The Miami Marlins suffered their 100th loss of the 2013 season a few days ago, and with that 100th loss comes more disappointment for an already embattled franchise. The 2013 season was bound to be a difficult one, but few expected all of the problems that arose this year to make the Fish as bad as this. The Marlins put up one of the worst offensive performances in the modern era, their superstar talent Giancarlo Stanton was hurt or struggling throughout the year, and the performance of just about anyone else other than Jose Fernandez and Stanton ranged from average to unbearable to watch.
Consider all of these factors and how they affected your fanhood this season. Now consider the grind of a 162-game fiasco when you have to cover the franchise.
If the 2013 campaign was hard on fans, you can be certain that it was harder on folks like Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, or other beat writers who have to do it for a living day in and day out. It is exponentially harder when you are not earning a significant salary for your work. That makes the work of bloggers like myself, the team here at Fish Stripes, and Ehsan Kassim and his team at Marlin Maniac even more of a challenge in the face of this season's struggles.
So how did we do it? How did we get through the grind of almost 162 games of shoulder-slumping disappointment? Writing about the franchise has gotten increasingly more difficult as the season has passed. The Marlins have not offered the excitement of a race for anything; even the race for the first pick of the 2014 draft was sealed up by the Houston Astros fairly early. The Marlins have no shot at catching the Astros for losses or the New York Mets or Philadelphia Phillies for fourth place in the division. Essentially, nothing has been at stake since the trade deadline, and that saps from the already-low interest in the team.
It does not help that the team's plans have gone awry from the very beginning. The franchise was planning to feature the pitching staff that eventually finished the year all season long, but injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez cut their years in half. Ricky Nolasco's entire 2013 season was spent waiting for his eventual trade, and the return on the deal the Marlins got was too small to get excited about. Every Marlins stopgap solution failed, and even the team's best hitter underperformed. If there was something you were looking forward to in 2013, it almost certainly did not come to fruition.
All of this has made interest in the team difficult, and a lack of interest in the team means a lack of interest in published work for the team. Coverage of the Marlins gets even less play than the Marlins themselves, so it is difficult to maintain the motivation of carefully tracking the Fish intently for the entire year. The payoff for following and writing about the franchise is so low that it makes the job a difficult one.
This is something I ran into this year. Keeping an eye on another hapless team game in the middle of August was difficult. The Marlins viewing guide itself tells you to screen your games appropriately, but covering the team requires me to watch every Tom Koehler and Alex Sanabia wreck of a start. Sometimes, following the 2013 version of the team was more of a chore and a job than it was a labor of love.
But then things like last night, during a meaningless 3-2 win in a Brad Hand start, occur and you realize that fandom is not about motivation, no matter how you are attached to the team. The game was not exciting throughout, and Hand did not exactly light up the stadium with his stuff, but the Marlins got a two-RBI triple from an unlikely source and kept the game close. Steve Cishek then finished off a save with two strikeouts to continue his streak. This was all in a game when Cole Hamels was starting and the Fish likely had very poor odds coming in.
While the game may not have been perfectly out of the Marlins' reach, it was highly unlikely that they would win that contest. And yet the Fish did. And that is why we watch, even if we have to endure all the other losses. At the end of the day, the wins are still gratifying, even when they come at the end of a 100-loss season. That is why I can muster the excitement to watch a Marlins game as the season winds to a close. Just like my advice at the beginning of the season, Marlins fans have to continue to appreciate the #minorvictories, and the fact that I can appreciate those small wins at the end of the season is ideal. It turns out that, even with 100 losses, those wins count for fans like myself.