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News » Paul Hagen: Hot start proves Marlins will be a factor this year


Paul Hagen: Hot start proves Marlins will be a factor this year


Paul Hagen: Hot start proves Marlins will be a factor this year
THE 1984 TIGERS won their first nine games, used that as a springboard for a 35-5 start and didn't stop winning until after thumping San Diego in the World Series.

The 1987 Brewers went 13-0 to begin the season. Then they lost 12 straight in May and had a losing record at the All-Star break.

You never know. Getting off to a hot start is nice. It certainly beats the alternative. But, as the Florida Marlins were reminded this week, the first couple weeks of the schedule don't prove anything. The Fish jetted off to an 11-1 getaway before being swept by the Pirates at PNC Park.

The Phillies can play a part in determining whether this is a minor speed bump or if it develops into a legitimate swoon when they begin a weekend series at Dolphin Stadium tonight.

Catcher John Baker suggested that getting knocked around might be a useful wake-up call. "It teaches us a little humility," he told the Miami Herald . "They did to us what we've been doing to other teams. This stuff happens in Baseball. You never want to get too high."

President of Baseball operations Larry Beinfest stressed that it's important to step back and look at the bigger picture. "We wanted to get off to a good start and we have," he said. "Look at the way we've scored runs with speed. We're running the bases, taking the extra base. Those are some of the things we wanted to do. It can be a confidence-builder for the young guys."

The Marlins may not win the division, may not take the wild card. They have some issues. The bullpen has been spotty. In the last six games their rotation is 0-3 with a 6.47 earned run average. Against the Pirates they scored just six runs and batted .191 as a team. Six of their early wins came against the struggling Nationals. Leading hitter Jorge Cantu has a bruised wrist and is iffy for tonight.

But they're not a mirage and they're not going away. They will be a factor this season.

It's silly to even talk about an important series in April. Still, the Phillies are 4 1/2 games behind the Fish going into this weekend. And the Marlins are well aware that the defending world champions are coming to town.

"We can't hang our heads," said rightfielder Cody Ross after the final game in Pittsburgh. "We're going home to play the Phillies and we're excited about that. We've just got to move on."

The hot corner* The third week of the season isn't over and already three teams have felt the need to give their managers a vote of confidence: the Nationals for Manny Acta , the Rangers for Ron Washington and the Rockies for Clint Hurdle .

* Hard to believe, but the Rockies have played more games in Arizona (six) than at Coors Field (three) so far this season.

* The Padres have filed a complaint with Major League Baseball about the visiting bullpen at the new Citi Field in New York, saying visiting relief pitchers can't see the field.

Around the bases* When the Braves got Brian Bartow from the Cardinals in a trade for reliever Blaine Boyer on Monday, they literally got a rocket scientist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Bartow is one semester short of getting his degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Miami and has interned with Boeing and NASA.

* Arthur Giddon , 100, will be a batboy during Red Sox batting practice this weekend at Fenway. He's qualified. He was batboy for the Boston Braves in 1922 and 1923.

* The Dodgers used to be known as one of Baseball's most stable franchises. So it's startling to realize that Los Angeles has had a different manager for each of its last five playoff appearances: Joe Torre (2008), Grady Little (2006), Jim Tracy (2004), Bill Russell (1996) and Tommy Lasorda (1995).

On deckCHEERS:

For Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun. Not only is he one of the best hitters in Baseball, he's not afraid to speak out when he thinks it's appropriate.

After the Phillies beat Milwaukee for the sixth straight time in the regular season Tuesday night, Braun was asked for an explanation of the domination. First he talked about what a good, well-rounded team the Phils are. He said they have great starting pitching, a great bullpen, swing the bats well and play good defense. Then he added:

"Right now, we're not doing any of those things well. You combine the fact that they're good at everything and we're good at nothing, it's not going to be a very pretty outcome ... I don't think we've really done anything well in the first [2 weeks] of the season."

Manager Ken Macha said he liked the fact that Braun spoke out.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the Brewers won the last two games of the series after that little outburst. Or maybe not.

JEERS:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire, which might explain his chutzpah when asked about the sky-high ticket prices being charged by the Yankees and Mets at their new stadiums.

"Don't ever think sports is anything but a business," he sniffed.

Funny. When teams want taxpayer money to build their new playpens, they portray themselves as sportsmen. When it comes time to set ticket prices, they change their tune, don't they?

BY THE NUMBERS:

2: Teams that haven't used the disabled list yet this season: Cubs and Reds.

7: Mets starters who ended Tuesday's game against the Cardinals batting at least .300. The exception: catcher Ramon Castro (.150).

8: Combined games of major league experience for Pittsburgh's two catchers, former Phillie Jason Jaramillo and Robinson Diaz, now that Ryan Doumit is on the DL with a broken right wrist.

41: Cycles this decade. That's by far the most ever, surpassing the 1970s (20).

86: Major league players making at least $10 million this year, according to figures compiled by the Boston Herald. That's 11 percent of the workforce.

UP NEXT: The best rivalry in pro sports - Red Sox vs. Yankees - resumes for the first time this year at Fenway Park. Boston has won seven straight, averaging nearly eight runs per game during that streak. The Yankees, meanwhile, have won three in a row.

WeeklingsQUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, on the Tribe's slow start: "So far we've dug a rut, not a hole."

BRAIN CRAMP OF THE WEEK:

Wilson Valdez, shortstop for Triple A Columbus, came to bat in the bottom of the ninth Monday with the Clippers trailing Louisville, 7-6.

The tying run was on third base with two outs. There were two strikes on Valdez when he ... tried to bunt? Yes, he tried to bunt, fouled it off. He was out and the game was over.

That's right. A walkoff foul ball. You don't see that very often.

INSIDE INSIGHT OF THE WEEK:

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was asked why Boston's offense has started to hit in the last week after a slow start. "Because we've got good hitters," he explained.

BEST-LAID PLAN OF THE WEEK:

Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson is an ardent environmentalist. He had it all figured out. To celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday, he was going to use a silver glove with green stitching and a bat with green lettering stenciled on it. Then he was going to auction off the equipment to raise money for ecological awareness.

It was a nice idea. The only problem was that the Cubs started a lefthander, Ted Lilly. So Dickerson, a lefthanded hitter, didn't play.

FinallyMost managers don't admit being concerned if a player gets off to a slow start. Most managers don't publicly downgrade players. We were reminded again that the White Sox' Ozzie Guillen isn't most managers.

The Ozman on shortstop Alexei Ramirez , batting .149 going into play last night: "I'm concerned a little bit. He's worrying about too much ... This kid is going to swing at a lot of pitches. We know that. But when you swing at as many pitches as he does and you don't make an adjustment, that is going to kill him."

On the release of Mike MacDougal , despite being owed nearly $3 million: "We tried to do different things with him because we believe he has one of the best arms in the league. [But] you cannot keep believing in him when he doesn't give you any ammunition."

This approach wouldn't work for everybody. But in a mostly mealy-mouthed era, it sure is refreshing.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 24, 2009

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