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Victor Oladipo, Pacers

Marlins: Mix of new and old an interesting combo for struggling franchise

Even after going through a name change, it has been 10 seasons since the Miami Marlins have produced a team that has finished a regular season with a record that is .500 or above, an astounding number of seasons that have been filled with futility. And even with Derek Jeter at the helm helping run this team as the franchise’s CEO, the lack of on-field talent has really become a household thing for the once-good franchise.

The Marlins became a franchise back in 1993, and since that time, they have only produced five winning seasons in their 27-year history. Having won 80+ games in 18.5% of their seasons is nothing to write home about, especially for a team that plays its baseball in one of the best locations possible in the United States.

Attendance has struggled ever since Jeter took over in 2017, which includes the sub-one million marks that the team achieved in both 2018 and 2019. Both years were 811,000+, a far cry from their 1.583 million that they drew in ‘17 when they finished with a record of 77-85 and still took in the National League East division, 20 games behind.

Gone are the days of Miguel Cabrera, Luis Castillo, Dontrelle Willis, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Juan Pierre, and Dan Uggla, forever etched into the annals of history for the Marlins, even after they switched their name to include ‘Miami’ instead of ‘Florida’ in November of 2011. In their new ballpark, the Marlins have created an experience that is tailored to their fans, as long as these fans actually show up at the games and are not paying attention to the awful level of product that the team is producing out on the diamond.

The team looks completely different than a few years ago, due to tragedy and the team shipping out its stars at an alarming rate. With the unfortunate tragedy of star pitcher Jose Fernandez, to the team trading Stanton to the New York Yankees after he received a massive deal (and which the team seemed to received peanuts for) and catcher J.T. Realmuto to their divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, the team has taken on a very different identity.

Currently, the team’s roster is finally resembling one of a competent major-league team with some sort of quality thinking going on in the front office, which is not always something that could be said for this team. An interesting combination of veteran players acquired cheaply in an attempt to become a bit competitive and youngsters who are looking to finally prove their worth at the MLB-level by making the team in Spring Training.

Manager Don Mattingly is looking to try and use his managerial experience to round this squad into one that just manages to remain competitive throughout an entire regular season slate of games, which Miami has absolutely struggled to do.

Veterans, like Jonathan Villar, Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, and Francisco Cervelli, are joined by youngsters like Jazz Chisholm, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Jordan Yamamoto, Brian Anderson, Miguel Rojas, and Jorge Alfaro, among others. While that cast of veterans and young players makes for a very intriguing pairing, this roster actually looks to be the best one that the team has been able to produce in a few seasons, which is absolutely saying something.

Jeter has been labeled as the guy who has run this team into the ground, fully dragging the struggling franchise under water even farther, and stripping what few valuable pieces that it had away for pennies on the dollar. While each and every one of those elements is absolutely true, the fact of the matter remains that Jeter is holding the current roster to decently-high standards and that he is expecting accountability by the roster as the year progresses on.

Having helped rebuild a putrid farm system into a very highly-regarded one is not an easy task to do, but Jeter has taken on that responsibility since day one of being on the job, and even though the progress here has been at the result of trading guys like Stanton and Realmuto, their returns, coupled with other deals that have been made, has helped get this team a lifeline as it moves into the future.

Not blessed with the best draft classes or by profound scouting results in the international markets, the Marlins have been forced to rely on a little bit of luck and a lotta bit of understanding that the best way out of this hole is by struggling first. By pulling a tanking method of sorts, the franchise is seemingly hell-bent on eventually getting to the point of being competitive yet again, but also constantly pushing out that desired timeframe for fans to hold on to.

Drawing fans to the ballpark have been one of the toughest sells for the Marlins’ franchise lately, but with their roster looking to be on the upswing in terms of talent and on-field product, the end hopefully is in the sights of leadership and front-office personnel. Having struggled for far too long in a repetitive cycle of uncompetitiveness, the team Miami and the city of Miami are both very ready for this cycle to break from routine and produce productive results.

Asking for a .500 record right now is a bit too much to want out of a team that is still searching for buildable pieces, but improving upon its ghastly 57-105 record from last year is the least that they can expect. An increase of at least 10-15 games in the right direction would represent a major step into becoming competitive yet again, which should be the overall goal for a franchise that has had so many magical moments in its brief yet storied history.

The NL East is one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball from top to bottom, as the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, and New York Mets are all capable of fielding postseason-worthy rosters on a yearly basis. While the Marlins are marred with being the basement team of the division, the eventual outcome of being in competition with the rest of their rivals is in the foreseeable future – but there is not definite year that can be thrown out there just quite yet.