The Miami Marlins are a juggernaut. The Miami Marlins are leaving nothing but devastation in their wake. The Miami Marlins, composed of cast-offs and rookies and a former Olympic speed skater, are one of the best damn teams in the Major Leagues.
Because it’s 2020 and this is the kind of thing that happens now.
How did we get here?
Miami has been in the middle of an aggressive rebuild since 2018, after new management, led by Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman, sold off valuable pieces at the Major League level in order to restock a barren farm system. These moves were unpopular at the time, but, in hindsight, might have been necessary.
This practice has led to hundreds of losses and the acquisition of a slew of elite prospects. They’ve averaged 101.5 losses over the past few years, but have a top-flight farm system littered with top-100 prospects.
Management has also invested in a culture change, bringing in Gary Denbo to head player development and scouting, as well as James Rowson and Mel Stottlemyre Jr. to help implement effective hitting and pitching philosophies, respectively. For the first time in a long time, the Marlins organization actually seems like it has a plan (build a sustainable winner around pitching and athleticism); a plan that it is sticking to as it weathers the storm of consistent losing.
Except, they’re not losing anymore.
Shit, I guess they are. The Miami Marlins, who, after winning their opening series against the Phillies, suffered a COVID-19 breakout in their clubhouse that infected over half the roster, are good now. They managed to hastily throw together a roster by calling up members of their “taxi squad” and signing or trading for a few other healthy bodies, and have somehow made it work with this island of misfit toys. The Miami Marlins. The first-place Miami Marlins.
I expected them to get squashed. I saw some potential with their original roster, but winning five in a row after over half of the roster was temporarily wiped out? No way.
I think you have to chalk this hot streak up to culture, at least in part. Much like the Miami Heat have long been able to outperform their talent level, in large part due to the winning mentality that Pat Riley has instilled, the Marlins seem to have captured a bit of that dauntless swagger.
Stephen Tarpley, Jesús Aguilar, Magneuris Sierra, Nick Vincent, Brad Boxberger, Francisco Cervelli. And more. Guys who were written off, yet are now producing at the big league level. Perhaps it’s Jeter who instilled the aplomb these Marlins now carry on their sleeves. Maybe it was Don Mattingly. Maybe it was team leaders and veterans of this rebuild like Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas. Who knows? But it’s coming from somewhere, and it has been fun to watch.
Will it last?
Man, who knows this season? Fallen stars (relative to the Marlins roster) like Sandy Alcantara, Miguel Rojas, Garrett Cooper, and Caleb Smith will be returning soon. They will have plenty of serviceable players to choose from now that the replacements have done so well themselves.
I’ll say it won’t last, if I had to pick. They won’t suck, but the Marlins will probably fall out of the playoff race eventually; there just isn’t enough developed talent right now. That’s not the point, though.
The point is that, even in a year as wildly depressing as 2020 has been, there is still room for the underdog to come along and give us something to smile about. The Miami Marlins have been that underdog so far in the 2020 MLB season.
Here’s hoping it lasts.