As the Florida Marlins season once again ended without a trip to the playoffs, Beached Miami called upon 18-year season-ticket-holder Bill Campbell to take a look back at 2010 and ahead to 2011.
The Marlins’ players and coaches hugged each other after the season-ending victory against Pittsburg, all now wondering who will be back next year to tie up the spikes in a Marlins uni. The team had promise at the beginning of the year, but like all but two of the previous 17 seasons, that promise was not honored.
Fittingly, Manager Edwin Rodriguez, who probably will be shown the door before next year by Marlins’ brass, got an early start to his offseason by getting thrown out of the final game by umpire Joe West.
When the 2011 season kicks off April 1 at home against the Mets, the Marlins will almost certainly have a few new faces on the field. Topping the shopping list for the Fish will be a good catcher with some pop in his bat and experience handling the pitching staff. The team will also have to fill the centerfield position in order to contend next year. Cameron Maybin has just not panned out in the field, nor as a lead-off or second place hitter. I’d be surprised to see him with the team come spring training.
As for pitching, the Marlins need a few reliable arms in the bullpen, including a lefty or two who can actually get someone out. The starting rotation looks pretty good provided Ricky Nolasco signs a deal. With 2010 ERA king Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Nolasco, and Chris Volstad (who had a remarkable run at the end of the year), the Marlins would have four formidable arms. Despite his late-year heroics, Alex Sanabia may be the odd man out, as the Fish need an effective southpaw starter to counter Ryan Howard, Justin Hayward, and the other strong lefty bats in the NL East.
The off-season priority should be signing second baseman Dan Uggla. With more than 100 RBI and 100 runs scored to go along with his .287 batting average and 33 homeruns, Uggla had a stellar offensive year and is the only second baseman in MLB history to have four consecutive seasons with 30 or more homeruns.
The 2011 lineup looks like a potent one with 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan returning (maybe to man third base); sensational 2010 rookies Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton, and Gabby Sanchez; and Hanley Ramirez, one of the game’s best all-around players, returning to short with (ideally) his double-play partner Uggla, whose defensive skills have markedly improved over the last two seasons.
Despite a disappointing season this year, there was love all around yesterday as the 31,000-plus fans bid the Marlins farewell until April 1. One has to wonder why it takes the final game of the year to get that many butts in the seats. This is South Florida – the weather is no excuse for not supporting your team.
Now, go watch the playoffs and World Series, take in your football, hockey, and Big 3 basketball (if you must). But remember: they’ll be playing hardball again before you know it, and this time things will be different. Just wait ‘til next year. You’ll see.