A pat on the back for the Marlins, and not just because they’re going through a horrible time

Well, the Miami Marlins were eliminated from wild-card playoff contention on Tuesday night, but just as certainly I have been mathematically shut out, too, when it comes to predicting their final season record.

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Manager Don Mattingly #8 of the Miami Marlins walks off the field during the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on September 27, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
MIAMI – Manager Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins walks off the field during the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on Tuesday. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Back in the spring I wrote that the Marlins would finish 76-86, a five-win improvement over 2015. That actually felt a little generous at the time, but here they are, still with a chance to finish .500 or above for the first time since 2009.

It will take a strong finish in this weekend’s final series at Washington, and don’t forget that the Nationals are still battling to wrap up home-field advantage against Los Angeles in the playoffs.

Still, with the tragedy of Jose Fernandez hanging heavy over the franchise, it is impressive that the Marlins have accomplished what they have.

Don Mattingly is still the manager, which means a couple of things. Jeffrey Loria has been keeping his distance and Mattingly has kept his positive attitude about working with a team that isn’t ready to win big yet.

Barry Bonds is still the co-hitting coach, which shows he is serious about getting back into baseball’s good graces.

Overall, the team has fought hard all season. The Marlins were still in the hunt as July turned to August. At that point they were 57-48 and just four games back of Washington in the division. Not bad for an outfit that lost 2015 NL batting champion Dee Gordon for 80 games on a PED suspension.

[Jupiter’s Cody Parkey has sympathy of Dolphins’ special-teams coach]

[Marching with Arnie’s Army during his final Masters round in 2004]

[Lamar Jackson could do what no Palm Beach County athlete ever has]

Bottom line, Palm Beach County is looking good for an old-fashioned baseball revival next spring.

In addition to the Marlins, Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium is the spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals, who still are scrambling for a wild-card spot this week and always can be counted upon to be highly competitive.

Meanwhile, West Palm Beach’s new spring-training ballpark will house the Nationals, who could be coming off a deep playoff run, and the Houston Astros, who are handling themselves consistently well in the tough American League with a chance to match last season’s 86-win total.

All of this is proof that baseball can be fun, and the Marlins could actually be in on it again once February rolls around.

Until then, the grief over Jose’s death will make all this talk of momentum moot.