Each year is a different and unique story for a professional sports team, especially Major League Baseball with its marathon 162-game campaign. Some years remain engraved in our memory while others ebb away over time. Marlins fans would list 1997 and 2003 as the most memorable years for obvious reasons. Beyond that, each year has its moments and stories that will be remembered.
Without a doubt, 2011 will be remembered primarily as J
oe Robbie Pro Player Dolphins Landshark Sun Life Stadium's swan song. The team closed the place in a very Marlins fashion with an underachieving finish on the field and a celebration to remember the quirky and unique aspects of that being our home for nineteen years. It felt oddly appropriate. As for the rest, there are several bits on and off that field that will probably be remembered five and ten years from now, depending on how it all shakes out. Below are the four that have my attention.
Hanley Ramirez: Decline or Aberration?
For the first time in his career, Hanley missed a significant portion of the season due to injury, and for that we can't pile on him too hard. But, the truth is he was having an awful season by his high standards. He hit .243, well below his previous worst season, .292 as a rookie.
Most would believe once Hanley is fully healthy again he will find his usual form and be the force we expect. I wouldn't be 100% certain. His added body mass (muscle, to be fair) has me thinking that Hanley really wants to be a power hitter. It showed in 2010 as his strikeout rate increased, as did his HR/FB ratio. Again, perhaps injuries were a big issue but Hanley is at his best when he focuses on being a good hitter. The power numbers will come soon thereafter. The new coaching stuff must drill that into his head.
Was this the first in a string of under performing seasons and not living up to his fat contract? Or was it merely a bad luck year stuffed between several all-star appearances?
Mike Stanton: Launching a Superstar Career?
Some may say Stanton is already a superstar. He is in our hearts, but in a baseball sense he still may be a year away. 2011 was his first full season and he didn't disappoint. He hit 34 homers, batted a respectable .262 and lead the team in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Though still not ideal, he did also improve his walk and strikeout rates.
One and a half seasons does not make a career though. You can bet the scouting report for Mike is getting larger and more in depth. It will be interesting to see how pitchers handle him in his second full season and how Mike adjusts.
Will he continue his path to super stardom or will he regress and simply be a good power bat?
Who is Leo Nunez?
In terms of oddball Marlins stories, the Leo Nunez saga takes the cake, not just in 2011 but perhaps Marlins history. It was fun enough trying to explain him converting the first 18 save opportunities he faced, then laughing as he regressed hard. Then it was infuriating watching the trade deadline pass and seeing him remain in teal.
None of that touches the identity issue though. Having to leave suddenly to his native Dominican Republic toward the end of the season was the biggest surprise of them all. Learning that he is actually Juan Carlos Oviedo and is a year older than everyone thought is equal parts hilarious, mind boggling, and sad.
As it stands now, he's still sorting out all the legal issues in the Dominican and USA. MLB will also have to rule pretty soon about his status, since technically he is eligible for arbitration and the Marlins have to decide whether to offer him a contract.
LoMo: New Mr. Marlin or Next Former Marlin?
The internet has thousands upon thousands of words on Logan Morrison, and for good reason. He's a good ballplayer, but also an ace in the social web medium. This has resulted in him becoming a fan favorite amongmost and that can only mean one thing: Jeffrey Loria doesn't like him.
LoMo has been a bit too outspoken at times and was eventually sent down to the minors for a couple weeks. The team said it was because he was batting .260 at the plate. Fans said it was because he was batting 1.000 on Twitter.
The rift between him and management, coupled with the fact that realistically Gaby Sanchez or LoMo should be moved because both should be playing first base, means he is a trade candidate. Already speculation is being thrown out about where and how he could be moved. Will the Marlins get good value and wave him goodbye or hang onto a budding star and deal with his off the field baggage?
Other Indelible Images