The Fish are back in Miami, where they'll start a homestand of healthy proportions tonight against the Diamondbacks.
The Marlins and Diamondbacks hold a special place in baseball history, as they introduced teal and purple as colors that winners could wear. Granted, they've also had their down years (see the Marlins 1998 and the Diamondbacks 2004), but these two clubs also won World Championships very quickly ? the Marlins in their fifth year and the DBacks in their fourth.
That has nothing to do with today's series preview, so I'll stop rambling.
: Baxter, thanks for coming back to FishStripes.
: Thanks for having me again, Grover. In your rambling intro you pointed out something that I've always wondered about with the Marlins: they celebrated their fifth anniversary season in 1997 ? when they won their first World Series. Then, six years later (do the math, kids), the Fish celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2003 and promptly won their second title. Why doesn't Mr. Loria deem the 2005 campaign to be the team's 15th or 20th anniversary? That would seem to guarantee another World Series win, wouldn't it?
: Brilliant idea, Baxter. Simply brilliant. You are clearly a genius. [Rolls eyes] I can see why you live in an over-sized, Lego-land beyond the centerfield fence at the BoB.
When we last got together, just back in mid-July, I mentioned that I thought the DBacks should be building towards next year. But suddenly the Snakes find themselves in the midst of the playoff hunt, albeit in the pathetic NL West. Are you hopeful?
: I am. If the DBacks can make the playoffs this year, anything can happen. In a short series against Atlanta or St. Louis, just about anything can happen. And even if lightning doesn't strike, the playoffs could be a great experience for what's mostly a young team. The core of this team will be around for years to come - so some playoff experience, or even meaningful games late in the season, would be a good thing.
: Speaking of that young core, one player who's definitely not in that group is Luis Gonzalez. What's his future look like?
: Gonzalez doesn't turn 38 until next month. A decade or so ago, that was pretty old. But with the performances that guys like Julio Franco and Roger Clemens are turning in, Gonzalez could have a few more good years left in him. He's sure making everyone believe that this year. His numbers aren't at his 2001 levels ? that was a career year ? but they're certainly solid: .282/.375/.461. He's even on a pace for 20 some homers and 80 + RBI.
: Right - you say "career year," I say "what was he on?" It's all the same thing. I'm with you.
How about my other favorite guy ? Brandon Webb? Has he turned around a moribund franchise yet and taken them to the World Series? Should I ask Dontrelle Willis to pack up his Rookie of the Year trophy and have it delivered to Webb in the clubhouse?
: Such anger in you, Grover. It's really quite sad.
Webb has been good this season, but not great; he probably hasn't lived up to the expectations that many of us formed for him in 2003. But he's just 26 and he's still learning. Of late he's come on strong (with a WHIP well below 1 over the past two weeks). There are a lot of flashes of brilliance. We just need to see more consistency.
: Any surprises?
: Conor Jackson, an outfielder, was recently called up from the AAA Tucson club. He was leading not just the PCL, but all of the minors, in doubles. Bob Melvin says that Jackson is going to get some serious playing time while he's up with the big club. Considering that this is officially now a playoff drive ? it's August ? and that Jackson was only drafted in 2003 (granted, it was in the first round), it's a bit of a surprise to see him so early.
: Thanks for your time, Baxter. Enjoy the South Florida weather. It's no dry heat.