News

Sandy Alcantara pitches great, Marlins drop Opening Day game

Sandy Alcantara did what we’ve been expecting him to do.

He pitched great and held the American League champions to no runs through six innings, but the Marlins lost the opening game of the season.

The Marlins started the 2021 season as they finished their run in the playoffs last year: struggling to score runs.

Only three hits, all singles, two by Jesus Aguilar, and one by Jorge Alfaro, were the only offensive production on the day.

Virtually impossible to beat these Rays that way, but it was fun to watch baseball with fans in the stands again.

However, Sandy really made Marlins fans enjoy their comeback to the stands.

Besides struggling a little bit in the first after a two-out base hit by Randy Arozarena, a walk to Brandon Lowe and hit by pitch to Yandy Diaz, and then striking out Kevin Kiermaier, Sandy look imposing on the mound.

A leadoff double in the fourth looked like could have been the beginning of the meltdown, but it was the opposite.  He retired the side after that and cruised the rest of the way, finishing with six very solid innings to start the season.

Austin Meadows was the only difference

Sandy Alcantara and Tyler Glasnow’s face-off was just great. Both starting pitchers dominated, and both bullpens were dominating, until Yimi Garcia came in.

Yimi Garcia had allowed a couple of balls to go deep into the outfield, and Marlins fans were breathing hard already.

Then, the third hard-hit ball of the inning came out of the bat of Austin Meadows and never came back.

That was all the Rays needed to get their first win of the season, and sadly, the Marlins wasted a great performance by their ace.

Aguilar, the one and only

Jesus Aguilar got the first basehit of the season for the Marlins. An infield hit, after a slow bouncer to third baseman Yandy Diaz.

Then, he got the second hit of the season for the Marlins, hitting a ball through the right side of the infield.

Miami got to the eight inning with only two basehits on the board, until Jorge Alfaro got his first of the season (the second infield hit of the day for the Marlins).

Alfaro stole second and the Marlins had the only real opportunity in that eight inning, with pinch hitter Garrett Cooper drawing a walk and Corey Dickerson flying out to left field.

Aguilar came back in the ninth and almost tied the game against Rays’ closer Diego Castillo. He hit it too much on a line drive, and there were the Marlins hopes for the day.

The Marlins face the Rays again on Friday, with Pablo Lopez taking the mound, facing lefty Ryan Yarbrough, starting at 7:10 pm.

 

By Alejandro Villegas | @Alejandrovg32 on Twitter 

Which team (Heat, Lightning, Rays) in Florida will win state’s next title?

It probably doesn’t need saying, but it’s been quite a seven months or so for sports teams in Florida. From September through March, we saw Florida teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, World Series and the Super Bowl. If you count the MLS Is Back Tournament Final, which saw Orlando City SC lose out to Portland, that’s five major sports finals for Florida teams. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

But Florida sports fans already knew all of the above. The more pertinent question is what comes next? Can Florida teams capitalize on the best period of success since the Bucs, Marlins and Lightning won championships between 2002-2004? We just don’t know. But we are going to guess by power ranking every NBA, MLS, NHL and MLB teams by the probability of winning a championship in 2021, starting with the least likely. 

  1. Orlando Magic 

It’s a testament to Florida sports teams’ strength right now that the team at the bottom of these rankings isn’t awful. Orlando has been blighted by injuries this season, and that looks like it might cost the team a third consecutive tilt at the Playoffs. There have been positives, notably Nikola Vucevic emergence as a truly elite NBA player. 

  1. Miami Marlins

Clinching a first postseason berth since 2003 might have convinced Marlins fans that better days lay ahead, but the rebuilding might have to continue in 2021. A problem beyond the team’s own limitations is the strength of the NL East, with both the Mets and Braves tipped to have big seasons.  

  1. Inter Miami CF

Florida’s newest sports club is finding its feet in the MLS. The team has big ambitions, and the acquisition of Phil Neville as head coach looks to be a clever move. Gonzalo Higuain, too, could provide the X-factor and goals. But this is a long term project, and we would be shocked to see Inter Miami in the latter stages of the MLS Cup. 

  1. Miami Heat

It’s not impossible that Miami wins the NBA Championship this year. In fact, the basketball odds at MansionBet put the Heat at 28/1 – about ninth-favorite overall. So, you shouldn’t rule it out. But the team really needs to start winning consistently. We are approaching the half-way point of the season, and Miami sits outside the playoff spots. 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays

Sportsbooks and pundits are quite cool on the Rays’ chances this season. Both MLB and CBS have the Rays at 10th in their power rankings, behind the AL East’s Yankees and Blue Jays. It’s a tough call, but Kevin Cash and the Rays could make those journalists eat their words – again. 

  1. Florida Panthers

It might seem strange to rank the Panthers ahead of the Rays and Miami Heat, but NHL is a little less top-heavy than NBA and MLB, so we rate the Panthers’ chances just a little higher. A lot would have to go right, of course, but this is an organization on an upward trajectory. 

  1. Orlando City SC

You have to like Orlando City’s chances this season. Coach Oscar Pareja has made the team hard to beat, and the run to the final of the MLS Is Back Tournament will act as good experience for the players. Like Inter Miami, they have a potential superstar in Alexander Pato. You get the feeling the Brazilian will either shine or flop, with no in-between. If it’s the former, then Orlando could land the MLS Cup.

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning 

Tampa Bay tops the power rankings and bookmakers’ odds to retain the Stanley Cup in 2021. What more is there to say? The champions are the best team in NHL, and the most likely Floria team to bring home a championship in 2021. 

 

MLB Has Problems

The Issues

MLB used to be the pride of American Sports, but since its days of the steroid era where fans kept up with what was happening, it has been losing its “attractiveness”. MLB may still be bringing in over $10 Billion dollars in revenue (2019) but make no mistake, it seems to be a dying sport. MLB’s outreach to fans has been terrible over the last several years and its marketing of players and the league itself has been horrendous. MLB is having an attendance problem, fewer and fewer people were going to games in person before the pandemic hit.

Attendance

Some people attribute this to the scheduling of games being when the majority of people are still at work when it’s not summertime. I, however, attribute this to the length of the season. It’s not hard to realize that a majority of MLB’s fans are casual fans, meaning they enjoy the game of baseball for the time that they are watching it, but they don’t engage in the fandoms or keep up with what is happening around the league consistently. The 162 game season is too long of a season for most people to truly pay attention to consistently or become truly engaged with the sport.

There’s a reason why the NFL and the NBA didn’t have attendance issues before the pandemic hit and it doesn’t have to do with the pace of play of individual games… I’m referring to you, Manfred. The NFL and the NBA have significantly shorter seasons than MLB and their attendance is always high *for the average capacity of their arenas* and their viewership is always consistently high.

Marketing

I can tell you with absolute certainty that if Mike Trout, who is the undisputed best player in baseball, were to walk into a random subway, the majority of people wouldn’t recognize him, and that’s an issue. The NFL and the NBA do a TREMENDOUS job of marketing their players to the point where their players intentionally look for the camera after scoring a touchdown or hitting a three pointer. Before games when players are walking through the tunnels, they showcase the clothes that they’re wearing, and then it’s showcased all over the media. Unless an MLB player makes a 5-star catch, you won’t see any MLB coverage on platforms not called MLB Network.

MLB has said in the past that their goal is to grow the game all over the world and all over the country, well you can’t do that if you have blackouts of games for people who pay for MLB TV who want to watch their local team now can you Commissioner Manfred… as a whole, MLB has completely whiffed on its marketing “goals”. They paid too much attention to wanting to speed up the pace of play on a game that doesn’t run on a clock and not enough time appeasing their fans.

Solutions

If MLB wants to get back into the national spotlight of the major US sports they absolutely need to make changes on how they operate. Starting with the length of the season. Shortening the season to 120-125 games wouldn’t be the end of the world for those who are die-hard 162 game fans but it would make teams more competitive throughout the season and retain fan interest.

If MLB wants to increase their average attendance of games, they need to schedule games when fans are more often available to attend. Noon games and games that start before 4:15 pm are not helping to get fans into the ballpark. Want more fans at the ballpark? Start games at 6:05 pm and later, no one wants to sit in the hot sun during a three-hour game anyway.

MARKET YOUR PLAYERS. Show off their clothes when they’re walking in, let them wear custom cleats with designs on them, let them wear custom-designed gear in general consistently, we as fans love the custom gear, have one on one interviews with them, promote them nationally, and not just locally for the team they play for. There are so many ways to market players and MLB is doing a terrible job in virtually every way possible.

Make mic’d ups a consistent thing, hearing what the players talk about among each other while on the field and hearing how managers and umpires argue is media and fandom gold. New camera angles would be a fantastic edition, having umpire/catcher cams would 100% make the game more fun. As fans, most of us don’t know what it’s like to go up against 100+mph or 90mph sliders and changeups, while seeing what the umpire sees and actually see how close of a call it would be.

Lastly, just stop blacking out games to paying customers who can’t even watch their favorite team who they’re paying to see.

 

Marlins Ng

Marlins Missing More FA Opportunities

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Chasen Shreve to a minor league deal today. Shreve is a crafty left that utilizes a devastating splitter to his advantage, which led to a solid 3.96 ERA over 25 innings with the Mets last season. The Miami Marlins had an interest in Shreve throughout this offseason, but couldn’t seal the deal.

Shreve Loss is not the issue

This is not a devastating loss, but Shreve offered another cheap option for the Marlins to bolster their middle of the road bullpen. As Kim Ng mentioned in her latest press conference, this Marlins team looks to be what we will see on Opening Day. Reports have led me to believe the Marlins are still looking for bullpen pieces this upcoming season. Names such as Brandon Kintzler continue to pop up, but with less and less time to pull the trigger, the Marlins may settle for what they have. 

Is the Marlins bullpen enough as is?

The bullpen, especially the backend, provided stability last season for the Marlins that allowed them to close out close games as most of their games were decided by a few runs. With less and less options on the market, it is hard to believe that the current bullpen will be enough to sustain a playoff run in a 154 game season. On the same end, it is unlikely any single addition would boost this bullpen to the next level. 

Overall

As more time passes and more names fall off the list of potential additions, Marlins fans may have to accept what we are seeing now is exactly what we are going to get. Nothing about this roster stands out to me as a playoff roster, but then again, neither did last year’s.

 

Marlins Rule 5

Marlins Active During Rule 5 Draft

The Miami Marlins front office has remained largely quiet so far this offseason, but that changed during Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Marlins added five players to the organization but also saw a player plucked from their minor league system.

Miami has a long history of activity in the Rule 5 Draft, with some significant successes. Many of the players who’ve been drafted in this setup don’t make much of a difference. However, 33 All-Stars have been selected during this process over the years, as well as one Hall of Famer (Roberto Clemente).

Marlins Land Two Pitchers in Rule 5 Draft

The Marlins held the No. 13 overall selection in this year’s Rule 5 draft and chose right-handed pitcher Paul Campbell from the Tampa Bay Rays. Miami also added reliever Zach Pop in a draft-day trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Campbell comes to Miami with the potential to make an immediate impact as a long reliever and spot starter. Rated the Rays’ No. 24 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Campbell sports high spin rates on his fastball, curveball and slider. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph with cut action and he has good command.

For his career, Campbell registers a 3.12 ERA with 188 strikeouts, allowing opponents to hit just .231 against him.

The Marlins picked up Pop from Arizona in exchange for the infamous player-to-be-named-later. Pop actually comes from the Baltimore Orioles’ system, as the Diamondbacks selected him with the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft. Pop made his way to Baltimore as part of the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.

Pop underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 but profiles as a potential closer. When healthy, his arsenal includes an upper-90s sinker and a plus slider. His fastball clocked at mid-to-upper 90s prior to his surgery.

In limited opportunities due to injury, Pop piled up 80 strikeouts over 80.1 IP. He’s registered eight saves in 11 opportunities and sports a 1.34 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP.

There’s high upside for both of these pitchers. If they can reach their potential, both will be significant upgrades for the Marlins bullpen. These additions complete Miami’s 40-man roster, but that will not prevent the team from being engaged in both the free agent and trade markets.

Minor League Additions (and Subtraction)

The Marlins remained active during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft as well, which is set up in a similar way to the MLB phase. If a player is picked from Double-A, they move to Triple-A. Single-A players move to Double-A with their new club.

Miami selected three players during this phase. They nabbed LHP Jake Fishman from the Blue Jays, RHP Dylan Bice from the Rangers and INF Marcus Chiu from the Dodgers.

Fishman might be the best of the three picks. He’s a low-slot lefty reliever with some starting experience. At 6-foot-3, the 25-year-old’s awkward angle and horizontal movement of his fastball make him an interesting prospect. He figures to be a Triple-A reliever in 2021, but could see a promotion during the season.

Bice is a 23-year-old hard-throwing reliever who hasn’t pitched above Single-A. Chiu is a 23-year-old utility infielder with some power but who hit just .215 at High-A in 2019.

The Marlins lost right-handed reliever Brett Graves during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Interestingly, Oakland picked Graves from the Marlins three years after Miami took him from the A’s in the 2017 Rule 5 draft.

Injury issues stalled Graves’ development with the Fish. He made 21 appearances for the Marlins in 2018. He registered 21 strikeouts over 33.1 innings pitched and notched one win, one loss and one save along the way. Graves spent 2019 between Double-A and Triple-A, and wasn’t part of Miami’s 60-man player pool in 2020.

Marlins Rule 5 History

The Marlins have had some success in the past during the Rule 5 draft. The team nabbed Dan Uggla from Arizona in 2005. Uggla put up some gaudy numbers for the Marlins over his five-year run with the Fish and remains Top-10 in 30 offensive statistical categories for the franchise. He’s No. 2 all-time in home runs (154) and strikeouts (760), and No. 6 in RBI (465).

In 2013, the Marlins selected Justin Bour from the Chicago Cubs during the minor league phase of the draft. Bour went on to parts of play five seasons with the Fish, hitting 83 homers, 63 doubles and driving in 272 runs. In 2017, the Marlins added Elieser Hernandez from the Astros and he pitched very well for the Fish in 2020.

Last year, the Marlins selected RHP Sterling Sharp from the Nationals, but ultimately returned the reliever to Washington after an unsuccessful stint.

Interestingly, the Marlins were also involved in the Rule 5 selection of two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. In 2000, the Astros left Santana off of their 40-man roster and the Marlins, who held the No. 2 pick that year, selected the future star.

The Marlins then flipped Santana to the Minnesota Twins in what was later deemed a prearranged draft-day deal. The Marlins received minor leaguer in Jared Camp, who the Twins had taken with the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft that year, and $50,000. Camp didn’t make the Marlins Opening Day roster that year and was ultimately returned to the Cleveland Indians. Santana, meanwhile, went one to be a four-time All-Star and won the AL Cy Young in 2004 and 2006.

Marlins offseason

Marlins Moves This Offseason

MLB’s offseason begins far quieter than that of the NBA. While basketball fans see a flurry of moves come the moment free agents can agree with new teams, baseball moves at a much slower pace. Although teams have been able to sign free agents for weeks, only a handful have done so. The Marlins started this offseason by bringing in a new GM, and this week, Kim Ng finally started making moves.

Marlins Offseason Starts with a Trade

On Monday, the Marlins acquired right-hander Adam Cimber from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. In 152 career MLB appearances, Cimber posts a 3.89 ERA with 104 strikeouts and 38 walks over 136.1 innings pitched.

Cimber, 30, works as a sidearm hurler and provides Miami with a unique look out of the bullpen. Although his fastball only averages around 86 mph, he’s generated good results as an MLB reliever, including posting a 3.97 ERA and 3.99 FIP with a 52.4 percent groundball rate and a 1.59 BB/9 in 2020.

New Marlins GM Kim Ng noted Cimber’s “very unorthodox delivery” during her media availability on Thursday morning. She also said: “He’s just a really difficult guy to prepare for as a hitter. That was one of the very attractive things that we found out about him.”

The Indians will receive $100K, according to the Associated Press. That figure matches what a team would fork over when making a Rule 5 selection. This implies the Marlins are looking to build out the bullpen with veteran MLB arms instead of looking for a diamond in the rough.

“We need some help back there,” Ng said of the bullpen.

Last season, Miami made right-handed reliever Sterling Sharp a Rule 5 pick to little avail. Sharp pitched in four games for the Fish, going 0-0 with a 10.13 ERA over 5.1 innings with three strikeouts. He was returned to the Nationals and ultimately assigned to their Triple-A affiliate.

Marlins DFA Jose Urena

To make room for Cimber, the Marlins designated right-hander Jose Urena for assignment. The longest tenured Marlin on the roster, Urena’s time with the Fish comes to an end with mixed results. The Opening Day starter in both 2018 and 2019, Urena never found the consistency needed to perform at the highest levels. He was certainly miscast as an Ace.

In 2020, Urena, 29, resumed his role as a starter after an ill-fated run as a reliever in 2019. He posted a 5.40 ERA and 6.06 FIP with 5.79 K/9 and 5.01 BB/9 rates over 23.1 innings. His season ended painfully when he suffered a fractured right forearm at the end of September.

Urena proved to be an innings-eater from 2017 through 2018, but never developed beyond that. He’ll be most remembered for his clashes with Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. The Marlins elected to cut ties with Urena rather than pay the expected $4 million price tag for him.

Marlins Offseason: Non-Tender Deadline Signings

The Marlins made additional moves on Wednesday at MLB’s non-tender deadline. The team surprised some by inking both first basemen, Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper, to new contracts. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the Universal DH for 2021, the Marlins elected to bring back a player in Aguilar deemed be a leader on last year’s club.

Aguilar hit .277 in 2020, with 10 doubles, eight home runs and 34 RBI over 188 at-bats. His infectious attitude and joy seemed to help spark the young group last season. It was a solid bounce-back for Aguilar after a subpar 2019 landed him on the waiver wire in Tampa Bay. Aguilar’s $4.35 million one-year deal includes a $150K bonus for plate appearances.

Cooper, meanwhile, took over as the team’s main first basemen through the playoffs. After his stint on the injured list while dealing with COVID, Cooper returned to hit .283 with eight doubles, six home runs and 20 RBI over 120 at-bats. His clutch home run in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Chicago Cubs helped propel the Marlins into the NLDS.

Cooper’s injury history earned him some doubters along the way, including Marlins manager Don Mattingly, but he seemed to overcome those this season. That said, his $1.8 million one-year deal includes plate-appearance bonuses that could push his earnings to over $2 million.

No Real Non-Tender Surprises

The Marlins agreed to tender contracts to most of the eligible players on their list. Among them: third baseman Brian Anderson, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and relievers Cimber, Richard Bleier and Yimi Garcia.

The only player to be non-tendered by the team was reliever Ryne Stanek. The Marlins acquired Stanek in a 2019 trade deadline deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Miami shipped reliever Nick Anderson and right-hander Trevor Richards to the Rays for Stanek and outfield prospect Jesús Sanchez. Unfortunately for the Fish, if Sanchez doesn’t become a frontline player, that seems like a lost deal.

Stanek came to the Marlins as a potential closer, but he never seemed to overcome injury issues. In 31 appearances for Miami, he posted a 6.03 ERA, allowing 21 earned runs over 31.1 innings. He registered 39 strikeouts and 27 walks, a 1.76 WHIP.

No Extension for Andy

The Marlins tendered a contract to Anderson Wednesday but not a long-term deal. MLB Trade Rumors projects Miami’s 27-year-old third baseman to earn somewhere between $2.2 and $4.2 million.

Anderson anchored Miami’s lineup for much of 2020. He played 59 of the 60 games and put up a .255 batting average with seven doubles, 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 200 at-bats. His sterling defense at the hot corner saw him earn a spot as a finalist for the Gold Glove at third. For his career, Anderson sports a .266 batting average with 42 home runs and 177 RBI.

“I personally would like to see how this year goes before we venture down that road, so I have a better understanding of who he is as a player and get a better sense of the situation,” Marlins GM Kim Ng said Thursday.

Other Marlins Offseason Tidbits from Ng

  • Ng noted the Marlins top offseason priority will be the bullpen. Miami’s added Cimber, but lost Stanek, as well as former closer Brandon Kintzler and late-inning reliever Brad Boxberger.
  • Ng said the Marlins will have an open competition at second base, pitting Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm against one another. The team isn’t beyond adding another player to this competition for the spring.
  • Ng also mentioned the team will look to add another bat to the lineup.

Don’t miss the latest Marlins Report episode on the Five Reasons Sports YouTube Channel! Check it out below!

Marlins offseason

Marlins Offseason Primer

Miami made history last week with the hiring of Kim Ng to fill their open general manager position. Ng arrives with an extensive and impressive resume. She’s earned her spot atop a front office with 30 years of experience. Now, she helms the Marlins as they move into a pivotal offseason.

The Marlins fast-forwarded the timeline of their rebuild last season by crashing MLB’s postseason. After finishing 31-29, Miami swept the Cubs in the Wild Card Round to advance to the NLDS. But a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Braves laid bare clear deficiencies on their roster.

Here’s a look at what Ng, Derek Jeter and the Marlins need to consider this offseason to build on last season’s successes.

Marlins Offseason: Sort out the 40-man Roster

Step one for Ng and Co may very well be sorting out the 40-man roster. As it stands this week, Miami’s 40-man remains loaded with pitchers (21). 17 position players fill out the remainder of the list. None of those players are expected to be removed from the 40-man roster, which has two open slots.

Why does this matter? The Rule-5 Draft. Minor leaguers who have exceeded a threshold of service time within an organization must be added to their team’s 40-man roster by November 20th or else teams risk them being poached by other clubs in the Rule 5 Draft.

SS José Devers, OF Jerar Encarnación and LHP Will Stewart stand among the prospects that need to be added to the 40-man or risk being lost in the draft. That’s at least three players for just two available spots at present. Something’s gotta give.

Miami has had success with Rule 5 in the past, like poaching Elieser Hernandez from the Astros in 2017. In 2013, the Marlins landed Justin Bour from the Cubs in the minor league phase of the draft. The club’s biggest success in the Rule 5 draft remains picking Dan Uggla from the Diamondbacks in 2005.

In 2019, the Marlins selected Sterling Sharp from Washington, but eventually returned the reliever to the Nationals after an unsuccessful stint with the club.

Offensive Needs

The Marlins surprised many with their resilient play and postseason push in 2020. Many of the talented young prospects got their first taste of MLB competition. Miami saw 18 players make their MLB debuts in 2020. While much of that came out of necessity after the COVID-19 outbreak, some of those players proved ready to contribute at baseball’s highest level.

That said, there remain clear deficiencies on this roster. Ng could turn to the trade market to address some of these issues, but others can be solved by signing free agents.

The Marlins offense sputtered at times last season. The finished 2020 23rd in runs-per-game, averaging 4.23 per contest. While a marked improvement on their 2019 figure (3.80), runs-per-game still needs to be closer to 5.0 to be considered a high-octane offense.

It wasn’t just run scoring where Miami lagged. The team managed a middle-of-the-pack batting average (.244) and on-base percentage (.319), ranked 17th for both. They struggled with slugging percentage (.384), coming in at 25th in MLB.

Home runs were also difficult to come by. Miami’s 60 homers in 2020 were also just 25th in baseball. The connected on 0.98 homers-per-game (26th), a number that slightly improved upon 2019’s 0.90 rate (30th).

What this means is, Ng and the Marlins front office need to consider adding a bat or two this offseason.

Marlins Players with Much to Prove

The lack of faith in Jorge Alfaro during the postseason indicated that catcher could be an offseason focus. Chad Wallach can’t be the everyday catcher for a playoff contender.

Another position of need could be second base. The Marlins hoped Isan Diaz would be the answer there, but the young slugger struggled to find consistency. Diaz underwhelmed in 2019, then lost much of 2020 to a brief opt out and eventual injury.

Jazz Chisholm performed well in moments during 2020 and remained the most productive of the positional prospects that got run last season. Although acquired as a shortstop, Chisholm could take second base.

The Marlins would do well though to add another middle infielder to the mix. They don’t have to focus on a single position, considering Miguel Rojas’s versatility.

The other position that could use an upgrade is corner outfield. Corey Dickerson underwhelmed in his first season with the Fish and right field was a turnstile throughout the season. Although the team expects Harold Ramirez to return from his leg injury, there’s still a clear need for a power bat in the middle of this lineup.

Pitching Needs

The strength of Miami’s team last season came from the pitching staff. The starting rotation, once fully healthy after the COVID outbreak, stood as a potentially elite grouping. Heading into 2020, the Marlins top arms include Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez.

In 2020, the Marlins came in 21st with a team ERA of 4.86. Roster turnover warped that figure though, as Miami pressed a number of young arms into service before they were ready for MLB hitting. The starters fared better, with a 4.31 ERA (14th), but even that number is skewed.

Combining Alcantara, Lopez, Hernandez and Sanchez’s numbers in 2020 would yield a 3.34 ERA. That would’ve been the third-lowest starter ERA in MLB last season.

But Miami can’t throw just four arms in a season, so they’ll need some help in the rotation. José Ureña is the club’s longest tenured player, but he could be released. Daniel Castano pitched admirably at times, but he could use more seasoning at the Triple-A level.

This means the Marlins could use at least one veteran starter this offseason. Someone who can eat innings and bridge the gap to the frontend of the rotation.

The Marlins also need help in the backend of the bullpen. The Marlins declined closer Brandon Kintzler’s $4 million option and saw Brad Boxberger hit free agency. Yimi Garcia returns for 2020, but Miami definitely needs to add at least one more high-leverage arm to a bullpen that posted a collective 5.50 ERA in 2020 (26th).

Marlins Offseason Options

The Marlins’ new GM has her work cut out for her in free agency. While there’s the possibility of adding someone like Francisco Lindor via trade, the club will more likely look to add a few pieces to reasonable deals.

Former Marlin J.T. Realmuto tops the free agent list this season, but he might be looking for more money than Miami is willing to offer. Former White Sox catcher James McCann may be a more realistic target for the Fish, but even he could be expensive. McCann has hit .276 with 25 home runs and 75 RBI in 149 games over the last two seasons. He’s considered one of the best pitch framers in the business.

Another catching option could be Tampa Bay Ray’s Mike Zunino.

For the middle infield, Miami’s options expand somewhat. At second base, DJ LeMahieu may be too pricey, but former Athletic Tommy La Stella or former Cardinal Kolten Wong could be signed. Former Dodger (and Marlin) Enrique ‘Kike’ Hernandez would provide a versatile utility veteran, as well.

If they’re in the market for a shortstop, Didi Gregorius and Marcus Semien head that list. Andrelton Simmons and Freddy Galvis could be options as well.

As far as a power bat for either the corner outfield or designated hitter slot, Miami may seek a reunion with Marcell Ozuna. If he proves to be too expensive, perhaps Michael Brantley or Nelson Cruz could be inked. Other names here include Jay Bruce, Brett Gardner and Joc Pederson.

Pitching Options

For the starting staff, Miami may turn to a World Series veteran like Charlie Morton. It’s unlikely they’ll be in the running for someone like Trevor Bauer, but taking a flyer on left-hander James Paxton could be interesting. Mike Minor and Jake Odorizzi are also talented, playoff-experienced options.

The bullpen market remains robust, so the Marlins have plenty of options there. Liam Hendricks may prove to be too pricey for the Fish, but maybe someone like Trevor May or Trevor Rosenthal could be added. Former Marlin Brad Hand is coming off a great season with the Indians. Former Padres closer Kirby Yates could be an interesting addition as well.

A best-case scenario could see the Marlins add a catcher (Realmuto or McCann) and difference-making bat to the middle of the order (Ozuna or Lindor), as well as a middle infielder (Semein or Hernandez). They’d also land high-leverage relievers (Rosenthal and Yates) and at least one starter (Odorizzi or Paxton).

Marlins Payroll & Arbitration

It will be interesting to see if this augmented front office elects to increase the team’s payroll. Miami may have a new TV deal in the works, and could use the naming rights to Marlins Park for another revenue stream. In 2020, the Marlins sported the third-lowest pro-rated payroll in MLB at $28.5 million. That was in line with their 2019 approach, which saw the Marlins payroll come in at $71.2 million, the second-lowest in baseball.

It remains to be seen what Ng and the Marlins will do from a payroll stand point. At present, Starling Marte leads the club with a $12.5 million salary. Dickerson is on the books for $9.5 million. Rojas comes in at $5 million.

From there, the Marlins  have eight players who are arbitration eligible: Jesus Aguilar, Alfaro, Brian Anderson, Richard Bleier, Garrett Cooper, Garcia, Ryne Stanek and Urena. Most of these players would be in line for a raise from their 2020 salaries.

The Marlins have until December 2 to decide whether or not to tender them contracts. The team could (and probably should) consider extensions for players like Anderson and Cooper, at the very least. Aguilar, meanwhile, may have to wait to see if the National League gets to use the Designated Hitter moving forward. If so, he’s likely to have a role. If not, given Cooper’s play and Lewin Diaz being on the cusp, Aguilar may be jettisoned.

Miami’s payroll should be north of $62 million for 2021. And if the team gets new TV deal and sells the naming rights to Marlins Park, it could be much higher than that.

Marlins free agent

Top 5 Free Agent Targets For Miami Marlins

It’s no surprise coming off an incredible 60-game season which saw the Marlins make their first postseason appearance in 17 years (and win a playoff series at that) amid a COVID-19 outbreak which ravaged the roster three games into the season that Jeter and Co. are looking to build upon their 2020 success. This starts when the Marlins turn to the free agent market.

This process really began with the monumental hiring of Kim Ng as the team’s next general manager, marking the first time that a woman had been named GM of any North American professional sports team. Further, it is the first time that a Asian-American has held the role, breaking a barrier that had stunted the success of women and minorities in sports while giving new hope and inspiration to girls from all different ethnicities and walks of life interested in a high-level career in sports.

This, however, does not mark the end of the offseason for the Fish. It’s only the beginning. With a seemingly minuscule payroll relative to the rest of the league at $46 million and an ownership group which has made it clear that they’re willing to spend appropriately, there are several aspects of the Major League roster that could be improved upon via free agent additions to make the club even better heading into the 2021 season. 

Today, we’ll take a look at the top five free agent targets for the Marlins this offseason.

Marlins Free Agent Target No. 5: Michael Brantley, OF/DH

The Fish’s depth chart in the outfield is, crowded, to say the least. Despite this, the team had a combined bWAR of 0.4 in the outfield in 2020, due to struggles from rookie Monte Harrison and a lack of production from veteran left fielder Corey Dickerson. Though the Marlins have many prospects on the horizon awaiting their ability to contribute at the highest level and impact player Starling Marte manning center, the Fish still lack a consistent, everyday hitter. Enter: Michael Brantley.

Brantley has swung the bat well everywhere he’s been. He posts a career 116 OPS-plus while bringing solid power numbers and a high average to the table. Unlike Dickerson, Brantley is an above-average left fielder. He had one of the highest DRS (defensive-runs-saved) totals of any left-fielder in the truncated 2020 season with five. Adding a professional bat into the lineup who wouldn’t be a liability in the outfield while providing DH flexibility (assuming the DH stays in the National League in 2021) could provide the Marlins a substantially better offense.

Drawbacks to Adding Brantley

However, there are several downsides to this signing. As stated, the Marlins have MANY outfield options. Dickerson, Lewis Brinson, Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, Magneuris Sierra, and JJ Bleday are all assured or competing for a spot. If Brantley is signed with the intentions of him DH’ing, what does that mean for Garrett Cooper or Jesus Aguilar?

With Aguilar coming off a resurgent year and Cooper cementing himself as a legitimate threat in the lineup, only one of the two can play first base at a time. That leaves the other on the bench if Brantley is the DH. This wouldn’t bode well for the Marlins, as they could see a drop off in production in the two if they were not playing every day, which they should be. The two combined were 25 percent better than the average major league hitter (a .125 OPS-plus).

My conclusion is this. With the logjam of outfielders and lack of a spot for him, the Fish shouldn’t consider talks with Brantley. That is, unless one or multiple pieces at either first base or outfield are moved to make room for him. If this occurs, then the enticing upside of the left-fielder may reel Ng and Jeter into pushing for a deal.

Free Agent Target No. 4 Tommy La Stella, 2B

After the departure of Starlin Castro via free agency in the 2019 offseason, it was all but given that former top prospect Isan Diaz would run away with the starting second base role. However, a pandemic halted any of these talks. Diaz, who had presumably won the role during the summer camp ramp-up before the season, made the tough decision to opt-out of 2020 play. He cited concern over the virus for his and his family’s sake.

This led Jonathan Villar (among many others) to play the position when play resumed. Villar was traded to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline, leading to speculation as to who would man the spot. Soon thereafter, Isan opted back into the season to play the remainder of the year with the Fish. As exciting as this was, it did not provide many results. He slashed .182/.182/.182 in seven games before going out with a groin injury, ending his season.

Top prospect Jazz Chisholm split time with utility man Jon Berti after this, though it’s possible Jazz was rushed to the bigs, as he posted a .161/.242/.321 slash line in his cup of coffee. 

Adding La Stella

This lack of production, aside from Berti, who has provided consistent offense, speed, and defense during his tenure, though does not fit into the Marlins’ future plans at age 30, leads to questions about Diaz and Chisholm’s actual readiness for the big leagues, and raises questions as to whether or not the duo should start 2021 with the team’s Triple-A affiliate. If this is in Ng’s plans, she may seek a stopgap at the position, whether to split time with Berti or to play there every day. This stopgap could be Tommy La Stella.

La Stella would be a nice fit in Miami as a left-handed infielder with positional flexibility and consistent contact. (27 walks to only 12 strikeouts in 2020.) He improved his power numbers (slugging percentage of .486 and .449 in 2019 and 2020 compared to .331 in 2018). La Stella could either split time with Berti (La Stella is a .303 hitter vs righties compared to a  .216 one vs lefties). Or play there every day until Isan or Jazz proves they’re ready for the highest level. At that point, La Stella could be flipped for more prospect depth at the deadline.

Potential Negatives to La Stella

A negative facet to this signing is similar to that of the proposed Brantley one, heavy depth at the position. With unofficial captain Miguel Rojas holding down the fort at shortstop in 2021, Chisholm and Diaz are both competing for the job at second. This leads to a possibility that one or the other show they are ultimately ready for the position during spring training. Even 21-year-old Jose Devers could be in the mix. He was added to the team’s taxi squad during their postseason run despite never playing above class A-advanced in the minors.

This leaves La Stella in a tough spot if he is signed. He can’t play third because of Brian Anderson. First base remains loaded with major league depth, and second may not garner much playing time either. Not even a DH role would be guaranteed. Inking La Stella to a deal is useless if he doesn’t play every day.

With a contract I expect will demand upwards of $7-million, signing La Stella to a one-year deal would speak lengths as to where the organization feels Isan and Jazz are. He would most likely be their placeholder until one is ready. Otherwise, a diminished role is a moot utilization of the 31-year-old veteran.

Marlins Free Agent Taget No. 3: James McCann, C

Perhaps the most important position to address, the Marlins did not see much production at all from two of their top three catchers in 2020. Aside from Francisco Cervelli (who has retired), the Marlins’ two other catchers on the roster from Opening Day on were not very valuable behind the dish.

Jorge Alfaro, the team’s immediate catcher of the future after trading J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies in 2019, has seemed to regress from his time with his old team. A gaudy K rate of 33.1 percent in 2019 was somehow topped this year in 2020, as Jorge K’d 36 percent of the time this past season (36 strikeouts in 100 at-bats). He provided a negative dWAR all the while. His struggles on both sides of the ball warranted his benching during the postseason. Backup catcher Chad Wallach, who slashed .227/.277/.364 in the regular season, started over him. Manager Don Mattingly cited defense as the reason. 

This tandem posted a combined -0.4 WAR in 2020. And though Alfaro was infected by COVID-19 and never got into a groove, this lack of impact behind the plate cannot be perpetuated if the Marlins want to contend in 2021. Especially with little catching depth at the minor league level.

Upgrading at Catcher a Must

This leads to the possibility of the Fish signing former Tiger and White Sox catcher James McCann. It would be a GREAT signing at that. The 30-year-old has been one of the most consistent backstops over the last two seasons, posting a solid 4.0 oWAR and 126 OPS-plus in that time frame. And that isn’t all.

He has been VERY valuable behind the plate. He registered a nine DRS and a 32 percent caught-stealing-rate since 2019, whilst ranking in the top 11 percent in framing in 2020 (per Baseball Savant). Alfaro ranked in the 34th percentile in said metric in 2019 (not enough data to track this season). Meaning, McCann was able to steal strikes for his pitchers a lot more effectively than Alfaro.

Signing McCann would allow for Miami’s young starting pitching core to build a better rapport and trust with him. And they would in turn be more successful due to the intangibles and experience McCann has that Alfaro unfortunately lacks.

Final Thoughts on McCann

McCann’s dWAR the past two seasons alone (1.7) is more than Alfaro and Wallach’s total WAR combined in that time (1.1). 

The only qualm with signing him is the money he may command. The highest AAV on the books belongs to Starling Marte at $12.4 million over one-year. Though ownership cited a willingness to spend, it’s possible McCann could seek an AAV upwards of $15 million over several years, a financial commitment I’m not sure the Fish are willing to make.

Furthermore, if McCann is signed and deemed the catcher for the foreseeable future, where does that leave Alfaro? Undoubtedly talented with a rare combination of power and speed for a catcher, his role as a backup at age 27 could stunt any further player growth and even diminish his confidence. This could lead to the possibility that he’d be traded if McCann were inked to a deal in Miami.

Closing thoughts? McCann in caliente red makes all the sense as the position lacks production offensively and defensively with the current options. But the looming inevitability of a big payday and the inquiries surrounding current starter Jorge Alfaro’s role lead to many questions as to the legitimacy of a deal materializing

Free Agent Target No. 2: Alex Colome, RHP

The most obvious allocation of 2021 free agent money should be towards the Marlins’ bullpen. With some of their biggest 2020 contributors in Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler becoming free agents, the Fish should aim to resign those two. Yimi Garcia, signed in the 2019 offseason, dazzled in 2020. And he looks to be a key setup man moving forward. However, there isn’t much certainty after that.

Right-hander Jamey Hoyt was effective with a 1.23 ERA this past season. But the 34-year-old was in the bottom eight percent in exit velocity per Baseball Savant. He threw his slider 67 percent of the time, leading to regression and predictability concerns.

Jose Urena, the longest-tenured member of the organization currently, had a rough 2020 amid a bout with COVID and a season-ending forearm fracture. He finished with a 5.40 ERA and 6.06 FIP. Other bullpen arms weren’t too reliable, either. This includes Ryne Stanek (diminished velocity and pitch effectiveness), Stephen Tarpley (BB/9 of 6 with average stuff), Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert (unproven rookies who struggled with COVID), and Jordan Yamamoto (let’s not talk about it).

Signing Colome Helps the Bullpen

If nothing else, signing Alex Colome would make that heads or tails bullpen a bit less worrisome. The Dominican right-hander logged 22 and a third sparkling innings for the White Sox in 2020. He pitched to a 0.81 ERA combined with a 2.97 FIP, ensuring that his success wasn’t influenced by good luck. The numbers back this up. He was above average in exit velocity, xSLG (expected slugging percentage against), and barrel percent (how frequent opposing batters barreled him) percentiles. This means he induced soft contact the entire year and was rarely hit hard.

This bodes well for a Marlins ‘pen that has had many volatile relievers who have had elite stuff but weren’t been able to limit hard contact, and he’d immediately fit into a setup or even closer’s role.

There aren’t many downsides to a signing like this, except for fear of regression due to the fickle nature of relievers in general. It may be noted though that Colome only relies on two pitches: a high-80s cutter and a mid-90s fastball. As long as Colome does not lose velocity on his four-seam fastball, as Kenley Jansen did, all indications point to continued effectiveness from him.

This would be a slam-dunk signing by the Fish. A one-year deal for $12-ish million would fortify a bullpen with high upside but many inconsistent performers. Colome’s track record, veteran experience, and overall ability would make the Marlins even better in 2021.

Marlins Free Agent Target No. 1: Brad Hand, LHP

Nothing more necessarily needs to be said about the Marlins’ bullpen. But for what it’s worth, lefty Richard Bleier cannot be the only southpaw to hold the fort down. Tarpley’s future fit with the team is questionable even right now. Hmmm…if only there were a former Marlin on the free-agent market who became one of the most effective left-handed relievers in the game after departing from the team. Oh wait, there is…BRAD HAND!

Hand has been nothing but rock solid since being DFA’d by the Fish back in 2015. He’s posted a 2.70 ERA and 157 ERA-plus (meaning he has been 57 percent better than the average MLB pitcher) between 2016 and 2020. And racked in an amazing 1.37 FIP in the truncated 2020 season for the Indians.

Hand still has an elite slider, one that moves 7.2 inches more than the average slider. Though he may not have a 95-mph fastball anymore, his low-90s heater plays up due to high spin rates (top 14 percent in fastball spin). He still performs extremely well in expected stats such as xERA (expected ERA), xSLG, and xBA (expected opponent batting average), leading to the low FIP.

Will Hand Accept a Pay Cut?

Barring an unwillingness to pay Hand a probable salary of $10-$14 million, he should fit in amazingly with Bleier. The two could form one of the best southpaw duos in the sport. One would contributed as a late relief option and the other projecting as the dominant closer they’ve vied for for ages.

Whether the Fish sign one, two, multiple, all, or none of these guys, the 2021 Miami Marlins offseason is set to be filled with tons of hype and excitement for hopefully a much better 162-game product than we’ve seen in a long time.

Mattingly manager of the year

Marlins’ Mattingly Named NL Manager of the Year

Yesterday, Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) named Don Mattingly National League Manager of the Year. He joins Jack McKeon (2003) and Joe Girardi (2006), becoming the third Marlins manager to win the award.

Mattingly manned the helm for the Marlins during a turbulent season that eventually ended in the NLDS. The Marlins sailed over preseason predictions and vaulted into the NL playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons. Most baseball pundits pegged Miami for no more than 25 wins, but Mattingly helped lead the club to 31 wins and a playoff berth.

This isn’t the first award Mattingly has won this year. Earlier this offseason, Sporting News named Mattingly NL Manager of the Year. He became the third Marlins manager to win that award, joining Fredi Gonzalez (2008) and Girardi (2006).

Mattingly earned 20 first place votes from the BBWAA and finished with 124 points total. Second place went to Padres’ manager Jayce Tingler. David Ross, the Cubs’ skipper, came in third.

Mattingly Earned His Manager of the Year Award

Mattingly navigated an unprecedented start to the 2020 season. The Marlins were struck with a COVID-19 outbreak that saw 18 players and two coaches sidelined. Miami’s front office reshaped the roster on the fly while Mattingly was literally meeting players for the time on the pitching mound.

Even in a truncated 60-game schedule, Miami made 174 roster moves. The team used 61 different players over the 60 games. Miami’s nine different starting pitchers in their first nine games of the season set a new MLB record. Of the 61 players who appeared for the Fish this season, 21 were rookies. 18 of those made their MLB debut.

This unlikely group crashed the NL postseason and swept the Chicago Cubs in the process.

“That’s a step froward for us,” Mattingly said. “We’ve gotten a lot of young guys experience this year. We’ll have a tremendous amount of competition within our camp next year for jobs and who’s going to be where. This is just the start of it. One of our slogans a couple of years ago was ‘Just getting started’ and that’s what I feel like now.”

Rojas, Jeter on Mattingly

The fact that Mattingly navigated the team through that uncertainty and kept them competitive was not lost on most.

“He’s a great person,” said Marlins shortstop and de facto captain Miguel Rojas. “He’s a great human being before being a baseball player or manager. The communication he has with the players, the confidence he gave the players is unbelievable.”

Rojas and Mattingly both inked extensions with Miami in 2019 and they’ve come together to help lead this young club forward. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has long called Mattingly a calming influence on this young group of players.

“Donnie believes in our vision,” Jeter said after extending Mattingly’s contract. “He believes in our direction, and he’s all in. He has shown a lot of patience with our young, developing team.”

Here’s the statement from Jeter following Mattingly being named NL Manager of the Year:

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award in 2020 than Donnie. His leadership and teamwork with staff and players were on display day in and day out in one of the most challenging seasons this sport has seen, as he guided the team to the organization’s first postseason appearance in 17 years. He continues to believe in our vision and invests in our young, talented players to help us work toward our goal of sustained success. This is another great honor in his storied baseball career.”

Mattingly, who was the American League MVP in 1985, becomes the fifth individual in Major League Baseball history to win both MVP and Manager of the Year honors. He joins Don Baylor, Kirk Gibson, Frank Robinson and Joe Torre.

Check out FiveReasonsSports.com and get one of the amazing Tees there! Click here to shop!

Tough Loss for the Marlins

Yesterday, the Marlins played the Rays in their series finale. Trevor Rogers took the hill for the Marlins against Tyler Glasnow of the Rays. After a series of missed opportunities for the Marlins, the Rays ended up walking it off with a 5-4 win in the 10th. The Marlins competed but lacked the extra fire to steal a win when they could have. 

What more can the pitching do?

 

Trevor Rogers is a 22-year-old kid who pitched 6 innings of 3 run baseball against arguably the best team in the American League. Brad Boxberger and Yimi Garcia combined for 3 scoreless innings. Allowing 3 runs over 9 innings shouldn’t be a guaranteed loss for any team, but for this Marlins squad every night it looks more and more like it’s the case. The pitching shows up and puts the Marlins in a position where they can win, but the hitting falls short. 

What is going on with the hitting?

 

Starling Marte hit a 2-run bomb in the first, but past that, the bats were quiet. The dichotomy between this team earlier in this season and now is evident. Lately, the Marlins have struggled to play small ball, resulting in lost opportunities and lost games. Before the 10th inning last night, the Marlins had a runner on 2nd base with nobody out in the 8th and 9th innings. In both cases, the Marlins failed to even move the runner over to third. I’m guessing Don Mattingly will not be happy with that sequence of events. 

Tough losses can have silver linings

 

Jazz Chisolm finally got on the board with his first MLB hit! Congratulations to him as he navigates his first few weeks in the bigs. He looks like an extremely talented young player who has fun on the field and loves what he is doing. Jazz Chisholm and Brian Anderson made two of the team’s best defensive plays back-to-back yesterday, which was good to see.

What’s next?

 

The Marlins need to pick up the pace if they are going to make a run for the playoffs. They can start doing so today against the Braves, where Jose Urena makes his season debut against the Braves’ Ian Anderson.

Voices

Kim Ng Marlins

What Kim Ng Means for the Marlins

It has been quite a rocky road for women in sports. Just ask Kim Ng, the new General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Although her resume speaks for itself (30 years in the sport, two Assistant GM roles, three World Series championships), she has consistently found herself on the short end of the stick. Finally, a team has given her a chance, and as a Miami native, I couldn’t be more proud that the Marlins were the team to pull the trigger. 

Let’s first set the record straight. This is not just a breakthrough for women in sports, it is a breakthrough for the Marlins. Kim was far and away the best choice for the job. With her experience and inherent comfort working in baseball front office, the choice was easy. Within her press conference yesterday, these sentiments were expressed to the fullest extent. Let’s take a look at what Kim Ng talked about and what this means for a promising Miami Marlins future. 

Kim Ng

There were over 100 people at the press conference yesterday. This is not just a local news story, but one that has garnered national attention. Early on, it was clear that Kim has a special bond with both Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly, which will allow her transition to be smooth and effective. As questions rolled in about her past and what led her here, she gracefully expressed her humble origins. Stickball in the streets of Queens growing up, applying a positive mindset to the seemingly insurmountable odds that laid ahead, and her failure is simply an opportunity for growth mentality helped to show her poise in this situation. We got to learn a lot about her and her talents. 

“When I got the job, I felt a huge weight of pressure lift off of my left shoulder. But after 30 minutes, I felt it transition to my right shoulder,” she said. Ng understands that getting this job is the first step. There is plenty more that has to be done to make the Miami Marlins a championship-level team. She expressed that she will continue to utilize everything that she has learned to do this.

What this means for the Marlins

Because of the national attention that this signing received, there was a lack of questions revolving around where Kim will actually take the team. Her personal story of triumph highlighted the day. And although this is clearly deserving, we are left wondering what route she will take to achieve that aforementioned success.

In our recent Youtube video, David, Alejandro, and I talked about where she can take this team. The conclusion we came to was clear. If she trusts the Farm System that has been developed, Kim can potentially put together a winning team internally. Otherwise, she will have to make deals involving our younger talent to win now. Based on our previous year (which was most likely not determinant of how good this team actually is), she will be forced to either accelerate the timeline or simply continue on the path that was originally set. If she decides to do the former, we will go over all of our free agent/trade options in an upcoming video.

All in all, we most likely will not know what is next until Kim Ng makes her first tangible move as GM. Until then, we wait.

Coronavirus and Sports: Becoming Numb

I was going to write about Inter Miami, I really was. Maybe it would have been an upbeat preview about the “MLS Is Back” schedule reveal (Breakfast with Inter Miami vs. Chicago Fire at 9 a.m. on July 14, can you dig it?) or a more serious, ominous look at the league and its protocols as we are only 2 weeks away from the start of the first tournament in the United States after the pandemic.

But then I thought “AFTER the pandemic? We are barely during the pandemic, much less past it” and I discovered I’m sort of…detached? Nah, that’s not the word. I still follow the American sports landscape and want sports to be back. Shocked? That’s not it either, nothing that has happened the past three months has surprised me even a little, and that’s saying something. Numb? Yes, that’s it. I’m numb to the developments in the sports world nowadays, and I’m pretty sure other fans, writers and even players feel similarly.

I’m numb because I saw the news about 16 NBA players (the equivalent of an entire team’s roster, plus one) testing positive for COVID-19 and my reaction isn’t “Oh my, what if they backtrack and the season is cancelled?” It’s more like “I’m fine with whatever happens, I’m just waiting to see everyone freak out when a true superstar tests positive and [insert team here] has to play an entire series without him.”

I’m numb because “43 Division I teams have been eliminated in the last 12 weeks, and more than 130 programs have been cut across all NCAA levels”, and those kids weren’t earning millions of dollars, even as some of their coaches were and certainly their athletic departments are.

LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION

New Zealand is past the pandemic with tens of thousands gathering with joy to watch a rugby match most of them probably don’t remember the final score of. Europe is crowning champions as its cases are mostly going down (hello, Sweden, we see you) and fans celebrate the end of droughts in Liverpool and Naples as the ball keeps rolling with no apparent setbacks week after week.

Liverpool fans celebrate outside Anfield.

Even South America has soccer, but that’s because they don’t really give a shit in Brazil and they are bent on living like there is literally no tomorrow and they had the most new daily cases in the world on Thursday, June 25. Seems healthy.

Meanwhile, the United States of America is looking at itself in the mirror and wonders how it all went so wrong, so quickly after three months of sacrifices that were supposed to pave the way for sports to come back swiftly and smoothly.

We are Rachel and the Coronavirus is Ross asking: “OVER you? When were you UNDER me?” while we beat ourselves up wondering what went wrong and the President compares a deadly virus to the sniffles.

I’m numb because baseball is about to be back for a lightning round of games that promise to be exciting. Why am I not excited? I should be, with every game being three times as important and the potential of a repeat of that frantic 2011 finish of the regular season that gave every baseball fan a collective heart attack.

My heart rate is nowhere near skyrocketing, though. Some experts don’t even think the season will be able to finish.

I should be pumped to witness the start of the Tua era in Miami, but then I see that the Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and the Steelers was cancelled and I’m bracing for what August and September might bring.

I’m even numb to the added crowd noise and the “virtual fans” we see at European soccer games. It’s background noise.

Maybe you read this and thought I spent 700 words being dramatic, and that’s ok. Maybe you will feel numb or jaded until 2021, and that’s ok too. Maybe this is just temporary, and everything feels a little alien after 100+ days of uncertainty and I will be all pumped up again in a couple of weeks when sports feel “real” again.

I will be waiting for that moment to come.