Major League Baseball
Resilient Marlins product of Skip Schumaker's leadership, Kim Ng’s conviction
Major League Baseball

Resilient Marlins product of Skip Schumaker's leadership, Kim Ng’s conviction

Updated Sep. 29, 2023 5:19 p.m. ET

The Miami Marlins' tendency to survive in the face of adversity is a hallmark of their surprising 2023 season. They're 32-13 in one-run games, the best mark in franchise history and the second-most such wins in MLB. Of their 82 victories on the season, 40 have been comeback wins.

What happened on Wednesday night, when they overcame two challenges on the way to an important win over the Mets, was a microcosm of Miami's unrelenting focus and belief that got the club to this point. The Marlins are on the verge of making the playoffs for just the fourth time since their 1993 franchise inception. 

"This team is resilient," said Joey Wendle. "We've been fighting all year. We've found ways to win games. And the odds were against us. We have a really good record in one-run games. We have a lot of comeback wins. There's just no quit in this group. That really starts at the top-down."

In the seventh inning of a tied game against the Mets on Wednesday, Josh Bell worked a hitter's count, 3-1, when right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford lost command of his slider. Bell got drilled on his knee and crumbled to the dirt in obvious pain. Later, Marlins manager Skip Schumaker would learn that the slider had a 26 mph exit velocity — off Bell's knee. 


A trainer jogged out to check on Bell at home plate, but the two hardly exchanged any words. Bell, clutching his right knee and wincing in agony, suddenly stood up, walked away from the trainer and limped to first base. What had looked like a crisis, and a possible major injury, was simply shrugged off.

There was no way, Bell insinuated, that he was coming out of that game. Not with the Marlins still fighting for the playoffs. Not with the Cubs, tied with Miami for the final National League wild-card spot, losing in extra innings to the Braves. The situation — the season — was too important for Bell to waste another minute on his own discomfort.

That's a team-wide mentality the Marlins have learned from their first-year skipper.

"These guys, they're going to give you everything they have," Schumaker said on Thursday at Citi Field. "I don't know what happened in years past, but for our guys and our group and what our staff is looking at, these guys post. And there's meaning to that. It shows you the commitment these guys have and it starts with your leaders. And when your leaders aren't feeling 100% and they're posting, then everybody else feels that way."

It's a lesson Schumaker adopted from his former teammate, now Hall of Famer, Scott Rolen. Schumaker and Rolen played together from 2005-07 for the St. Louis Cardinals. 

"I would hit a foul ball off my foot at home plate and if you left the dirt, [Rolen] said you gotta come out of the game," Schumaker said. "That was the mentality. If you leave the dirt, you're out. If you touch that grass, you're out. If you have a trainer come out, you're out. That was a little bit of an old-school mentality, for sure. But my point is, unless you're out, like, you cannot move, then you're posting. And there's value to that. And those guys are understanding of what that means. You're posting even when you don't feel 100%." 

After Bell's hit-by pitch loaded the bases for Jake Burger, the Marlins had the ideal opportunity to pounce and take the lead. But home-plate umpire Ramon De Jesus had a different idea, presenting the second challenge. Burger fell behind in a 1-2 count when Bickford's way outside fastball was called strike three. Inning over. Burger slammed his bat and helmet on the ground and De Jesus ejected him. Schumaker got in De Jesus' face to argue the ejection (and missed ball-two call), and De Jesus ejected Schumaker, too.

The Marlins' chance to cash in on some runs was spoiled. Burger, their critical trade-deadline pickup, and Schumaker, their popular manager, were both forced to watch the rest of the game from inside the backrooms of the visiting clubhouse. What felt like a momentum shift, with the Marlins on the wrong side, became an opportunity to keep fighting. 

"It put a little fire in us," Jon Berti said. "A little energy that we needed. It definitely worked in our favor."

Two more summer acquisitions, relievers David Robertson and Matt Moore, put up zeroes in the seventh and eighth innings to give the Marlins a chance. The Marlins rallied in the ninth inning, including the still-hobbling Bell. Yuli Gurriel, batting for the ejected Burger, hit a ground ball to the hot corner that rookie Brett Baty couldn't corral. The Marlins took the lead for good, and by the time their heads hit their pillows, they had jumped into the third NL wild card spot. 

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When asked about the Marlins' collective mentality right now, with just one series to go at Pittsburgh that will determine their playoff future, Schumaker pointed to the front office. General manager Kim Ng is partly responsible for Miami's confidence, loose attitude, and belief in themselves because she and the rest of Marlins brass injected life into the club at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. 

All told, Ng and company acquired Bell, Burger, left-hander Ryan Weathers, right-hander Jorge López, Robertson, and Moore. They reshaped Miami's lineup and bullpen, but the way Schumaker describes it, those acquisitions were more like a lifeline.

"They completely transformed our team, our lineup," Schumaker said. "Made our bullpen deeper. When you acquire big people, that's a big deal as well. It changed our clubhouse, it changed our culture, and it changed our lineup. Really checked off all the boxes."

At the time of those trades, the Marlins were 57-50, third in the NL East and tied for the third NL wild-card spot. They had a 45.4% chance of making the playoffs, per FanGraphs, which was a significant jump from their 23.6% chance at qualifying at the beginning of the season. Now, Miami has gone 15-9 in September, tied for the second-most wins in the NL, trailing only the Padres (17-7). The Marlins have reached 82 wins for the first time since 2009, when they went 87-75. It's the club's first winning record since that season. 

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"They believe in you, the front office. That was the direct message they sent," Schumaker said. "We didn't get off to the greatest start in the second half and Kim and her group still believed in us. Since those trades, we've been pretty good. Especially our offense, we've taken off. It was a huge boost at the time." 

Schumaker, in his rookie season as skipper, has seen the Marlins grow into big leaguers. They went from guys to dudes, and they have unfinished business. This is a team that was counted out, remained resilient, got a boost of trust and confidence from the bosses upstairs, then stayed in the fight. 

The Marlins aren't panicking or feeling the pressure with just a few games remaining that will decide their destiny. They're simply trusting the process and sticking with what they've done all year. Play hard, post up, stay in the moment and overcome adversities. Those are the ingredients that got the Marlins here. It just might be the magic recipe that gets them into October baseball. 

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar. 


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