Miami Marlins fans cannot be happy about the way the team has started the 2013 season. The team is 3-13 to start the year, off to the worst start in team history record-wise. The offense has scored a pathetic 33 runs in 16 games, barely two per game. The starting pitching staff has been decent, but only deceptively so. All signs point to a terrible season ahead.
Dave George of the Palm Beach Post says that there is no need to panic about that. But not because there should be a return to prominence, but rather because this was expected.
There is no appropriate time to panic about this team, whether it’s early in the year or late in the year or smack dab in the middle of what could turn out to be the least-competitive season in the history of a franchise that seems only to exist in the extreme. This is exactly what should be happening for a roster scraped so paper-thin.
There is obvious truth to this sentiment. We here at Fish Stripes minced no words with regards to how bad this team would be; even with my bold prediction of 70 wins, the team was going to be in for a rough season. The Marlins were bound to lose a lot of games, the team going into the year was not going to be a talented core except for Giancarlo Stanton (and the surprise appearance of Jose Fernandez), and the 2013 season was going to be a grind on fans no matter how the team started.
But there are two things that may be a bit off about George's assessment of this team:
1) The Marlins are not likely to be historically bad, or even 1998 bad.
2) There are still things about which we as fans can be concerned with regards to the 2013 Marlins.
The first point is covered by my initial post; the Marlins are essentially equipped with a bunch of one-win players surrounding an elite player in Giancarlo Stanton. In contrast, the 1998 squad, after the early season trade of Gary Sheffield. Charles Johnson, and Bobby Bonilla, left that Marlins team with almost no players. The early stages of the star version of Cliff Floyd were there, but that was about the extent of the skill on that Marlins team. This year's team is more talented and thus less likely to finish the year with less than 60 wins.
But as George mentions, competing against one of the two worst teams in Marlins history is not a good measure of success. If that is all the Marlins have at stake in this 2013 season, then the team really has no reason to panic and nor reason to concern itself about what happens this year. In a wins-and-losses manner, that is completely true. Outside of perhaps avoiding the embarrassment of a 54-108 or worse record, the Fish have no wins or losses to truly play for; this was a lost season at the start of the year.
But here at Fish Stripes, we are eternally about the #minorvictories, and as mentioned in that article, the Marlins do have other things to play for that could impact future seasons.
This is a perfect question to use to elucidate the idea behind #minorvictories. Marlins fans cannot focus on the wins and losses in a season like this. Going into the season, everyone knew it was going to be a difficult season with a lot of losses. It is a heavy burden to bear, and it weighs down on you fanhood. Each loss piles on top of the next, and all you see is a drowning Marlins team that, night in and night out, fails to compete with other clubs in Major League Baseball.
But here at Fish Stripes, we try to be positive about everything we do, even when the organization is piling on the negatives. And thus was born the concept of #minorvictories: the idea that, in losing times like these, we should focus on the small positives and build them up rather than look to the awful negatives. Throughout the offseason, we have focused on the positives that are not likely to add up to a winning campaign but may still impact the Marlins this year and in future years.
That is what is at stake in the 2013 season. Wins and losses are more or less irrelevant, but the development of the Marlins' players is not, and if the Marlins want to be a competitive team in 2014 or beyond, they still need to pay attention to 2013. Watching for the development of players like Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Rob Brantly, and Justin Ruggiano is crucial for future years, even if the immediate impact is invisible. Marlins fans should take note as well; some of these parts, much like parts from the 1998 season, rose from the ashes of that rubble and became prime contributors to the future of the franchise.
There were two players who played a decent amount in 1998 and eventually contributed to the Marlins' 2003 World Series win. Derrek Lee started at first base from start to finish and was terrible throughout the year; five years later, he was hitting a double to drive in two runs and tie up the sixth game of the 2003 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. Luis Castillo spent time on the bench behind Craig Counsell on that Marlins team; years later, he would win multiple Gold Gloves and be a major part of the balanced offensive attack of that 2003 team. Those two players were getting their first hacks, no matter how difficult, in 1998, and fans who watched them back then got a chance to experience their growth into legitimate All-Stars.
If you, as a Marlins fan, care about the future of this franchise, you will find players on this roster who may become the Derrek Lee and Luis Castillo of the future. Who are those players? I have no idea, though I have a clue as to who they might be. But the key is that every young player's development on the 2013 Marlins is important, no matter how the results turn out. If the players struggle, it was an experience for them and evidence of their problems for fans. If players like Fernandez and others succeed, then it is a #minorvictory for the team and evidence of their chances at a bright future for fans.
And that is what the Marlins are trying to evaluate in 2013, and that is what is at stake for them. And that is also why we, as fans, should watch. Stanton may not be long with this team, but Fernandez and Christian Yelich have a chance to be the foundations of a new Marlins core. The purpose of the 2013 season is to find those players who will surround those two. If none are present on this roster, and the Marlins and their fans do not see any development of any talent in the next year or two, it may then be time to panic, because the future of the organization may be bleak.