More than pride on line for Marlins
NEW YORK — Don’t look now, but the Marlins are making their push.
No, they’re not making a miracle playoff run. But they’re not playing for nothing either. Far from it. They’re playing to see what is salvageable in one of the wildest seasons in club history.
Since Aug. 31, you have to like what you see. The Marlins are 11-4 in that span, 10-4 in September, and 2-0 since they cloned Christian Yelich.
Well, not exactly cloned. But on Tuesday, Yelich lookalike, Pete Davidson, of Saturday Night Live fame made a surprise visit to Citi Field. In one of the most refreshing moments of the season, Davidson — dressed in a Yelich No. 21 uniform — emerged on the field during batting practice. He spilled sunflower seeds everywhere, and loosened the mood around an otherwise uptight year.
Call it the “Pete Davidson Factor,” but the Marlins needed some levity. It ended up working, because Miami went out and roughed up Cy Young-candidate Jacob deGrom. Then on Wednesday, rookie left-hander Adam Conley, had the pitching performance of his life, and got the best of 41-year-old Bartolo Colon.
Manager Dan Jennings and the players pointed out, keeping things loose makes it easier to play. There is a lesson there, but more is going on with the organization right now.
These final 16 games will help determine what is next heading into the offseason.
At stake here is the direction of where all this is headed, and how the clubhouse, coaching staff and front office will shape up.
Perhaps owner Jeffrey Loria has already made up his mind about what he will do. As far as everything else, it’s all speculation. It starts with Jennings, who many assume will just return to the general manager’s chair. But nothing has been firmly decided on whether Jennings will be managing the club, or general manager or perhaps pursue opportunities outside the organization.
The same is true with the front office. The chain of command remains unclear.
If the Marlins continue to play at a high level, maybe it will give an indication of whether this core is worth holding together. Repeatedly, the club says it will stay in tact. But if Jennings departs the organization, then anything is possible. That includes trading core pieces.
It’s no secret the club is open to dealing Marcell Ozuna. But if the club tanks in these last few weeks, would others be on the block? I doubt they’d consider trading Giancarlo Stanton, who hasn’t played since June 26, this offseason. But if they break things up again, then it is fair to ask where does Stanton fit in, if the club isn’t ready to win in 2016. Same holds true with Yelich, and others.
Martin Prado, who has stepped up in a big way during the hot stretch, has taken on a leadership role. Prado likes what he sees right now, and it is starting with the chemistry in the clubhouse. Without question, it is much better than before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
“This is a great group of guys,” Prado said. “They’re willing to play the game the right way. That’s what we’re doing now. We’re coming to the field. We’ve got chemistry. One player accountable to the other. Nobody is an individual. We’re caring about each other, and we’re having fun. Somebody is picking the other guy up. When you’re thinking like that, good things happen. The way these guys are going out and competing is fun to watch.”
All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon, who has been Miami’s MVP, has never lost the passion to play, regardless of how down the season was before. Of late, you’re seeing Gordon as loose as ever. Getting multiple hits a night, and dancing behind second base with Miguel Rojas after wins.
“We’re playing hard,” Gordon said. “We’re trying to have a good end of ’15 so we set ourselves up for high hopes in ’16.”
Right now, the Marlins are playing for more than finishing in third place. They playing to see how ’16 may look. Right now, nothing is set in stone.
— Joe Frisaro