A decade of losing: Marlins begin another long offseason
MIAMI (AP) — Derek Jeter watched the first pitch on opening day from the owner’s box next to the dugout, but within a few innings he retreated to a more secluded location and rarely returned to his field-level seat during the season.
Alas, from whatever vantage point, Jeter’s team looked bad.
Even by the Miami Marlins‘ modest standards, their 10th consecutive losing season was especially unsightly. They exceeded 100 losses for the first time since 1998 and only the second time in franchise history, finishing 57-105 and 40 games out of first place in the NL East, which they’ve never won.
Despite progress in the farm system that was much needed, at the big league level there was no sign of the turnaround Jeter has promised since his group bought the team two years ago.
“It has been frustrating, to say the least,” Jeter said. “We don’t want to have just the best minor league system; we want to have the best major league team. We still have a long way to go.”
Translation: Don’t expect dramatic improvement in 2020 from a franchise that played its most recent postseason game 16 years ago.
Here are things to know as the Marlins head into another long offseason:
The Marlins finished last in the majors with an OPS of .673. Brian Anderson led them at .811, which was lower than the OPS for three teams.
As for pitching, Miami allowed 615 walks, most in the majors. The rotation to begin the season went 28-55, and only one pitcher won more than six games.
“It has been tough to watch at times,” Jeter said. “And I think the players will tell you it has been tough to play like this.”
COUNTING ON YOUTH
For the first time since 2012, the combined record of the franchise’s minor league teams was above .500. The organization believes the pipeline of talent will soon help the major league team’s record, too.
“With what’s going on at Triple-A and Double-A, there are players coming up,” manager Don Mattingly said. “And that happens fast.”
The Marlins’ $72 million payroll was the lowest in the National League, and they won’t be big spenders this winter. Revenue constraints are always an issue, and Jeter doesn’t want to clog the roster with free agents, figuring the Marlins will soon fill most positions by promoting prospects.
“You want to give them enough time to continue to develop,” Jeter said. “But you don’t want to block their way.”
SET AT SHORTSTOP
Among those who will be back next season are Mattingly and shortstop Miguel Rojas, who recently signed a two-year contract for a guaranteed $10.25 million. Rojas had the best year of his career, batting .284 with 29 doubles.
“It makes me emotional, because I’m so proud of him and who he has become,” Mattingly said. “There is no better example of what kind of player we want.”
Jeter’s trades of such All-Stars as Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton drew more attention and derision, but the Marlins are also paying for former owner Jeffrey Loria’s unsuccessful win-now approach in the middle of decade. He traded away pitching prospects Domingo Germán, Chris Paddack, Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani, whose combined record for other major league teams in 2019 was 51-28.
The only player from those deals still with the Marlins is infielder Martín Prado, who hit .233 with 15 RBIs this year.
Jeter wasn’t the only one leaving a seat empty. The Marlins drew 811,302 fans, an average of 10,016 — about the same as 2018. They finished last in the NL in attendance for the 14th time in the past 15 years.
Small crowds are part of the franchise’s vicious cycle, resulting in low revenue, which leads to low payroll, which leads to bad teams, which leads to small crowds.
“We need more fans to come out, right?” Jeter said. “We’re still trying to develop that trust.”