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Miami Marlins: Winners and Losers from First Month of Action

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Miami Marlins: Winners and Losers from First Month of Action
Jason Arnold/Getty Images
First-year Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond glumly looks on.

April has come and gone, and in the immortal words of former NFL head coach Dennis Green, "The Marlins are who we thought they were!"

Remember this? This message applied to the Marlins, but in a different light.

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Of course, that's not saying much since the Marlins own a 8-19 record, tied with the Astros for worst in Major League Baseball. However, as is the case with every team, there are silver linings and unfortunate catastrophes in every situation. As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

With that said, here are the winners and losers from the Marlins' abysmal start to the 2013 season.

 

WINNERS

1. Marlins fans: For those who have showed their disdain for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, it seems you have been heard.

After a month, the Marlins currently have the second-lowest attendance per game at 19,043, which includes the smallest crowd since their park opened a year ago, an April 10th game against the Atlanta Braves that drew 13,810. They have fared a little better in terms of attendance percentage as 50.8 percent of Marlins Park has been filled, which is 26th out of 30 teams.

With that said, the Marlins have resorted to unconventional tactics to convince fans to show up.

For starters, the team's home opener fell short of a sellout as 34,439 were in attendance at the 37,500-seat stadium. Moreover, the Marlins had a promotion where if someone purchased a ticket for the home opener, he or she would receive a complimentary bonus ticket to any April or May 2013 Marlins home game.

Furthermore, the Miami Herald reported season-ticket sales have fallen by 60 percent to around 5,000, and the Marlins recently became the only major league team to use Groupon to sell seats for Opening Day, according to the online discounter.

For fans who attended the five-day World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park, the Marlins gave away coupons for one complimentary ticket (up to Baseline Reserved value) to one of the following games: April 9 and 10 against the Braves, and April 15, 16 and 17 against the Washington Nationals.

The organization has also partnered with the Orange Bowl Committee and Miami-Dade County Public Schools and other entities to give away tickets, according to the Miami Herald.

“We are confronting a confluence of things, including a fan base that is upset,” Marlins president David Samson said. “We’re trying to bring people to the ballpark to enjoy baseball in spite of their feelings for me or Jeffrey. People arrive in a bad mood so we are working extra hard to overcome preconceived notions. Once they come in, they find it’s a great experience.”

Jason Arnold/Getty Images
Look at all those empty seats in Marlins Park. Plus, it looks like those two in the stands are Mets fans. How sad!

Have these tactics worked? Not really, although attendance figures are still higher than when the Marlins used to call Sun Life Stadium home. But at least it's a start, a very good start.

And as for fans who go to Marlins games, some have been kicked out for creating a disturbance, according to the Palm Beach Post. All they were allegedly doing was protesting against Marlins management.

2. Marlins prospects: At the rate the Marlins are going, the future could be near.

Of the seven players who have accrued enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, second baseman Donovan Solano leads the Marlins with a .263 batting average, outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Ruggiano each have a team-leading three home runs, and five have an OPS-plus of less than 100. An OPS-plus of 100 is considered average.

Among starting pitchers, right-hander Kevin Slowey has pitched out of his mind as he has a 2.15 ERA despite an 0-2 record in six starts, but the rest of the rotation have an ERA-plus of less than 100. 

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What this means is, if the Marlins top prospects show they are ready to graduate to the show, then they will be promoted to the big leagues sooner than expected.

Jose Fernandez, whom many consider the Marlins' top prospect to begin the year, has started with the Marlins since Opening Day. He's 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts. Also, the Marlins recalled outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who had a single in his major league debut Tuesday. Ozuna batted .333 (14-of-42) with five home runs and 15 RBI in 10 games with Double-A Jacksonville.

If the ship continues to sink at a rapid pace, it might not be long before Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Andrew Heaney and others reach the big leagues.

 

3. Rest of National League East: If the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies all reach the postseason, they might have to thank the dreadful Marlins.

While the NL Central and the NL West each looks to be a four-team dogfight in the early going, the NL East trio knows the New York Mets and the Marlins are ripe to be picked on. Starting Aug. 27, the Marlins play the Nationals 10 times, the Braves seven times and the Phillies six times. 

Even though those playoff hopefuls can load up on the Marlins, they still have to win those games.Thus far, the Nationals have won five of six from the Marlins, the Braves swept a three-game series, and the Phillies took two of three with a four-game series starting at home beginning Thursday.

 

LOSERS

1. Marlins fans: Obviously, watching one of the worst teams in baseball can be a drag, especially when the Marlins also happens to be lowest scoring team in the majors, averaging 2.7 runs per game.

Oh wait, almost no one watches the Marlins. Besides low attendance figures, the Marlins are barely drawing flies on the airwaves. According to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, the Marlins' TV ratings for their first two home games were a 1.8 and a 1.5—numbers comparable to daytime game shows. That was followed by an embarrassing 0.8, which meant roughly 12,969 homes were watching the Marlins play the Braves on April 10.

Now here's where most Marlins fans are between a rock and a hard place. Do they ignore the Marlins at all costs in an effort to get rid of Loria? Or do they support the Marlins in spite of Loria?

The route this esteemed writer would take if he was a Marlins fan would be to avoid the Marlins at all costs if the goal is to get rid of Loria.

Miami is stuck with the Marlins for at least the next 35 years, according to the non-relocation agreement the team and local government officials signed for the stadium deal a few years ago. And there's almost no way the Marlins would relocate because the team would then have to repay the government for all costs associated with the development of the project, former County Manager George Burgess told the South Florida Business Journal four years ago.

And why would the Marlins move? Even though Dade-County owns Marlins Park, the Marlins controls the stadium, keeps 100 percent of stadium-related revenues and pay a measly $2.3 million in rent, which rises 2% a year—about inflation's level. To put that in perspective, the Marlins pay only two players more than $2.3 million in 2013: Ricky Nolasco and Placido Polanco.

And if you decide to stay home and watch the Marlins, they will still make money on their next local TV deal. 

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Rich G. of West Palm Beach wrote to the Miami Herald's Greg Cote: “Supporting the Marlins is the same as supporting Loria, and I refuse to do it. I’m not going to games, watching games on TV, or even reading articles about them.”

The problem, however, is by boycotting the Marlins, the less revenue they have, the less likely they are to retain their homegrown stars or even sign free agents. Last season alone, the Marlins claim to have a team record of $47 million in operating losses, according to the Miami Herald.

Moreover, according to Bloomberg.com, in 2005, as Loria was cutting payroll and pressing for a new stadium deal—losing now so he could win long-term—Fox Sports Florida offered a quick cash infusion in return for the team’s regional TV rights. The agreement expires in 2020, pays about $17 million a year and is one of the worst in baseball. 

“It was take the money now, pay off debt, be comfortable,” former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent said.

Except now, it's Marlins fans who are uncomfortable. 

 

2. Giancarlo Stanton: It was the month to forget for the 23-year-old slugger.

"If we could just erase all of April, that would be lovely," Stanton told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

April was tough enough for the Marlins, but for Stanton, it was downright frustrating. Stanton didn't hit his first home run until April 27, and thus far, he's hitting a pedestrian .227 with three home runs and nine RBI.

But just as he was about to heat up, Stanton suffered a strained right hamstring in Monday's 4-3 win against the Mets. Stanton knew it might be serious since he clutched his leg just before crossing first base trying to beat a grounder, fell face-first to the turf, and then pounded the grass with his fist in anger. He later said he heard a pop in his leg.

An MRI revealed Stanton had a grade-two strain. Afterwards, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to miss about a month. 

"Awesome timing," Stanton said facetiously. "It's a tough break. Pretty frustrating. It's just one of those freak things. There's never a good time, but this was probably one of the worst times to do it."

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
See the grimace on Giancarlo Stanton's face? It's been that kind of April.

3. Mike Redmond and the coaching staff: It's bad enough that the first-year manager is coaching at a talent disparity, but it's worse when the owner is calling the shots—depending on whom you believe.

Before an April 24th doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins, a change of plans switched the starting assignments of that day's starting pitchers. Ricky Nolasco, the staff ace, was expected to start the day game while rookie phenom Jose Fernandez was supposed to take the mound in the nightcap. Instead, they flip-flopped.

Did owner Jeffrey Loria mandate the swap between Ricky Nolasco and Jose Fernandez before the April 24th doubleheader?

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According to Yahoo! Sports, Loria mandated the swap even though it was protocol for veterans to choose which game they want to pitch in doubleheaders.

"He was embarrassed," one source said of Redmond, who nonetheless claimed publicly the decision was an organizational choice. "He tried to fight it. He had nothing to do with it."

Less than two hours after the Yahoo! report, Loria called FOXSports.com to deny the allegations.

“I had nothing to do with the decision,” Loria said. “I was informed of the decision by the baseball department. I told them it was their call.

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