Dan's Dugout: Floundering Fish Face Difficult Season • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Floundering Fish Face Difficult Season


JUPITER, Fla. – Maybe it’s not such a hot idea to hold spring training close to home.

The Miami Marlins, the only team that goes north for spring training, not only have trouble drawing fans to Marlins Park but also to Roger Dean Stadium, the spring stadium they share with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Before this year, when the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros teamed up to share the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Roger Dean was the lone Florida facility to host an exhibition game every day.

The late Jose Fernandez was one of the game's strikeout artists

The late Jose Fernandez was one of the game’s strikeout artists

Fans still pack the place when the Cards play but the Fish don’t draw flies – especially after the tragic death last September of star pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Although the World Baseball Classic brought 136,878 fans through the Marlins Park turnstiles for six games last week, the Marlins can’t compete.

Without Fernandez, their only drawing cards are slugger Giancarlo Stanton and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, the 43-year-old fourth outfielder.

To be sure, Marlins Park will be filled to the rafters for the 88th All-Star Game on July 11 but most of those will be sponsors, families, and friends of Major League Baseball.

And the club could have a new owner by then too; Jeffrey Loria, the mercurial New York art dealer, is a Donald Trump supporter who is under consideration as American ambassador to France. That means the team is up sale – possibly for a sum approaching $1 billion.

It ain’t worth it.

The pitching-poor Marlins probably will lose more than they win and stumble even lower in the National League East standings. The up-and-coming Atlanta Braves and even the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies could pass them by the end of the season.

Miami has 55 players in camp, including all but one of their 40-man roster,

Martin Prado is one of the most dependable players in the major leagues.

Martin Prado is one of the most dependable players in the major leagues.

and 16 non-roster invitees. Two of their best, versatile infielder Martin Prado and outfielder Christian Yelich, are thriving this spring – but not for the Fish. Prado, playing for Team Venezuela, just produced the first five-hit game in WBC history, and Yelich, with Team USA, also has his average at .500.

Attendance for the game between the U.S. and Dominican Republic Saturday night was 37,446, a Marlins Park record that could fall again for the All-Star Game. The Marlins wish they would do so well during the regular season.

They do have a Hall of Fame presence in broadcaster Dave Van Horne, who’s starting his 10th season with Glenn Geffner, but all the announcers can do is sell tickets.

For spring training at least, the fans aren’t buying.

Among other things, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is drawing waves of curious spectators who might otherwise go to the 20-year-old Roger Dean Stadium. Both inhabitants of that park are strong contenders who might even meet in the World Series.

Exhibition records are meaningless, especially with teams losing a dozen or more players to the WBC, but the Marlins didn’t win any new friends by dropping nine of their first 13, with three other games ending in ties.

Don Mattingly will have to be a magician with the 2017 Marlins

Don Mattingly will have to be a magician with the 2017 Marlins

Manager Don Mattingly, who made off-season headlines by firing hitting coach Barry Bonds, has a new pitching ace in Edinson Volquez but the rest of his rotation is most certainly uncertain. It will be a long, hot summer in South Florida.

Camp notes:

The Boston Red Sox finally admitted Monday that David Price will be disabled for Opening Day with elbow issues . . .

Ian Desmond, Colorado’s newly-signed slugger, will be out until after the All-Star break following surgery on his broken left hand . . .

On the plus side, Boston expects big things from third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who arrived in better shape this spring after two rough seasons with the Sox . . .

Houston says Dallas Keuchel, a former Cy Young Award recipient, is healthy and ready for Opening Day after an injury-riddled 2016 campaign . . .

World Series hero Andrew Miller (Indians) got a WBC blown save when he threw a gopherball to Nelson Cruz (Mariners) as the Dominicans beat the Americans, 7-5, Monday . . .

Versatile veteran Omar Infante, trying to return to the Detroit Tigers, is showing there’s still life in his bat . . .

With a long, three-run homer Tuesday, Justin Upton thrilled a boisterous section of Tiger fans who sat behind the Detroit dugout at Roger Dean . . .

Five Tigers, including former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, are starring for Team Venezuela in the WBC . . .

Miguel Cabrera's big bat helps Team Venezuela and the Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera’s big bat helps Team Venezuela and the Detroit Tigers

Korean import Jung Ho Kang is on Pittsburgh’s restricted list with a variety of visa and legal problems . . .

Newly elected Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell is in Houston’s camp as a special instructor for a week . . .

Team USA pilot Jim Leyland, formerly with the Marlins and Tigers as well as the Pirates and Rockies, says he has no interest in managing during the regular season again.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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