Florida Marlins Second-Half Forecast: Mostly Sunny with a Comeback Breeze
For the second year in a row, the Marlins find themselves below .500 entering the All-Star break, and already the two seasons have mirrored themselves with the continued injuries and managerial replacements.
At least it seemed for the first six weeks of the season that the Marlins were trending upward, building big momentum heading into the new ballpark by staying in with the powerhouse Phillies and Braves in the NL East.
But as we all know, that changed on May 27th when the Marlins suddenly began a tailspin into the abyss of the National League.
Since that date, the Marlins have gone 10-29 and have lost their ace Josh Johnson for what could possibly be the remainder of the season, their Opening Day manager, Edwin Rodriguez, and hitting coach John Mallee.
They've tried to rekindle the magic from the 2003 championship season, hoping that lighting can strike twice for the Marlins with the rehiring of Jack McKeon as an interim 80-year-old manager.
Will such an experiment work for the Marlins as they continue the season into the late-summer days? You betcha.
The schedule for the next three weeks will feature teams who don't figure to be in the immediate playoff picture.
If the Marlins plan to make a resounding comeback statement, they'll have to attack on these teams or face a grueling August and September without any momentum whatsoever as the competition becomes more intense.
My prediction? They'll pull off a similar accomplishment like the 2010 team did, going 11-5 after the All-Star break to reach .500 and keep their heads above water. Specifically, look for a 13-5 record from those series mentioned above for the Marlins.
Even at that mark, the Marlins will be a game under .500 with three games left in the month (against the Braves on the road), which keeps them in limbo in the trade market as sellers/low-end buyers.
Who will be traded?
The obvious choice is closer Leo Nunez because of the market for relievers. The Yankees, Cardinals, White Sox, Phillies and Rangers are all looking at shoring up their currently weak bullpens, and if they are desperate, the Marlins won't think twice if they can land a mid-level prospect with upside.
As for any remaining trade candidates, it would take quite more to pry newcomers Greg Dobbs and Randy Choate, both of whom could prove valuable to the Marlins moving into the new ballpark.
Javier Vazquez? Unless there is a vicious and panic-stricken team out there willing to swallow his remaining contract that comes with inconsistencies, he is likely playing out his season in South Florida.
Nevertheless, the Marlins will face an uphill climb even if they chose to stand pat at the deadline. They'll have to pass the resurgent Mets and Nationals and, of course, the favorites in the Braves and Phillies.
But if this team could start 29-19 it can certainly replicate similar success, and they have the talent to do so.
If my money was between the Pittsburgh Pirates (not to take anything away from their surprising first-half success) and Florida Marlins to finish above .500, I'd choose the Marlins because they have more than handful of players who are either All-Stars or about to be in the near future, and its all about clocking together, which the Marlins have rarely done offensively this season.
Things are turning around, as Hanley Ramirez is hitting .357 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 15 games under Jack McKeon. Emilio Bonifacio has seemingly had fans reminding them of Juan Pierre as bunt base hits and stolen bases have become a staple lately for the switch-hitting utility man who rarely stole or bunted for a hit despite the skills.
So the Marlins' second-half forecast looks favorable. They all know what's at stake, and I don't believe the season will end like last year. Josh A comeback by this team hinges on Johnson's return, and if he pitches to his Cy Young ability, the team will have favorable momentum as they head into their shiny new ballpark.
But in the wild world of sports, crazy things can happen and anything is bound to occur.
Am I saying they are pulling another 2003 run? No.
But you can say they are getting back on the track they got off of a couple of months back.
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