The Miami Marlins are making a big PR effort during their current teardown mode to celebrate the franchise’s 25th year with a special teal logo and with the promise of $4 seats and throwback uniforms during a special June 8-10 series against the San Diego Padres.
So what was Derek Jeter doing 25 years ago, and how strange would it have been to imagine him running the Marlins’ show in 2018?
Turns out The Captain was 19 years old and playing in North Carolina with the Greensboro Hornets of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Gary Denbo was his manager there, just as was when Jeter broke into pro ball with the Yankee’s Gulf Coast League rookie team in Tampa.
The Marlins wouldn’t have been on Jeter’s mind back then. He only had eyes for Yankee Stadium and, as everybody knew, he would make it soon enough. Five times he won World Series titles with the Yankees and once, in 2000, he was the World Series MVP.
Crazy to think that his first try as a baseball executive would come with the Marlins, but the old ties are still strong. When Jeter traded away Giancarlo Stanton, Miami’s homegrown star and the biggest slugger in the majors, it was to the Yankees.
Denbo is back in the picture, too, as Jeter’s Director of Player Development and Scouting in Miami.
All those nostalgic connections to the old Marlins, 25 years in the making, actually seem a bit of a stretch these days than a continuation of something special. This is Jeter’s life and these are Jeter’s Marlins. Welcome to a new world of baseball in South Florida, starting all over again.
I won’t bother rattling off the names of the minor-leaguers Miami got back in the trades that jettisoned Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon.
If you’re a major seamhead, those names are already familiar and so are their prospects of ever making the Marlins’ roster. And if you’re not a major seamhead, who cares?
Every now and again, however, there is proof that the scouts really do know what they are doing, and that getting the best you can out of dump-off trades like these is worth the extra research.
Consider Trevor Hoffman, voted this week into baseball’s Hall of Fame as one of the most reliable closers ever.
San Diego fans couldn’t have been too excited about hearing Hoffman included in a 1993 trade that was coming their way. They were focused instead on the Padres’ frustrating fire sale, which sent Gary Sheffield to Miami and unloaded other high-priced talent, too.
There certainly was no complaint from me over losing Hoffman or the two minor-league pitching prospects that left with him for San Diego. The skinny right-hander was a rookie with the Marlins, learning what he could by watching 45-save star Bryan Harvey and understanding that he probably wouldn’t be in the majors at all if not for being with the Marlins in their inaugural expansion season.
Two wins, two losses and two saves, that’s what Hoffman contributed to the Marlins. He was off to a good start, but nothing that would indicate Cooperstown as his eventual destination.
Sheffield, meanwhile, was a proven slugger and a National League batting champion when he came over for the first of six productive seasons in Miami. He was a big hit, leading the Marlins to a World Series title in 1997 and ending up with 509 career home runs, but he’s not yet in the Hall of Fame and probably never will be. He got just 11.1 percent of the vote this week, too far from the 75 percent requirement to imagine it possible.
So what’s the lesson? Nothing, except that baseball is ridiculous sometimes.
Maybe Derek Jeter has a new superstar hidden somewhere within the package of no-names he has picked up by trade. That would be cool, but only if the Marlins bother to pay him and keep him rather than working some other giveaway deal in the future.
The other former Marlins in the Hall of Fame are Pudge Rodriguez (who played here one season but made it count with a World Series title) plus Tim Raines and Andre Dawson (each stopped by in their 40’s to wrap up long careers) and Mike Piazza (who whistled through Miami for 18 at-bats in 1998).
With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the same lineup, every day will be Home Run Derby for the New York Yankees.
It’s an excess of riches for Derek Jeter’s old team. And his new one? An excess of prospects, building toward some grand plan that Jeter, part-owner and top baseball executive of the Miami Marlins, has thus far failed to articulate.
The optics are not good here, trading away the franchise’s home-grown NL Most Valuable Player. Some of the worst ever, actually.
Even Jeffrey Loria, the owner everyone wanted to ride out of town on a rail, got off to a better start than this when he bought the Marlins from John Henry in 2002.
Forget for a moment that Loria basically had the team handed to him in an orchestrated deal that sold his floundering Montreal Expos to Major League Baseball first. Forget it because fans care far less about the financial underpinnings of any franchise than they do about the players they buy tickets to see.
In that respect Loria and his general manager, Larry Beinfest, got busy in a hurry on a set of transactions that were far more popular and beneficial to the team’s roster than anything Jeter has done or will do over the next few years.
Tim Raines, a good clubhouse guy and a future Hall of Famer, instantly came aboard as a low-cost free agent at the end of his career. Everybody loved “Rock,” whether he played a lot or not, so no harm there.
Next came a spring-training trade that sent Antonio Alfonseca, a flighty and overweight closer, to the Cubs in a package that got the Marlins an interesting young pitching prospect named Dontrelle Willis. The D-Train was on the verge of a breakout, from minor leaguer in 2002 to NL Rookie of the Year in 2003, so that worked, too. It was all part of a quiet rollout in which the Marlins improved from 76 wins to 79, with Loria making signs that he meant to compete for something.
In Loria’s second season he shifted into a different gear altogether, trading away Charles Johnson and Preston Wilson in a deal that brought Juan Pierre, a great leadoff hitter, to the Marlins.
Next came the free-agent signing of catcher Ivan Rodriguez for $10 million, which was more than one-fifth of the team payroll at the time. Pudge, a future Hall of Famer, was exactly what the Marlins needed to get the most out of a staff of kid pitchers who themselves would go on to be stars.
In May Loria showed his impetuous side, firing manager Jeff Torborg and replacing him with the ancient Jack McKeon. Nobody knew quite what to make of that, and the sale of Kevin Millar to the Red Sox was a puzzler, too, but then came the moves that really proved Loria wanted to win the World Series as soon as possible.
In July the Marlins got a top closer, Ugueth Urbina, in a trade, and in August Jeff Conine, a Marlins favorite who was lost in an earlier Wayne Huizenga fire sale, returned to the team by trade as well. The pieces were then in place for a World Series upset of the Yankees, with a mix of veterans and young stars developed in what was then recognized as a strong farm system.
No matter what anybody thinks of Loria now, at least he came into this thing with the idea that the Marlins should strive to be the best and South Florida fans should know that.
So far, the only things this market knows about Jeter are bad. He won’t care about winning for a while, it’s clear. He believes there is time for a rebuild because he is new to this project. Poor guy. He doesn’t realize that new projects are old news around here. Finished projects are what we crave.
I’m not telling you to love Jeffrey Loria. It seems, though, that he at least cared about first impressions as the owner of the Marlins.
Jeter figures he has already made his first impression, the only one he’ll ever need to make, by being one of the greatest players in Yankees history. That was a different time in his life, though, and this job of empire-building, the one that even George Steinbrenner struggled to master, does not come so naturally to him.
One day soon, unless fate intervenes, the monster headline will drop that Giancarlo Stanton has been traded by the Miami Marlins for money reasons alone.
Though it won’t come as a surprise, there is no warding off the shock of dumping so spectacular a slugger at the peak of his powers.
Derek Jeter should know better. He is a major player in the history and the mythology of
the New York Yankees. Even if he doesn’t believe in it, he has heard a million times about the Curse of the Bambino, a baseball fable that lived on for what seemed like forever.
Not saying that Stanton is Babe Ruth or ever will be, but stick with me for a minute.
The Boston Red Sox were doing just fine, a fistful of World Series titles and everything, until they sold Ruth to the Yankees following the 1919 season.
It’s not like there was anything wrong with the Babe at the time. He was 24 and coming off a season in which he led the American League in home runs (29) and RBI (113). Players like that are too good to be true.
Money got in the way, however. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed some to finance a string of Broadway theatrical productions he wanted to stage and the Babe, fairly theatrical himself, was getting a little hard to handle with this party lifestyle. So Frazee moved the budding superstar for $100,000 in cash from the Yankees plus a sizable loan from the team.
Over the next 86 years the Red Sox won zero world championships and the Yankees won 26. Curse or coincidence? You be the judge.
All I know is that trading Stanton for any reason feels like throwing away the gift of a lifetime. It figures there should be some kind of punishment for that. Short-term there will be, of course, in the form of fan backlash against the new owners. Long-term? Well, the Marlins haven’t exactly been killing it lately but it can always get worse.
The Red Sox suffered 14 consecutive losing seasons after selling the Babe, and included in that skid were nine last-place finishes.
Jeter doesn’t expect something so dire to result from trading Stanton for a raft of prospects that may someday remake the Marlins in the way that the world champion Houston Astros have been remade. Maybe that will happen, too.
Just don’t say that I didn’t warn you about Giancarlo Stanton and would could become the bane of the franchise’s existence for decades to come.
He’s been doing it most of the season and still I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of Giancarlo Stanton batting second in the Miami Marlins lineup.
Through Monday’s game he had 57 home runs, the most in the majors, and seems bound for 60 in what remains of the season. Do you know how many 60-homer men have ever batted No. 2 in the lineup during their historic season?
Most often the legendary sluggers have batted in the third spot. If not there, it’s usually cleanup. But second?
Marlins manager Don Mattingly moved Stanton there from the cleanup spot on May 23 in a desperate attempt to shake the offense loose for a team that was off to a 15-28 start. Stanton himself needed some fixing at that point. He was chasing too many bad pitches and striking out way too much in an attempt to turn games around on one mighty swing.
Concentrating more on contact behind leadoff hitter Dee Gordon, Stanton began to drive balls in every direction and many of those times right over the wall. He had 11 homers prior to the switch in what admittedly was just a slice of the season. The other 46 have come from the No. 2 spot, and there’s no reason to change it now.
Here, with data scrapped together from the voluminous Baseball-Reference.com website, are the batting positions of the players who hit 60 homers in one season, plus Stanton.
Barry Bonds, 73 homers in 2001 – 136 games in the No. 3 spot, 11 games at No. 4
Mark McGwire, 70 homers in 1998 – 152 games in the No. 3 spot
Sammy Sosa, 66 homers in 1998 – 121 games at No. 3, 38 at No. 4
Mark McGwire, 65 homers in 1999 – 150 games in the No. 3 spot
Sammy Sosa, 64 homers in 2001 – 141 games in the No. 3 spot, 19 at No. 4
Sammy Sosa, 63 homers in 1999 – 84 games in the No. 3 spot, 78 at No. 4
Roger Maris, 61 homers in 1961 – 139 at No. 3, 10 at No. 7, 7 at No. 5, 3 at No. 4, 1 at No. 6
Babe Ruth, 60 homers in 1927 – 157 games in the No. 3 spot
Giancarlo Stanton, 57 homers in 2017 – 105 games in the No. 2 spot, 35 at No. 4, 7 at No. 5, 1 at No. 3
Mattingly has been all over the place with his lineup this season but the most commonly used order has been Gordon leading off, Stanton hitting second, Christian Yelich hitting third and Marcell Ozuna batting cleanup.
It hasn’t stopped Stanton from piling up 126 RBI, and Ozuna is right behind at 118.
Hey, Mattingly tried something different and Stanton was willing to give it a shot, with admirable results. Takes some guts to roll something like this out there in the first place because every old-schooler is going to say that it’s crazy.
Whether Derek Jeter agrees once he is approved as the Marlins co-owner or even wants to keep Mattingly as manager, the concept of experimenting with lineups is not new to him. Jeter batted ninth in his major-league debut and showed up just about everywhere else during his career, including leadoff and cleanup.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has batted second in 24 games this season. The majority of his starts have come in the No. 3 spot, with 61 games there, but apparently nothing about this game is written in stone anymore.
I’m not enough of a seamhead to know everything there is to know about revocable waivers but if the Miami Marlins just ran Giancarlo Stanton through that process over the weekend and he went unclaimed, as reported by Yahoo Sports, it’s time to dig in.
As explained by the MLB Daily Dish website, “In August, tons of players throughout the league are placed on revocable trade waivers, in many cases for clubs to gauge value of their players and in some rare cases, because clubs are actually interested in making waiver-wire deals.”
My interpretation: Generally speaking it’s no big deal for a player to be placed on revocable waivers in August. Happens all the time. This, however, makes Stanton eligible to be traded to any team now, and since the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter group just signed an agreement to purchase the team from Jeffrey Loria, you have to assume that Jeter is the one who wants to discover all the possibilities.
Stanton is owed $295 million between 2018 and 2027. Surely Jeter’s group and Loria talked about that during negotiations to buy the team at the reported price of $1.2 billion. The franchise and its new owners can either build around Stanton or start a new long-range plan with greater freedom to spread money in other directions.
Stanton’s on a career-best roll, too, with an all-time high trade value. Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Giants, he had homered in five consecutive games, setting a franchise season record of 43 in the process. In August alone Stanton has 10 homers, more than three teams (the Phillies, Pirates and Rays) have managed to pile up. He also went into Tuesday’s action with 22 homers in the space of 34 games, a pace that hasn’t been seen since Shawn Green of the Dodgers matched it in 2002.
Now, about the “revocable” part of the waivers process, which Stanton reportedly cleared on Sunday.
Other teams have 48 hours to make a claim on a player who has been placed on revocable waivers. The teams at the bottom of the standings get first priority if there are multiple claims.
At this point, a trade can be worked out, or the original team may pull the player back off waivers and everything returns to normal.
Or, as explained by MLB Daily Dish, “the team can simply award the player to the priority claiming team, with the claiming team taking on the rest of the player’s contract and immediately acquiring him.”
My interpretation: If some other team was willing to take Stanton’s contract or any significant chunk of it off the Marlins’ books, it would have been tempting for Jeter to approve that. Sounds like a horrible PR move for the new group, of course, in terms of dumping the Marlins’ best player in the midst of an incredible home-run barrage, but Loria still owns the team and fans are already inclined to blame him for everything.
Either way, since Stanton was not claimed, the new ownership group has a better idea of which teams are interested enough, and wealthy enough, to make a call and seriously discuss the situation when it comes to Miami’s young superstar.
The Detroit Tigers just went on a fact-finding mission with second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was placed on revocable waivers and was claimed by another unknown team. Since no deal was worked out within the 48-hour waiver period, Kinsler stays with the Tigers. Maybe he gets traded in the offseason or next summer or maybe nothing ever happens with Kinsler but Detroit has more information about his market value at this point and that is important to them.
With Stanton, who has a no-trade clause, it remains possible that he could be traded away by the end of August if there is somewhere he agrees to go and some team rich enough to assume his contract. After that it makes no sense because players have to be with a contending team by Sept. 1 in order to make the postseason roster.
Bottom line, I don’t think Stanton is going anywhere right now, but it’s no surprise that Loria’s guys are looking around to see what is possible, and that Jeter is eager to see what they find out.
The Marlins need to build everything over, from the farm system up. If Jeter is soon to be in charge of both the business and the baseball side of this operation, Stanton is the key to every blueprint that must be reviewed and approved over the next decade.
What would be a dream performance for Marcell Ozuna or Giancarlo Stanton playing at Marlins Park in Tuesday’s All-Star Game?
Well, something along the lines of Ted Williams’ day at Fenway Park in the 1946 All-Star Game would do.
Teddy Ballgame went 4-for-4 with a couple of home runs and five RBI in that 12-0 American League victory. His 10 total bases were a single-game record for the Midsummer Classic, along with just every other thing he did.
Heck, if there had been a Home Run Derby back then, Williams probably would have won that, too.
Yes, something like that would be great to see from one of the Marlins in the combined showcase of Monday and Tuesday nights. And what is it that we absolutely, positively don’t want to see?
Think Dan Uggla in 2008 at Yankee Stadium.
For openers, the Marlins second baseman finished fifth in the Home Run Derby with six balls hit out of the park.
Then, after subbing in for starter Chase Utley, Uggla got caught in one of the longest and lousiest All-Star experiences ever.
Because the game lasted 15 innings and ended at the ungodly hour of 1:38 a.m., Uggla came to the plate four times, striking out on three of those appearances and grounding into a double play on the other. Oh, and one of those whiffs came with the bases loaded.
It was even worse in the field. Three errors, including two on consecutive plays in the 10th inning.
When the American League finally won on a sacrifice fly by Texas’ Michael Young in the 15th, it should have come as a relief to Uggla. Instead, he stood at his locker expressing the kind of self-confidence that made him an All-Star in the first place.
“I know what kind of player I am,” Uggla said. “I’m fine. The only thing I’m mad about is that we lost. I never was down. You shake it off, you move on, and you keep playing.””
He meant what he said because the rest of Uggla’s season was a success, with 32 homers and 92 RBI.
There are four Miami Marlins on the 2016 National League All-Star roster and none of them are Giancarlo Stanton or the still-suspended Dee Gordon.
What does that mean about the team’s postseason possibilities? Probably nothing. The Marlins’ world championship teams of 1997 and 2003 only had three All-Star representatives each.
Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson and Moises Alou were on the first title team. Mike Lowell, Dontrelle Willis and Luis Castillo were on the second one, and it took injuries to other players to get the D-Train and Castillo on the roster.
Nobody’s ever quite sure what to make of this franchise and the ebb and flow of its talent pool.
This season it’s no surprise to see Jose Fernandez selected as an All-Star, but Marcell Ozuna? The team seemed to be pretty much fed up with him last season. Now he’s batting over .300 for the first time and headed for the All-Star game in San Diego next Tuesday. Maybe Ozuna ought to take Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds with him.
Miami’s other two All-Stars are out of the bullpen, A.J. Ramos and newcomer Fernando Rodney, recently acquired by trade from the Padres. That says two good things about the organization. It’s got depth in an area that is vital to the success of any team, plus the Marlins are aggressive enough about the 2016 playoffs to spend important assets on an All-Star arm.
Still, there’s no reason to get worked up about something crazy with this club, right? No World Series run or anything like that.
Every time a thought like that crosses my mind, I think of 2003. At the All-Star break, the Marlins were 49-46 and 13 games behind the division-leading Braves. Then came a 42-25 finish to grab a wild-card playoff berth and you know the rest.
At the moment Miami is a bit over .500 again as the All-Star break approaches. Close enough to make some noise, especially if Stanton keeps hitting long home runs. He could still have an All-Star level second half of the season, even if he’s missed the mark so far.
How many times am I going to be wrong on the Miami Marlins?
They just don’t fit any trustworthy pattern. Never have, either, throughout their entire history.
When they’re supposed to be good, they go belly up and get broken up. When they’re
supposed to be mediocre, they overperform. And when they get a real hot streak going, they run into a brick wall against the lowly Braves.
Just took a look at my 2016 season preview column written at the end of spring training. Ouch.
My most reliable prediction was that Dee Gordon, the defending NL batting champion, would continue to be everything a team could want in a leadoff hitter. Wrong. In the season’s first month he got caught for using PED’s and was slapped with an 80-game suspension. Oh, and he’s ineligible for the playoffs, if there are playoffs.
Next I surmised that the Marlins didn’t have enough pitching to hang with the Nationals and Mets for an entire season. What else are you supposed to say when Wei-Yin Chen is your opening-day starter and Jose Fernandez is still working his way back from 2014 Tommy John surgery and Carter Capps, a strong candidate to close for Miami, blows his elbow out in spring training?
So far, however, that’s another big fat wrong. Miami’s team ERA is seventh in the league and A.J. Ramos is second on the NL saves list, with another closer, Fernando Rodney, just added by trade.
Oh, and I figured Giancarlo Stanton would have a big year but he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel with a batting average that didn’t climb past .200 until a few weeks ago.
Put it all together and my bottom line prediction of 76-86 also appears headed for the shredder. At this point the Marlins are within striking range in the NL East and in solid contention for a wild-card spot.
You know what it means if the Marlins qualify as a wild-card team, right? They win the World Series, every time.
When that’s your most trustworthy pattern, absolutely everything is wacky, which means being wrong about this franchise does actually feel just about right.
July is upon us, which means we’re due for another Miami Marlins makeover.
Didn’t think I’d be typing that again this summer. The team looked pretty good in spring training, with Giancarlo Stanton back healthy and ready to rip, plus solid additions like Dee Gordon, who’s only leading the majors in batting, not to mention the larger promise of Jose Fernandez sailing through his Tommy John rehab and on line for a solid second half of the season.
All the same, the losses started piling up so quickly and so high that manager Mike Redmond got fired, offseason contract extension or not, and before you knew it Stanton being on something like a 60-homer pace was of little consequence. The Marlins, sitting at 31-46, are worse than every team but Philadelphia and Milwaukee and the bottom’s still not in sight.
That’s because Stanton broke his wrist and he’s out for six weeks or so. Who’s going to set that home-run sculpture into a fit of synchronized chaos now? It’s down to just the regular Marlins chaos now, unplanned and unstoppable.
Anyway, the trading deadline is July 31 and Jeffrey Loria doesn’t like paying guys past June if they’re not going to make the playoffs. This would seem the natural time to get together with team president Michael Hill and the general manager to determine which guys will bring the most in trade.
Wait a minute. Dan Jennings isn’t the GM anymore. He’s the Marlins’ manager, and tooling along at 15-24 since replacing Redmond on May 18.
If you’re wondering why players wouldn’t be all that excited about somebody from the front office writing out the lineups and determining how much each guy plays, it’s because of conflicts of interest just like this one.
It’s not a matter of trying to win the division anymore. It’s shuffling through contracts and digging through the minor-league organizational charts of other teams to find somebody that might make you a little better next year, or the year after that.
The manager shouldn’t be buried hip-deep in that process, but Jennings clearly isn’t the final answer there and never was. He’s holding a space until Loria figures out what he wants to do next, and then it’s back to the front office for DJ, a super scout and a super guy but not the superglue you need to hold together a clubhouse that’s been torn up and put back together so many times before.
Even the Phillies understand this side of the equation. Ryne Sandberg resigned as their manager last week, muttering something profound about “Wins and losses was a big thing that took a toll on me,” and the team replaced him Monday with the interim solution of third-base coach Pete Mackanin.
Mackanin is 63. He’s been wearing a baseball uniform his entire life. Probably doesn’t know how to tie a necktie. He’ll take the toll now, as well as anyone could, knowing it’s the role he was born for and the only one he’s suited to play.
Jennings, on the other hand, is miscast. It’s not his fault, but it is his curse. The manager is supposed to have his players’ backs in feuds with umpires and reporters and team presidents and even owners, or at least that’s how they see it.
Instead, as another potential Marlins makeover looms, Miami’s manager is a visitor from the front office, beholden to Loria for the job that matters most, the one he wants to return to, which is managing the roster instead of the team.