The Miami Marlins have been a Major League Baseball franchise for 24 years and in their existence they have never won a division title. But the Marlins do have a pair of World Series Championships to show for their two postseason appearances. The Marlins have been a tough team for fans to get behind as their ownership has been notorious for relenting to pay players as they typically will rank near the bottom of team payrolls in MLB each year. And each time that the Marlins appear ready to build a powerhouse, the team is dismantled. The most recent occasion where this happened came in 2012 as after spending big in free agency, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria traded the majority of his star players. The Marlins were once again back at square one as they were delicately built and here in 2016, they appear ready to make another run to the playoffs.
After Don Mattingly was fired as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers last October, he landed on his feet rather quickly as the Marlins brought him to Miami in the same capacity. In five years as the manager of the Dodgers, Mattingly never had a losing record which included three consecutive National League West Titles. But whereas the expectations were high in Los Angeles, Mattingly was never able to lead the Dodgers to a World Series Title which was his ultimate demise; however he has been a perfect fit so far for the young Marlins.
The outset of the 2016 Major League Baseball season for the Marlins was not an easy one as they began the campaign with a record of 5-11. Then the Marlins were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak when they received the news that second baseman Dee Gordon had failed a drug test and would be suspended by Major League Baseball for 80 games. This was a huge blow for the Marlins as Gordon was their table setter as he led the National League in stolen bases in each of the last two years, while also leading in batting average in 2015 at .333.
But under Mattingly the Marlins have never wavered as after their hiccup to begin the season, they’ve never fallen back under .500 and they completed the first half of the campaign with a record of 47-41. The momentum that the Marlins developed to end the first half has now carried over for the second half as they are now 55-47. The Marlins are five games behind the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East and they currently tied for the final wild card spot in the N.L.
Balance has been the name of the game for the Marlins as they’ve gotten contributions from their entire lineup, while also getting quality pitching. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, starting pitcher Jose Fernandez is regaining the form that made him the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2013. On the season Fernandez is 12-5 with an earned run average of 2.79 and the Marlins are 4-2 in his last six starts. Relief pitcher A.J. Ramos is 31-of-32 in saves opportunities and he is on pace to become the first pitcher in Marlins franchise history to record at least 40 saves in a season since Todd Jones in 2005.
But the Marlins lineup hasn’t skipped a beat without the presence of Gordon as outfielder Christian Yelich is emerging as one of the best contact hitters in the National League, while outfielder Marcell Ozuna is coming into his own as an all-around player. The Marlins team batting average of .272 is tops in the National League which is a credit to their first-year hitting coach in Barry Bonds, but they still need to pick it up in the power category as they are 14th in the N.L. in home runs with (85), and 11th in runs scored (429). After missing 88 games in 2015 as the result of a wrist injury, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is beginning to regain the form that has made him one of the most feared power hitters in baseball as he leads the club in home runs with 22. And when Stanton gets hot, he is one of the rare power hitters that can carry a lineup for a prolonged stretch. First baseman Justin Bour is currently on the disabled list with an ankle injury, but his return to the Marlins lineup will be a welcome sight as he is another power bat that will help them down the stretch as they make a push towards the postseason.
From the dugout Mattingly has provided the Marlins with a calming influence at the managerial position that they have not had since the days of Jack McKeon who led them to their last World Series Championship in 2003. Mattingly has always had a strong attention to detail which dates back to his Major League Baseball playing career when he was the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees for 14 seasons. And that calm along with the attention to detail has the Marlins in the midst of a run to the playoffs.
The Marlins are currently in the middle of a very important four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals as both of these teams are battling for a wild card spot in the National League. Next week the Marlins will be on the road for a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs who have the best record in the N.L. as this will be opportunity for them to see if they’re indeed for real. And with several series’ against both the Washington Nationals and New York Mets which will more than likely decide the winner of the N.L. East, the young Marlins have the opportunity in front of them to win their first division title in franchise history. But even if the Marlins were to fall short of winning the N.L. East, it won’t hinder them as each time that they won the World Series, they were a wild card team as anything can happen on the baseball diamond in the month of October.
And with Stanton regaining his form, Gordon being eased back into the lineup, and Bour expected to return soon, the Marlins offense could become extremely dangerous as the team’s general manager Michael Hill finds himself in a very different position this July as he can look to be a buyer at next week’s Major League Baseball trade deadline with a team that is beginning to find their form at the right time.