way to NL East basement: Bobby V and his bumbling BoSox stole the spotlight, the three rings and the whole damn circus from Jeffrey “Barnum” Loria and David “Bailey” Samson.
To top it off, Boston’s season-long bickering and trade of the millennium – which included an unfathomable assumption of $260 million in contract values by the Dodgers – comes on the heels of Boston’s historic nosedive last season. Not what Red Sox fans were expecting. That’s a one-two punch that only Mets fans of the Amazins’ 2007-2008 collapses can relate to in recent years.
While the Marlins moves had many fans believing something would be brewing in South Florida besides tropical storms this summer, the reality is the Marlins added one “sort of” marquee player in Jose Reyes. He alone was not the final piece in a championship puzzle, especially when his arrival created an instant controversy surrounding Hanley Ramirez’ move to third base.
Mark Buehrle? Heath Bell? Carlos Zambrano? Not exactly names that strike fear in hearts of major league ballplayers. Serviceable and dependable coming into 2012, but not champ makers. And each seemed to be consolation prizes for the Marlins failure to land Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson despite aggressive efforts to do so.
What the Marlins needed this year in addition to a few high-quality signings was a healthy and dominant Josh Johnson, and continued growth in productivity from everyday guys coming off sophomore seasons, namely Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez. That and a trip to 2009 in the wayback machine by Hanley where he is told to keep producing at a high level and not to be a pompous, selfish ass in the near future.
And none of that happened, with the exception of Stanton’s breakout season, where he still has a chance to win the home run title despite hitting only one home run in April and then missing 25 games following minor knee surgery.
While Johnson has had stretches of brilliance (and an accompanying lack of run support, to boot), he has not returned to the dominant pitcher he was at the start of 2011. LoMo had nagging injuries coming into the season and never got on track before a trip to the DL ended his season. Sanchez, the biggest disappointment of all, seemingly forgot how to hit a baseball and was banished to Pittsburgh, where his arrival has helped the Pirates spiral out of wild card contention.
Many fans in South Florida are distracted by shiny metal objects and the belief that the Dolphins are Super Bowl relevant despite decades of mediocrity. That’s definitely to the Marlins’ advantage in weathering the dysfunctional storm that is this season. But the Marlins brass still face an offseason of trying to determine what went wrong and to fix what’s broke. For starters, they should re-evaluate the hiring of manager Ozzie Guillen, who never galvanized the clubhouse or fostered chemistry on and off the field. He drew more attention for political comments than he did with the players he was supposed to be guiding. Ozzie seems safe, for now, but I doubt he’ll make it to the All-Star break next year if progress isn’t made.
With a relatively thin free-agent class hitting the market, I can’t help but wonder if the Marlins simply made the wrong moves at what was the right time — the 2011 free-agent market; Pujols was a no-trade clause away from signing.
Now, it’s a matter of seeing how the latest moves play out – were they short-term misfires or gargantuan bungles that will lead to a long-term rebuild? I’m hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.