MIAMI (AP) The owner of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox is apparently unimpressed by the Miami Marlins’ attempts to improve their feeble offense.
”They should apologize for their regular season lineup,” John Henry tweeted during spring training.
In 2013 the Marlins were truly sorry. They finished last in the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs and home runs, and scored even less than their woeful 1993 expansion team. They also lost 100 games, two more than in their first season.
Henry was being catty after the Red Sox drew criticism for the minor league lineup they fielded for a spring game against Miami. But he might be right – it’s unclear whether an offseason shakeup of the lineup will mean more runs for the Marlins than last year.
”We were anemic offensively,” new general manager Dan Jennings said. ”Just bad. It’s unacceptable.”
Here are five things to know as Miami tries to be better than bad:
VETERAN NEWCOMERS: Jennings and Mike Hill were promoted to the team’s top personnel jobs, and they acquired catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Garrett Jones, third baseman Casey McGehee and second baseman Rafael Furcal.
All of the newcomers go into the season with question marks. Saltalamacchia found himself benched by Boston at the end of the postseason. Jones is a career .193 hitter against left-handers. McGehee spent 2013 in Japan trying to restart his career. And Furcal sat out last season following surgery on his throwing elbow, then missed much of spring training with a sore hamstring.
”There’s no doubt we need those guys to produce,” manager Mike Redmond said. ”If they do, we’re definitely going to be a lot better.”
DOUBLES WANTED: Jennings and Hill want Marlins hitters to stop complaining about the team’s pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Only 84 homers were hit last year at Marlins Park, 22 fewer than at any other big league stadium. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton is among those who contend the fences should be closer to the plate.
”I think everyone believes they should be,” Stanton said.
But Jennings noted that Stanton had the highest home slugging percentage in the NL last season.
”I hear talk of guys who get frustrated because the ballpark takes away their home runs,” Jennings said. ”If you feel like our ballpark is too big, then let’s lead the league in doubles. Let’s not finish last, where we were. Let’s lead it. If it’s that big and you’ve got gaps that big, let’s be productive that way. Play to the ballpark.”
THE KID’S THE ACE: The biggest reason to watch the Marlins last year was Jose Fernandez, who went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and was voted NL Rookie of the Year.
Fernandez is part of a young, talented rotation that will be the team’s strength. Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner all had ERAs below 3.75 last year, and none is older than 24.
The Marlins also have an abundance of starting pitching in the minors, including 22-year-old left-hander Andrew Heaney, who might break into the rotation later this year.
”The depth at the big league level and Double-A and Triple-A moving this way is pretty significant,” Jennings said. ”They’re on the cusp. This is by far the most major league-ready starting pitching we’ve ever had. And it’s quality guys.”
LAST-PLACE RUT: The Marlins have been stuck in the basement so long, Stanton lost track.
During spring training, when someone mentioned the team’s three consecutive last-place finishes in the NL East, Stanton disputed the assertion.
”My rookie year, we were second-to-last,” he said.
But Stanton’s rookie year was in 2010. The Marlins have brought up the rear every season since, with their loss total increasing each year.
MAYBE THERE’S HOPE: The Marlins lost 55 games last year by one or two runs, which tied for the most in the majors. For that reason, they believe a little more offense would mean a lot more wins.
”It felt like we were in every game last year,” said outfielder Christian Yelich, who hit .288 as a 21-year-old rookie. ”I never felt like we got blown out.”
Jones, the veteran first baseman, has been impressed watching his new teammates during spring training. He envisions the sort of improvement achieved last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates when he made the playoffs with them.
”This team last year lost a lot of games by one or two runs,” he said, ”and it’s little things that can turn you into a winning team.”