Today was surreal. In some ways, it was a normal day in the paradise that is south Florida. The sun was strong in the morning and the pool was refreshing. Then a sudden shower erupted (which isn't all that unusual). While waiting that out, the news came out that the princess of the poster had died. The sun returned and after an afternoon by the pool with Berra by Barra, and after a great meal cooked by the Fan's wife, we learned that the prince of pop had died. Then it was an evening of Florida baseball. Now that's surreal.
The Marlins are a really good young team. They can hit. They have some great arms and they are now a game out of first place. And yet it's weird watching a ball game that features such a good team that plays in an almost empty stadium night after night. And things aren't too much different on the other side of Florida for the Bay Rays, who also have some very good hitting, some really good arms who are now starting to make a push of their own. They have played their way into the wild card mix.
The Marlins have four players with 45 RBI or more. Hanley Ramirez is a bonafide superstar. Watching him regularly has opened the Fan's eyes to just how good he really is. Jorge Cantu does a good job knocking in runs. Dan Uggla has a lot of holes in his game, but he hits a lot of homers and drives in a lot of runs. Cody Ross is a growing star with a an .824 OPS and constant highlights for his play in center. He hit his 13th homer tonight.
Brett Carroll is another highlight reel in right and may be the best right fielder in the National League with a rifle arm. He's now batting .302 in a limited role and if he can hit enough to play every day, he will be dynamite.
Chris Coughlan looks over matched at the plate some times but he has a .368 OBP as a leadoff man which isn't bad. He has a good looking swing and he is raw. But he is promising which is something the Marlins have at every position except for third. The Marlins keep sticking with Bonifacio and he's a hindrance for them. He did have two hits tonight but that just prolongs the inevitable in that he is not the answer. But he really seems to be the only weakness on this young team.
The team lives and dies with its young pitching. With can lead to extremes. Their young pitchers led the team to an outstanding April and then down to an abominable May. Now they are having a great June and if they can avoid another month like May, they just may be in the mix right through the end of the year. They certainly have the talent.
The Bay Rays are starting to play really well, which is astonishing since Longoria has been hurt for much of it. They have dispatched with the Phillies, and are now only two games out of the wildcard. They have a much harder course. The Marlins have really mediocre teams in the NL East. The Phillies aren't what they were last year and the Mets are treading water. The Braves alternately can't pitch and hit. But the Bay Rays have really strong teams to battle in the AL East. The Red Sox are easily the best team in the majors. The Yankees and the Blue Jays are very strong.
Whether either the Marlins or the Bay Rays make it to the playoffs, it is somewhat sad that they cannot get the fan base they need to encourage them to even greater exploits. With their similar payrolls and their lack of fan support, it's hard not to root for them in true underdog fashion.