Billy the Marlins is always a reason for children to watch the Marlins. But for adults, there are others reasons to keep watching the Fish despite another losing season.
The 2013-14 NFL season kicks off later this week, which for many Miami Marlins fans is the sign that they can stop watching baseball.
Wait, doesn't your favorite NFL football team play just once a week?
That's right, and what will you do with the other six days of the week? The best bet is to continue to watch the Marlins.
Just because the Marlins aren't contending for a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive year, doesn't mean they aren't worth watching. Heck, it could be worse. You could be a Chicago Cubs fan. They haven't won a World Series title since a Roosevelt was in office. Hint: The Roosevelt in question was not FDR.
There are tangible reasons to watch the Marlins. There are intangible reasons to watch the Marlins. There are youngsters who people need to keep an eye on. There are "veterans" who people need to keep an eye on.
So now that we've reached the final month of the baseball season, here are five reasons, from worst to best, to continue to watch the Marlins with an eye toward 2014.
Although he's just a first-year player, Jose Fernandez is the Marlins biggest and most marketable star, and thus, he gets his own slide.
But there are other important first-year Marlins players to keep an eye on:
Rob Brantly: The catcher was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans last month, according to the Miami Herald, and the main reason Brantly was held back was because of his issues behind the plate.
Brantly had a 4.45 catcher's ERA with seven passed balls with the Marlins, and he even moved his locker next to Jeff Mathis' so he could learn from the nine-year veteran, taking notes and communicating with pitchers. But that didn't work out either.
"That's something that we had a clear understanding of is that he's a young catcher, and there's going to be some hard lessons," bench coach Rob Leary, who works with the catchers, told MLB.com. "It wasn't for lack of preparation or caring. It's a lack of experience, and that's something he was getting and will get in the future."
New Orleans' season ends today, and it remains to be seen if the Marlins plan to call Brantly back to the big leagues for the rest of the year.
Derek Dietrich: Like Brantly, Dietrich was sent back to the minors July 23 due to ineffectiveness. Since he returned to Double-A Jacksonville, Dietrich has been solid as his slash line is .261/.356/.513 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 35 games.
Currently, Dietrich is on the seven-day disabled list as he tweaked his back in a 4-3 victory last Thursday. According to the Florida Times-Union, he could return Thursday if the Suns advance to the playoffs. For that to happen, Jacksonville would have to beat Mississippi in its season finale today.
If the Suns reach the playoffs, it's unlikely Dietrich will return to the Marlins. But after the season, Dietrich is one of seven Miami prospects slated to play for Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, according to MLB.com.
Adeiny Hechavarria: The Cuban shortstop's defense is worth the price of admission, but lately, there's been as many lowlights as there are highlights.
Hechavarria has committed 14 errors this season, but seven came in the month of August. Moreover, since Tino Martinez resigned as Marlins hitting coach, Hechavarria has reverted back to the funk he displayed the first two months of the season as his slash line since Martinez's departure is .197/.242/.248 in 117 at-bats.
Nonetheless, some still believe in Hechavarria's abilities.
“We like his action, the way he moves,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, a nine-time Gold Glove winner and six-time All-Star, told the Palm Beach Post. “He got us talking about all the good young shortstops. We look at him as one of those guys.”
Jake Marisnick: The first trip to the majors isn't always so pleasant. Marisnick is finding out the hard way.
Since he was called up July 23, Marisnick's slash line is .188/.239/.248 with one home run and five runs batted in. Furthermore, Marisnick has started in just four of the Marlins last 11 games.
No matter what happens, Marlins manager Mike Redmond considers this stint a learning experience.
"We'll give him his reps," Redmond told MLB.com. "At the end of this year, he will be able to go home and realize what it takes to sustain his swing up here in the Major Leagues, and what to work on."
A.J. Ramos: Fernandez isn't the only rookie flame-thrower on the Marlins pitching staff.
Ramos is second among all rookie relief pitchers with 76 strikeouts and leads all rookie relievers with 70 1/3 innings pitched. Ramos recently told MLB.com he aspires to be a closer someday, but for now, he's gaining valuable experience trying to log those final outs.
"I like his stuff," Redmond told MLB.com. "I think he's a guy who's proven he can pitch really in any situation. We've used him in a lot of different roles. We've used him early. We've used him late, multiple innings. Ahead, close games. He's proven that he can pitch, and he's got the demeanor and ability to handle any situation. I would have no problem throwing him in the eighth inning or any situation."
Christian Yelich: Unlike Brantly, Dietrich, Hechavarria and Marisnick, Yelich has been pretty consistent.
Since being called up with Marisnick, Yelich's slash line is .268/.343/.369 with two home runs and nine RBI in 149 at-bats. Moreover, Yelich has batted in one of the top three spots of the batting order in every game he's played with the Marlins this season.
"He's done a nice job, I think, of putting together good at-bats," Redmond told MLB.com. "And he's learning. He's stayed very consistent with his approach, he's drawn walks, and I feel very comfortable with him in the top part of the lineup as a young player, and that's obviously a good sign."
*First-year player is defined as players who are eligible for the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Now that rosters have expanded for September, Chris Coghlan has been called up to man third base. The Marlins need some offense and are looking to Coghlan to provide it ... or else...
The Marlins still control Chris Coghlan for two more seasons, but after another injury-marred season, will the Marlins even want to keep the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year?
From 2010 to 2012, Coghlan played just 195 out of 486 games and hit .238 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI. This season has been no different as Coghlan has played in just 52 games, albeit with better results as his slash line is currently at .275/.324/.412 with one home run and 10 runs batted in.
Coghlan toiled on the bench when the season began, and it took more than six weeks until Coghlan found himself in the everyday lineup on May 18. But that didn't last long as Coghlan landed on the 15-day disabled list on June 9 with a nerve irritation in his right calf, according to cbssports.com. During the 18-game stretch as a starter, Coghlan hit .343 with one home run and nine RBI in 67 at-bats.
When Coghlan was finally healthy, he went on his rehab assignment, this time as a third baseman with the idea that could become his new position because of the glut of outfielders the team has with Marisnick, Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, according to the Miami Herald.
Coghlan was activated off the disabled list Sunday, on the first day rosters can expand.
"I don't even want to get into any of the injury stuff. All I can say is I'm healthy and I'm good to go," Coghlan told the Sun-Sentinel.
If the final month of the season doesn't pan out well, the Marlins could non-tender him after the season or attempt to move him to another team, such was the last offseason when Peter Gammons reported the Boston Red Sox as a potential landing spot in a three-way deal.
Remember the guy on the left? That's Mark Kotsay. He was the best player on the only Marlins team to lose more than 100 games.
Only once have the Marlins lost more than 100 games in a season.
That happened in 1998, a year after the Marlins won their first World Series title and then sold everybody off in a fire sale to save a little bit of cash. The gory details can be found here.
After the Marlins lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 21, the Associated Press reported it put the Marlins back on pace to lose 100 games. Since then, the Marlins have lost eight of their last 10, which hasn't helped matters at all.
If the Marlins plan to avoid becoming the second team in franchise history to reach the century mark in losses, they will have to go at least 13-14 for the rest of the season to avoid the ugly achievement. On the Miami Herald's website, a web vote reveals 602 out of 811 voters (74 percent) believe the Marlins will lose more than 100 games this season.
Ouch. Even their own fan base doesn't believe in them.
Well, there's at least one person who is at least publicly rooting for the Marlins not to lose 100 games.
According to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the Marlins plan on discussing a multiyear deal with Giancarlo Stanton after the season.
The question is, how will Stanton respond?
Right now, nobody knows.
Cuurently, Stanton's slash line is .248/.363/.475 with 18 home runs and 42 runs batted in, which is his worst season since his rookie year, when he posted a .259/.326/.507 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI in 100 games in 2010. Moreover, Stanton was recently chastised on TV by Marlins color analyst Tommy Hutton after Stanton failed to slide into second base after tagging up from first on a fly ball to right field.
But remember, this is a guy who will be entering his first season of arbitration eligibility and he has 111 career home runs at just 23 years old. There is a reason why the Marlins want to discuss a long-term deal with Stanton. Without one, he'll be eligible for free agency at 26 years old, before he's even reached the prime of his career.
At the July 31 trade deadline, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel reported the Pittsburgh Pirates made repeated attempts to work a deal for Stanton and, according to another source, made an offer that caught the attention of Miami's front office. However, the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer refuted this claim. Another report, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, claimed the Pirates offered Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie for Stanton, Steve Cishek and Justin Ruggiano. However, such an offer was never made.
The main reason Stanton wasn't dealt was because, as Rosenthal reports, owner Jeffrey Loria is hell-bent on winning in the near future to prove he made the right baseball decisions when he tore the roster apart.
So now, the onus is on Stanton. ESPN.com's Buster Olney said if Stanton doesn’t want to sign, then this winter will be the most logical time to deal the slugger.
That begs the question: Are these Stanton's final days as a Marlin?
If you haven't seen Jose Fernandez pitch yet, run to your calendar and circle Friday. And just in case, pencil in Sept. 11 as well.
Redmond told the Associated Press on Saturday the team will hold firm to a 170-innings limit for the phenom and has adjusted Fernandez's schedule to make sure those are home games. Fernandez's next start has been pushed back from Wednesday at the Chicago Cubs to Friday at home against the Washington Nationals. His last start could come the following week in Miami against the Atlanta Braves.
Fernandez has pitched 158 2/3 innings this season, so he won't go more than 12 innings total between the two starts, if he even gets them.
“That was the range as an organization that we felt comfortable leaving him around, 150-170, depending on how many starts he did,” Redmond told MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. “It was kind of the unknown at the beginning of the season, how he would do, and how he would perform. We were looking at ways to protect him, based on how many innings he had gone before. That’s the number we came up with.”
Thus far, Fernandez owns a 10-6 record with a 2.33 ERA to go with his 173 strikeouts, a Marlins rookie record, passing Scott Olsen's 166 in 2006. Fernandez has also been named the National League Player of the Week twice this season.
Furthermore, Fernandez's 5.4 WAR (wins above replacement) is tied fifth in all of baseball. He trails only 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, All-Star Chris Sale, 20-game winner Max Scherzer and the Colorado Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin in that category.
Oh, and his 10 wins helped this guy look good.
Then, there was this exchange between ESPN.com's Buster Olney and a longtime evaluator who saw Fernandez recently and mentioned the right-hander is among the three best pitchers in the majors.
"Among the three best young pitchers?" I asked.
No, he said. Among the three best.
"Among the three best right-handers?" I asked, seeking some sort of clarification.
No, he said. One of the three best.
While the Cy Young Award is probably out of reach in 2013, the ROY is not. And there might be nothing more important than for Fernandez to snatch that title.
"It would be very important, something the fans especially are looking forward to," Fernandez told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. "They would be happy about it. No matter who gets the award, it will be well deserved. No matter what happens, God willing, the outcome will be the best one possible for me."
If the season ended today, it seems Fernandez's ROY candidacy has the support of Sports Illustrated's Michael Beller, Redmond and 59 percent of the 7,199 voters who took part in this SportsNation poll in an article written by ESPN.com's David Schoenfield.