Florida Marlins Fans: Don't Get Too Excited Yet

Devin DunevantContributor IApril 19, 2009

MIAMI - APRIL 06: Emilio Bonifacio #1 of the Florida Marlins celebrates his teams' victory over the Washington Nationals on opening day at Dolphin Stadium on April 6, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Marlins defeated the Nationals 12-5.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Many around baseball have been abuzz with the fast start of the Florida Marlins (11-1). But don't anoint them playoff bound just yet.

Not only is it a mere two weeks into the very long baseball season, but the Marlins have been blessed with an extremely easy schedule out of the gate.

After sweeping the lowly Nationals in the opening series, the Fish blew a lead in their opening game against the Mets, only to come back in the ninth and win with a Jorge Cantu walk-off hit against Rule 5 side-armer Darren O'Day. O'Day has since been sent down being offered back to the Angles.

They suffered their only loss in Game Two of the Mets series to Livan Hernandez, who signed a minor-league contract this spring after posting a 6.05 ERA with the Twins and Rockies last year.

The following day, they were heralded for beating ace Johan Santana despite winning the game on a routine fly ball dropped by Daniel Murphy.

In their most recent series in D.C, they beat up on the weak Nats bullpen with three ninth inning rallies. Joel Hanrahan blew the first two including a three-run lead on Saturday. Sunday saw Saul Rivera blow a save after surrendering the game winner in the 10th on Saturday.

The true test for the Fish will start at the end of the week.

After traveling to Pittsburgh for a three game set, they will return home to face the World Series Champion Phillies, and then head back on the road for three against the Mets and Cubs.

The expectations for the Marlins entering 2009 weren't high.

Vegas has the over/under wins for the Marlins set at 76.5. Many expected more than 76 wins out of the Marlins but few put them over .500.

The timing is right, however, for another Marlins run into the post season. After winning the 1997 World Series and a subsequent fire sale, the Marlins failed to make the playoffs for the next fiveyears.

In 2003 the stars aligned again as young players peaked at the right time and the Marlins won their second title.

As has become the way of the Marlins though, they sold off their team, keeping their payroll low and missing the playoffs every year since. This is the sixth year since their last run and again prudent trades and good scouting has the Marlins coffers full of young talented players.

Their pitching staff has been said to be the best in the NL East, and possibly the National Leaguemuch like the star-studded 2003 staff.

Though the signs are there, they face an uphill battle. The Champion Phillies have the most returning players of any champion in the last 25 years and the Mets added two top-end bullpen arms to try and prevent the collapses of the past two years.

Even the Wild Card race could prove to be tough.

The Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants (assuming their pitching performs as expected), and the Arizona Diamondbacks (if they can score any runs and avoid striking out 3 million times) are all contenders, and the Reds are another possible sleeper.

With the Cinderella Marlins celebrating their third straight ninth inning comeback, their allure is sure to grow.

By the end of next week, however, we should have a much better idea of who this team really is.


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