Skip to Content
MLB

The Marlins Can Be A Bigger Fish In A Big Pond

9:02 AM EDT on June 12, 2023

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 11: Miami Marlins third baseman Jean Segura (9) jumps in the air after hitting a home run in the ninth inning during a Major League Baseball game between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago White Sox on June 11, 2023 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Being the Miami Marlins has never been easy, even the two times they won the World Series. They have somehow managed to exist for 30 years with those two highlights and almost nothing else; four seasons winning more than half their games, and all but seven ranked either dead last or second-to-dead-last in attendance. They have shared Miami's general sporting miasma, and expectations are usually a daily joust between "horrible" and "sorry, don't bother."

So this year's surprisingly sharp start, with the third-best record in the National League despite its worst offense, comes as a shock to even Miamians, who have been utterly absorbed by nearly every other sports team within a two-hour drive. They are mastering the triumph of the humble on an almost galactic level, and no team in the state has been more galactically humble and for a longer time than the Marlins. This could be a moment for them, if they can get anyone to notice.

As we already know from our reading, watching, listening, and the national reach of the Dan Le Batard Fanboisie, South Florida is neck-deep in overachievers, what with the Heat and Panthers, the University of Miami men's and women's basketball teams, Florida Atlantic's men's basketball team, the Kelly Cup–champion Florida Everblades, and now the subsistence-level MLS team Inter Miami has bought the remaining months of Lionel Messi. People who live there say this is the best time for Miami sports ever, and even if the Heat and Panthers succumb to the might of competitive gravity and lose to better assembled teams as did the assorted college outfits, it is still a cavalcade of near-parades for a region that has known mostly meh in as many ways as meh can be meh-sured.

And now, amazingly, there are the Marlins. At some point, everything else Miami sports will cease, save the nine home games Messi will play and Dolphins training camp, and the Marlins will have a very tiny window to make themselves visible to an area that has grown accustomed to their penury, incompetence, and all-encompassing irrelevance. In other words, the pressure to impress is finally on a team with no right to feel it.

So far, the Marlins have one thing worth showing the world, and that is the reincarnation of Tony Gwynn in the form of second baseman Luis Arraez, but they are the second best team in baseball when they're not playing the Braves or Mets. If that seems like cherry-picking favorable numbers for a not-so-very-favorable team, well, there are no other numbers that help the Marlins in any discussion except the one that suggests that despite the state's poor record in electing people of value to public office, this is Miami's moment—if you accept that moments don't always have to end with parades.

The only real issue, other than keeping Arraez healthy for the novelty of being the first player to hit .400 since Artie Wilson and Willard Brown did it for the Birmingham Black Barons and Kansas City Monarchs in 1948, is whether Miami has any care left to give. The Marlins have won 12 of their last 15 including Sunday's 6-5 reaper-cheater in Chicago, but their opponents have been at best mundane (the Angels) and mostly not good (Rockies, Padres, A's, Royals, White Sox), and they have attracted no more observers than they did when they were the standard in substandard. There are decades of callused indifference to carve through here, and the Marlins may not have enough time to ride this extended wave of Floridian "yay us!"

Then again, now that Miami is the new capital of sports, we might just find out if this suddenly mega-rewarded fan base can actually raise the dead. The first step would seem to be drawing 20,000 fans, which they have done only once since Opening Day and only 10 times in the last five years. This may not be the best time if you think Miamians are sated with success and just want to take the summer off. Then again, what better time is there? If they can make a real run, they'll go down as … the sixth-best sports story in town.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter