There are two types of people in the baseball community; those who value Spring Training games, and those who don't. Some observers see these games as warm-ups where the teams don't care if they win or lose and fail to see the true value behind them. As a result, Miami's 2-1 victory over the Nationals will be seen in two different lights.
Some will be unimpressed by the result, stating that the Marlins' reserves beat Washington's reserves and this won't mean anything once the regular season is under way. However, the baseball world should take note of this Fish victory as there is a lot to learn from just one game in early March.
The first inning of yesterday's game epitomized the Marlins' thought processes when they assembled this roster over the winter. Dee Gordon led off and started the game with a bunt-single. He then proceeded to steal second base, move to third on a wild pitch and then score on a Christian Yelich RBI single. This was textbook stuff and Juan Pierre, sorry, Dee Gordon did exactly what he was brought to Miami to do: get on base and score. If he can do this regularly, Gordon will be an invaluable member of this team and Yelich will drive him all day long with his captivating swing.
From this half-inning, it also became apparent that Max Scherzer is not unstoppable. Many people lauded Scherzer as the last diamond in the Nationals' 2015 World Series rings. In reality, he does not improve the Nats' rotation that much as it was, admittedly, extremely solid to begin with. On this day, he was out-pitched by Dan Haren, Miami's projected fourth or fifth starter (doesn't that sound sweet when you say it aloud?).
After personally witnessing Haren's first spring start, I was somewhat disappointed as he surrendered two runs in the first and had some balls hit hard by the Cardinals. Maybe that appearance should be attributed to "rust" as he brought his A-game against the Nats, pitching three scoreless innings. If this is a sign of what is to come, then the Marlins have scored big on that apparently lopsided trade with the Dodgers.
Yelich looked fantastic at the plate, collecting three hits and an RBI on the day. Christian Yelich is a pivotal cog in the best young outfield in baseball and is a key to success for Miami this year. Scherzer did have Giancarlo Stanton's number though as the slugger went hitless in two at-bats. Rotation candidate Tom Koehler also impressed with two solid innings and A.J Ramos struck out the side in the seventh. All in all, it was a great team win for the Fish.
The score was closer than many may have predicted (many people probably picked the Nats to win too), and its not far-fetched to suggest that the standings will be equally as close at the end of the season. The Marlins have a legitimate shot at taking the NL East crown. The talent is there as the promising play of Michael Morse, Henderson Alvarez and the others mentioned above has shown. The scary thing for Washington is that the Marlins aren't even at full strength yet. Once Jose Fernandez returns, Giancarlo Stanton is firing on all cylinders again and Mat Latos is fully healthy and ready to go, the Fish will be a completely different animal. Washington better keep an eye on its rearview mirror.
I believe. Bob Nightengale believes. Do you?