2013 Marlins: How to lose games and fans and not influence either

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: Mike Stanton — whoops, Giancarlo Stanton — is the Marlin Christian Yelich most closely resembles, which is fitting, because that’s the Marlin whose place in the lineup he’s probably going to assume. There’s no rush to call up Yelich — it’s not as if he’s going to alter the pennant race — or discard Stanton, but a season without Yelich promises to be as dreary for Marlins’ fans as a summer in Miami without air conditioning. Like Stanton, Yelich is large and powerful, but unlike Stanton, he’s more adept in center field. Stanton dabbled there in the minors, but Yelich may last there. Still similar things are not equal: at age 20, Stanton hit 22 home runs in two-thirds of a big league season and at age 21 Yelich is still in AA. And Stanton did outperform Yelich in the minors: he hit 91 home runs to Yelich’s 33, and his .941 OPS was 37 points higher than Yelich’s .904. That’s not to downgrade Yelich, He’s 21, playing center field, hitting .306 and slugging .648 in AA. On any team, that sounds promising; on a team with Matt Diaz, Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan in the outfield, it sounds liberating.

What is this man doing here? Pick a Marlin. Any Marlin. But the Marlin fans should most be asking the question about is a player for whom the Blue Jays answered it by dumping him on the Marlins: Jeff Mathis. Mike Scioscia isn’t here to write Mathis’ name in the lineup, but Mathis is still one of three Marlins catchers. Ironically, on a team with an austerity program, Mathis ($1.5 million) makes more than the other two (Rob Brantly at $490K and Miguel Olivio at $800K) combined. Even though the other two are better. Somebody obviously built this roster while sitting outside in the afternoon sun too long. On the plus side, Mathis had his best season last year. On the minus side, his .642 2012 OPS brought his career total up to .569. Even on the Marlins, that stinks.

What he said: Injured Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison, on watching the Marlins on TV during rehab: “There have been times where I’ve had to turn it off.” What he meant: “If I wasn’t on the team, you couldn’t pay me enough to turn it on. (The Marlins don’t pay me enough as it is).”

Outlook: In their 21st season, the Marlins are a study in contradictions: they’ve never won a division title, but they’ve won two World Series; their product is so depreciated, their modern, upscale ballpark attracts more fans than the team that plays in it.

The Marlins are the worst team in baseball, if the Astros aren’t. But the Marlins spent $15.3 million more to be 13-34 than the Astros did to be 14-33, so they’e certainly the worst-constructed. As the Astros prove, you could be this bad for a lot less.

Marlins fans are too used to it, of course. The Marlins finished last six times in their first 20 seasons, and are well on their way to making it 7-for-21. Their very first team in 1993, which finished sixth in a seven-team division (thank you Mets), was far better than this one: it had a 24-year-old Gary Sheffield, a 45-year-old Charlie Hough and Bryan Harvey saving 45 games.

It also had the implied trust of its fans. This one barely has fans — the Marlins are 28th in attendance (the two Florida teams combined would rank eighth in attendance; and, yo, Cleveland — you’re last in attendance? You may have been too busy hating on LeBron to notice, but the Indians are good).

The Marlins won’t be this bad for long, and their unique style has worked before: accumulate talent as if they were buying two-for-one groceries, pay the stars, win, then sell like Connie Mack in the Depression.

Problem is, will anybody believe in it. The Marlins have created a cynical fan base. The Heat spend money and win titles; the Marlins hoard it and earn derision.

Seems about right. LeBron James once created an uproar in Cleveland by wearing a Yankees hat instead of the hometown Indians’. In Miami, they’d probably buy it for him.

Team song: Against Me: Miami

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