You may not think that the Marlins are lots of fun this season. You may look at their losing record, their 37 inning scoreless streak they recently snapped, and the fact that Placido Polanco regularly bats second despite a .610 OPS. But you're missing the bigger picture. Because the Marlins are that special blend of very bad, tremendously terrible, and humorously horribly, that they're the perfect team to fall in love with. They're the baseball equivalent of Plan Nine from Outer Space, every at-bat from Greg Dobbs looking very much like the re-used footoage of Bela Lugosi after his death.
Of course, there's that damn Jeffrey Loria making it impossible to truly give your heart away. Instead of thrilling to the Marlins bright orange jerseys and neon green grass, we can only remember that Loria used tax payer dollars to put them there, the colorful digs merely an extension of his art-dealing ways. And the team, rather than being terrible because of long-term plan to rebuild (Astros), bad luck (Royals), or gross incompetence (Pirates of the early 2000s), they're terrible because Jeffrey Loria spent a lot of money, didn't see results, and traded everyone away, probably out of some tax dodge or need to equip his lasersharks with dart guns or something.
Still, I'm intrigued by this team of misfit toys. There are fans, young, impressionable fans for which the Marlins are their favorite team, too young to know any better. Sure, there's not many of them, but there are certainly little boys and girls out there who thrill when Justin Ruggiano (.202/.281/.369, third best slugging percentage in the starting lineup) steps to the plate. There are the remaining season ticket holders who look at Juan Pierre (.243/.285/.299) in his bloused pants, and only see a perfect ballplayer, damn the results. Adeiny Hechavarria's so much fun to watch on defense, regardless of what his UZR says, that it doesn't matter if he gets on base less than 29% of the time? (For the Marlins, that still's good enough for fourth in the starting lineup.)
But Jeffrey Loria's damn head keeps rearing, bobbing in and out of my dreams like an unholy sugar plum.
The Marlins are last in runs per game (3.19), hits (755), doubles (128), home runs (58), RBI (292), batting average (.230), on-base percentage (.290), and slugging percentage (.335). They have the third fewest walks and the third most double plays. They've drawn 19 intentional walks, which isn't so bad, but then you realize only one has gone to Giancarlo Stanton, 10 being divided between Greg Dobbs, Donovan Solano, and Jeff Mathis. Stanton, despite 11 HR, has 29 RBI.
And do you like young, unproven prospects? Guys you can dream on instead of looking to PECOTA, ZiPS, or Bill James to accurately map out their future? Then you should love this team. Jake Marsinick and Christian Yelich were just called to the Majors despite a combined 116 games at AA between the two of them. And to make room for the two, Marcell Ozuna, second on the team in OPS, and Derek Dietrich, nine home runs this year, were just optioned back to the minor leagues, 72 AA games between them. Oh yeah, and Jose Fernandez, their fireballing All-Star, the one with a 2.74 ERA who is striking out nearly a batter per inning? He skipped Double-A completely.
What kind of team does this?! I'll tell you: the Miami Marlins. If they were a character in Lethal Weapon, they'd be Mel Gibson, refusing to play by the book. If they were a character in Harry Potter, they'd be Neville Longbottom because, whoa, that guy got really hot and where did that come from? If they were a king from the 1500s, they'd be King Henry VIII except instead of decapitating wives, they'd be trading players away on multi-year deals and then calling up players from Single-A. Which is what they're doing.
Except, dammit, Jeffrey Loria's puffy gray hair shows up again and I can't enjoy the LSD trip.
All of this craziness overshadows the fact that the Marlins rotation isn't all that bad. Fernandez looks like a true ace of the future; despite low strikeout totals, Jacob Turner is succeeding with a 2.44 ERA in 9 starts; Kevin Slowey is having perhaps the best year of his career; Nathan Eovoldi can throw the ball very, very hard; and Henderson Alvarez can get lots of ground balls. Sure, I'm sad that they're not like most teams in baseball's history that have .378 winning percentages, loading up their pitching staff with minor league veterans that struggle to throw 90 mph, but every terrible team can't be perfect. And the fact is, the Marlins staff is watchable. That's their greatest sin.
Just as I'm about to stretch out and turn on the Marlins game, letting myself be washed over with all this wacky baseball fun, Jeffrey Loria's moon-shaped face pops back into frame, waving and saying "Hi, can you move your car? My luxury yacht can't fit here."
I'd like to hang out with you, Marlins, I really would. But that old guy you're always hanging with is too weird.