Who knew Trevor Hoffman was bound for Cooperstown when Marlins traded him away?

 

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?

12 Apr 1993: Trevor Hoffman pitches for the Florida Marlins during a game against the San Francisco Giants. (Photo by Otto Greule /Allsport)

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).

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The fascinating tale of Giancarlo Stanton, a slugger who bats second

 

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?

None.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton stands with boys before a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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.

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Wishing for Marlins’ All-Stars a better experience than poor Dan Uggla got

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.

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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?

Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla pictured in 2010, the last of his five seasons with the team. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Four Marlins All-Stars? That’s more than Miami’s World Series teams

 

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.

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 2: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins throws a fourth inning pitch against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 2, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA – JULY 2: Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins throws a fourth inning pitch against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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.

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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.