2:28 PM CDT, April 28, 2012
Did Ozzie Guillen accidentally take Juan Pierre, Gordon Beckham, Mark Teahen, Brian Anderson and Josh Fields with him when he went to Florida? It must seem like it at times.
The Marlins aren't scoring runs. If that trend continues, they won't join the Braves and the surprising Nationals in putting heat on the Phillies in the National League East. And if they don't do that, they won't attract enough fans to the new Marlins Park to show that baseball can thrive in Florida.
"There are going to be people who come to the park to see what you've built, and when they come they're going to like it,'' said Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, a Miami native who works as a special assistant to Marlins President David Samson. "Fans have responded to it well … but you have to win if you're going to keep fans coming back. It's very important to win this first year.''
It's early in the season, of course.
Yet it has to be alarming for the Marlins that they were winless on a five-game trip to Washington and New York and only 7-12 through Friday, when they returned to Marlins Park for a four-game series against the Diamondbacks. Especially troubling is the lack of thunder from Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez and John Buck.
The Marlins scored six runs on the winless trip and entered the weekend averaging 3.4 runs per game, ahead of only the Pirates. A continuation of that against the Diamondbacks no doubt would increase that talk about Marlins Park being unfair to hitters, as the first seven games there produced only six home runs and an average of 8.1 runs.
But Guillen had reason to worry about his hitters long before they moved into the Little Havana ballpark.
The Marlins, who committed $106 million to leadoff man Jose Reyes, were last in the majors in runs (85) and home runs (16) during a spring in which they had excellent pitching and still went 11-14-4. Injuries limited Stanton and Morrison to a combined 13 games, and regulars Buck, Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio hit .250 or lower.
Much of the responsibility for the slow start falls on the trumpeted duo of Ramirez and Reyes. They hit a combined .213 in the first 18 games, and while Ramirez had hit four home runs they had scored only 16 runs between them.
Closer Heath Bell, signed to a three-year, $27-million contract during the offseason spending spree, gave away a victory to the Mets on Thursday, walking four hitters during a 46-pitch ninth inning. He converted only two of his first five save chances, with a WHIP (2.82) that seems likely to be his highest since 2006, when he was trying to establish himself as a full-time big leaguer with the Mets.
This would be a bad time for the Marlins to have a bad year, and it is starting badly.
Quick trip down: It's easy to see why so many athletes become hardened and cynical. Success can be fleeting, with Braves' right-hander Jair Jurrjens the latest example.
Jurrjens got five outs for the National League in the 2011 All-Star Game, following Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw into the game and yielding to Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel, and now he's another member of the Gwinnett Braves, trying to get back to Atlanta.
He was demoted Monday night after getting rocked at Dodger Stadium. The loss left him 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts.
"Tough call all the way around, but obviously it wasn't the JJ we've seen in the past," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Stowaways: Joe Maddon is one of the most refreshing humans on the planet, in addition to being the best manager in the big leagues. He nicely illustrated his unconventional wisdom by telling his team to pack light for a weekend series in Texas, after which the Rays return to Tampa Bay.
He's calling the three-game venture a "minimalist'' trip.
"I'm hoping everybody just brings their little carry-on luggage,'' Maddon said. "One pair of jeans, three shirts, some socks, and those who wear underwear bring underwear. And your toiletries. … As we move forward into this century I think minimalism is going to become a more popular concept.''
The penultimate word: "I didn't turn the TV on last night, that's the God's honest truth. I listened to a lot of music last night. It's not important. I went out and brought Brendan (Ryan) back. What are you going to do? Moan about the last pitch of a perfect game when you've been really bad the whole game? I mean, come on. I'm not going to do that, and I'm damn sure not going to take away from that kid's moment." — Eric Wedge on Ryan's check-swing strike three to end Phil Humber's perfect game.
The last word: "We're not on any milk cartons yet.'' — Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose pitchers have done well enough to offset an anemic lineup.
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