Perhaps the best story of baseball’s truncated 60-game regular season, which was anything but regular, was the achievement of the Miami Marlins, who made it to the playoffs.
They did it against all odds, a group of hand-me-downs and roster fill-ins, who celebrated the achievement at Yankee Stadium, historic former home of manager Don Mattingly and CEO Derek Jeter.
Mattingly and Jeter are Yankee icons but outsiders now so clinching in their former baseball home made the accomplishment that much sweeter.
The Marlins are the classic outsiders, losers of 105 games last season completing a decade in which they did not manage a single winning season. They were baseball ragamuffins, a joke team that offered token resistance. And then came 2020, a year in which everything changed.
It did not begin well.
After a season-opening three-game series in Philadelphia, 20 members of Miami’s traveling party tested positive for coronavirus forcing a team-wide shutdown. They spent a week in Philadelphia, locked in baseball purgatory, and when they resumed play, they had 17 new players on the roster,
This is not a recipe for success.
Unexpectedly, they went on a five-game winning streak and began turning heads. These were not the Marlins of Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuma and J.T. Realmuto. Those quality players had all be shed in salary dumps, replaced by new faces. The surprise was the new players could really play, could give the Marlins a fighting chance.
Oh, there were tough moments like the night Atlanta ran up 29 runs on them, setting a National League record for runs scored in a game. Not to worry. These Marlins are resilient. They bounced back from that disaster to win five games of a seven-game series against Philadelphia.
And there were stellar moments like the twi-night doubleheader against the Mets in New York when Miami, strapped for pitchers, brought up two minor leaguers to make their big-league debuts. Dan Castano and Trevor Rogers both were flawless, touching of a shutout sweep. And the Marlins’ exclamation point for the night came when Jon Berti walked and then stole second base, third base and home for Miami’s final run of the day. He crossed the plate standing up when Jeurys Familia spiked the pitch and catcher Ali Sanchez could not corral it,
What a fun night that was.
Position players Berti, Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson and Jesus Aguilar are all fresh faces and like pitchers Jorge Lopez Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez, they give the Marline a chance every day. And that’s all they wanted, a chance.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire