RECORDS: Marlins 9-24 Cubs 19-12
GAMETIMES: Monday-Wednesday at 7:05
TV: NBCSN Monday and Tuesday, WGN Wednesday
VICE CITY: Fish Stripes
PROBABLE MARLINS LINEUP
Curtis Granderson – LF
Martin Prado – 3B
Brian Anderson – RF
Neil Walker – 1B
Starlin Castro – 2B
Jorge Alfaro – C
Miguel Rojas – SS
PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP
Daniel Descalso – 2B
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javier Baez – SS
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Jason Heyward – RF
Albert Almora – CF
Now that the Cubs have ascended through the Central Division to the top like Beatrix Kiddo swimming through the dirt to emerge from the grave, they seek to keep the ball rolling. And there’s no better way to do that than having a series with the Miami Marlins, pretty much everything that’s wrong with sports today.
The Cubs will send Lester and Hendricks out to build on their dominant outings last out, while Cole Hamels will attempt to clean up a little after his slight wobble against the Mariners that saw him not survive the sixth, though he didn’t get much help from his defense that night. Luckily for all these guys, they’ll be facing a lineup that’s essentially that cartoon holding an umbrella while the anvil descends.
I don’t know why anyone thought Derek Jeter and the money he didn’t have were going to save the Marlins. Maybe it’s because he simply wasn’t Jeffrey Loria, who would have been kicked out/barred from any sport with an actual commissioner armed a passing interest in protecting anything resembling integrity. Jeter learned his cues from Michael Jordan, who continually has proven the only interest he has in owning a team is having access to an owner’s suite where he can smoke cigars. That’s pretty much Jeter. Jeter has only ever been interested in himself, and this should have been abundantly clear when he wouldn’t move off of short for Alex Rodriguez, a categorically better player than he was in every way.
The Marlins are at least four-and-a-half games behind anyone else in the NL, having won only nine games when everyone else has at least won 14. They have yet to score 100 runs, are second-to-last in OBP as a team (ahead of only the Giants, which, woof) and are 35 points behind the next closest team in wOBA. If you wanted to demonstrate how you tank an offense, this would be it. There isn’t a hitter worth mentioning here, aside from maybe Neil Walker and only because there was a time when he was a real thorn in the ass of the Cubs. He’s also one of two regulars in the lineup who are having anything resembling an average season in terms of wRC+, with the other being Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro is the only player in the lineup who might matter one day down the road when the Fish aren’t an embarrassment, but he’s 25 already so even that’s a touch of a stretch. The only help in the system that might arrive in the next year is Monte Harrison, but everything else is years away.
Somehow, the rotation hasn’t been that bad, ranking in the middle of most categories in the NL. It’s been remarkably healthy, which helps. The Marlins have been able to run out the same five guys through April. Pablo Lopez and Caleb Smith have been highly effective, and the Cubs will miss Lopez. Jose Urena has the stuff to be a top-half rotation starter, but just can’t seem to put it together. And he’s 27, so it could just be this is what he is.
Of course, that doesn’t matter much when your rotation is trying to hold up one or two runs from your offense, if that many, and your bullpen comes out armed with a variety of blow torches and Molotov cocktails. There’s nothing the starters can do that the offense and pen can’t ruin.
Remember, this is how the Marlins wanted it, despite their protestations this isn’t what they expected. They simple exist to siphon off tax dollars from Miami for their stadium no one wanted and everyone got (stuck with the bill). They are now Jeter’s plaything, are years from being memorable, and before then they’ll probably blow it up anyway because no one wants anything to do with them and MLB makes it exceedingly easy and rewarding to not try. But hey, that owner’s suite for Jeter…