Welcome to another season of Miami Marlins baseball! The last time we saw the team, we had all just filled the Clevelander's pool full of our tears. Everything was bad last year, and nothing was good. Just when you thought you had witnessed the worst possible Marlins season, 2016 was all like, "Hold my beer." Whatever other misfortunes the team had suffered — ranging from another year without the playoffs to a disappointing showing by Giancarlo Stanton — disappeared when Jose Fernandez died in Biscayne Bay in September.
The great part about sports, though, is everyone comes back the same time next year and gets a shot at a do-over. The Marlins' most recent mulligan begins today at 1:05 p.m., when Miami takes on the Nationals in Washington, D.C., for Opening Day.
We won't bore you with stats like how Adeiny Hechavarría hits with runners on first and third with one out on days when the temperature is between 85 and 89 degrees. No, this is not that sort of preview — mainly because we are bad at math. This preview will deal in reality, not bubbles and butterflies. The Marlins are beginning another season that will probably end the same way every season since 2003 has ended: watching from the couch come postseason play.
Here is what you need to know about a team that has the ceiling of average and the floor of, well, Marlins.
Who will replace Jose Fernandez in the rotation?
The short answer is no one. The factually correct answer is Edinson Volquez. But really, you don't just go out and replace Jose Fernandez, a once-in-a-generation talent. Even if the Marlins were the Dodgers and could spend $300 million on a pitcher, money can't buy another Jose. The Marlins gave Volquez a two-year, $22 million contract to take Fernandez's spot on the hill on Opening Day, but it's unlikely that money will get them very far. Giving a big contract to a guy who posted a 5.37 ERA in 34 starts last season seems like not a great idea, but, hey, someone has to start today.
Why should I turn my TV on 162 times this season to watch Marlins baseball?
You probably shouldn't. Not all of the games anyway. Probably not even most of the games unless you truly, truly love baseball. The Marlins added no one to their roster to get excited about. They didn't even try to fake it this year. They are rolling with the same basic core that earned them exactly zero playoff appearances and nothing to speak of to date. Could the guys they have suddenly mesh like the 11-30 Miami Heat did this season? Sure. Why not? The Fish still have Stanton, who can hit balls to the South Pacific when he's not striking out for five straight games, and some decent young talent like Christian Yelich. Is it likely the Marlins will be anything but a below-.500 baseball team? No.
Why can't the Marlins compete?
Pitching. Their starting pitching won't cut it. Depth. Their depth won't cut it. Farm system. Their farm system won't be any help anytime soon. Owners. Jeffrey Loria and his minions, like David Samson, are garbage people who belong in garbage cans.
Why can the Marlins compete?
The outfield, if healthy and finally reaching its potential, could be one of the best in baseball. Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Yelich have never quite turned it on at the same time, but if they do, they could be the real deal. If for some reason they luck into a playoff berth, those three alone could win some games. Granted, the Fish might have to win those games 11-9, but it could happen. Dion Waiters might get MVP votes. Crazy shit happens!
What does Las Vegas think of the Marlins?
Westgate Las Vegas predicts the Marlins will win 76.5 games.
Can the Marlins players grow beards now?
Our long local nightmare is over: Miami Marlins players are now free to decide how long the hair grows on their own faces. The Marlins are now accepting
Is this the year Jeffrey Loria finally sells the Marlins?
It sure seems that way. Loria was reportedly close to selling in February, but here we are starting another season and his ugly mug will still be sitting behind home plate. With every season that passes, Loria will owe Miami taxpayers less and less money if he sells, so the longer he waits, the more money goes back into his filthy pockets.
Will the Marlins be able to score enough runs to at least stay entertaining in losses?
The Marlins ranked 26th in runs scored last season and hit only 128 home runs as a team, so probably not. Maybe you missed the above part about them not signing anyone who will make them appreciably better, but that happened. The Fish have the same ammo they had last season, so it's tough to think they will become an amazing offensive team. Dee Gordon returning and playing a full season might help, but then again, who knows what sort of player he is when he isn't getting some, uh, medicinal help?
Who is the most important factor this season?
Giancarlo Stanton. Without Stanton in the lineup or with Stanton flailing, the Marlins are a bad baseball team. With Stanton in the lineup and cranking in the middle of the order, the Marlins are a fair-to-average baseball team. Stanton has never played more than 125 games in a season, so we aren't holding our breath.
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