For some reason I have been watching the Florida Marlins take on the Pittsburg Pirates tonight down in South Florida. But actually, it’s actually been a really good show – a well-pitched, tight ballgame with some good plays and some well-executed small ball. Right now, it’s 3-3 in the 9th. Here are some random thoughts that have occured to me in the meantime…
Best rookie pitcher that nobody has ever heard of: Josh Johnson of the Marlins. While everyone is lavishing attention on guys like Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, and Jered Weaver, Johnson started tonight, allowing 2 runs on only 4 hits in 7 innings of work to lower his ERA to a second-best-in-the-Major-Leagues 2.49.
On the Pirates side, how good is Jason Bay? The Pirates default All-Star centerfielder clocked another home run tonight to raise his total to 22 on the year. Even more impressive is his walk rate, which has put him on pace for 106 walks this season. A power hitter who can control the strike zone like that is surely in for some very big seasons down the road. Not to mention, Bay has the third best OPS of all National League outfielders, behind only Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday. Who knew?
Man this young Marlins team looks good. The batting lineup is starting to look positively intimidating, as weird as that sounds. In addition to Miguel Cabrerra, starters Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham, Miguel Olivo, and Jeremy Hermida all have OPS’s around .800 or better. The only regular of the Marlin’s young guns that has really fallen on his face at all is Reggie Abercrombie (.622 OPS).
Which gets me thinking – maybe the Marlins have got it right. In the last decade plus of baseball, encompassing the modern era of skyrocketing salaries, ballpark extortionomics, expansion, and division series play, only the Yankees have won more World Series than the Florida Marlins’ two titles, and the Yankees have spent bajillions more than the Fish. Despite all the criticism raining down from all sides on the so-called “fire sales” after the 1997 and 2003 World Series victories, the fact is, the 2003 World Series championship was a direct consequence of the 1998 fire sale. No fire sale, no World Series in 2003. And now, thanks to the most recent fire sale this past offseason, the Marlins have an entire major league roster of outstanding young rookies that are locked up for another six or seven years. And with no reason for the Marlins to trade Dontrelle Willis or Miguel Cabrerra, who are still super-cheap, it is not inconceivable that the Marlins could win a couple of World Series with this squad in the very near future.
So maybe the Marlins are actually the smart ones after all, selling high and buying low every few years to gorge on the rest of the teams’ best young talents and reload for another World Series run, all the while paying one of the lowest payrolls around. But then again, looking at the nearly complete emptiness at Dolphins Stadium tonight, it reminds one of the obvious point that as effective as these fire sales are at reloading for a Series run down the road, they devastate the fanbase and drive people away from the ballpark.
Finally, as he comes to bat in the ninth as a pinch-hitter, why in the world do people keep giving Jeromy Burnitz a job? When was the last time this guy even approached replacement-level value? Oh wait, I guess that’s why – he just singled in the winning run. I guess he has a job because of that intangible “veteran experience” or something. But seriously, he is just the latest symptom in a long-running Pirates disease going back at least to those massive multi-year contracts they gave to guys like Mike Benjamin, Pat Meares, and Kevin Young.