The Miami Marlins' 2014 campaign was such a positive event, but it was positive often despite the hardships rather than being a hardship-free zone. One of the hardships associated with the great year that Giancarlo Stanton had for the team is the way that that year ended. On September 11, 2014, in a game against Mike Fiers and the Milwaukee Brewers, Fiers accidentally threw an inside fastball that flew out of control, angling hard and fast at Stanton's head. The pit hit Stanton flush in the cheek, injuring him badly enough to be carted off the field. The injury was a bloody one, with Stanton clearly dented by the fastball and immediately going down.
The results of this injury were fairly widespread. For one, it essentially ended Stanton's season. Stanton suffered multiple lacerations and fractures and a dental injury that left a hole in his face. He was down for several minutes, the crew checked on him, and he had to be carted off for emergency evaluation. Thankfully, the injuries were not so severe that they required immediate surgery, but Stanton did have to get multiple evaluations and was flown down to Miami to be seen by the team doctors there. Eventually, it was deemed that Stanton did not require surgery, and his healing process would go smoothly on its own. Still, with his face involved, it was safe to assume that his season had ended, and Miami finally pulled the trigger and announced him out for the rest of the year.
This cut off a season that was turning into one of the best in Marlins history. At the time, Stanton's season was simply among the best that any Marlin had ever put up, but with at least 15 games left in the year, he had a chance to build up more. He had a very good chance at reaching 40 home runs, a mark that only one other Marlin had ever reached in a single season. Stanton definitely had a chance at breaking that record, initially set by Gary Sheffield in 1996, as he was down only five runs with 15 games to go. The shot to the face deprived Stanton of a season that could have matched the best years by any Marlin, typically considered the peak Hanley Ramirez years, and instead left him a win shy of that category of play. While that is nothing to be ashamed of, we are still left to wonder what might have been had Stanton stayed the course. Could he have had the best season in Marlins history? It seemed possible.
Losing Stanton also took away the team's best hitter at a time that the club could have used the help. Miami was in the very periphery of the Wild Card race, but the Milwaukee Brewers had helped with that by floundering badly down the stretch. It allowed the Fish to have a chance to chase down the Pittsburgh Pirates, especially as we saw the Brewers progress further down the standings. It is unlikely that Stanton being in the lineup would have made the difference between the playoffs or not, but without Stanton, Miami ran very inferior lineups and ended the year 6-11 without him in the lineup. His absence certainly did not help.
Finally, the occurrences after the injury were also unfortunate. Fiers beaned another player in Reed Johnson immediately afterward, and both plays were called as swings and misses. While technically correct by the rules (as interpreted by the umpires on the field in the heat of the moment), it certainly seemed harsh in terms of the letter of the law. Had one of these been ruled a hit-by-pitch, the Marlins likely could have avoided the benches-clearing brawl and argument that occurred that caused two ejections on site and another one a few innings later, when Anthony DeSclafani beaned Carlos Gomez and was immediately thrown out. While there was some circumstantial evidence that the hit was intentional, it still ended up costing DeSclafani a suspension and withheld payment. Tack on the emotional component of what happened to the Fish, you can see how this might have weighed on the team as the season limped to a close.
The Marlins losing Giancarlo Stanton was a difficult pill to swallow at the end of the year. Losing an MVP definitely affected them on the field, but it could have had a bad effect on the Fish mentally and emotionally as well. Thankfully, the recovery is already on its way, and Stanton should be back on his feet and ready to mash as a Marlin in 2015.