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Know Your Enemy: Miami Marlins

One day these guys might be game fish — but for now, they’re guppies

Florida Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin relaxes on
Thing-Fish: Billy the Marlin demonstrates the easiest way to get to 36-61, worst in the National League and third-worst in baseball.

The White Sox are well on their way to a seventh straight losing season, but that’s nothing compared to the upcoming opponent. The Miami Marlins have never had a winning season.

Before their name change in 2012, the Florida Marlins had a few winners, including going from wild card to World Series champs in 1997 and 2003, but their last season better than .500 was in 2009. That streak is in no danger of being broken this year.

The Fish are probably most known for having been owned by the most hated man in baseball, Jeffrey Loria. You have to go some to earn “most hated” in a business where being the devil’s spawn is often an ownership requirement (how about dem Ricketts!), but Loria topped them all in despicability. His most infamous move was selling off most of the 1997 world champs and turning them into a 54-108 team a year later, but that was just one of many.

Gatorade All-Star Workout Day
Jeffrey Loria ponders some evil move
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

A man that evil had to be punished, so in 2017 Derek Jeter put together a group to buy the Marlins and really stuck the knife in. Forbes listed the value of the Marlins at $1 billion despite a history of poor attendance, but Jeter’s group forced Loria to take $1.2 billion instead. Think of all the extra taxes he’ll have to pay on that extra $200 million — take that, Jeffrey. (Of course, Loria then claimed to have made no profit in order to shaft the city and county out of their share of the haul, but what else is new?)

San Francisco Giants v Miami Marlins
Derek Jeter now puts a smiley face on the franchise
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The final Loria team in 2017 had zilch pitching, but a bunch of terrific position players - Giancarlo Stanton, J.L. Realmuto, Dee Gordon, some kid named Christian Yelich. All are gone now, mostly for a haul of minor leaguers.

Apparently the overpayment for the team left no room for payroll, so there was another teardown. With a Jeets smile this time, though.

Which brings us to this year. The Marlins come to Chicago hot off being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is hardly an embarrassment, and with a record of 36-61, which is — worst in the NL by far.

Miami has a run differential of -98, which is horrible. Compare that to the White Sox, with a run differential of, uh, er, well, -98. (Actually, the Marlins were better than the Sox until getting crushed by the Dodgers 9-0 Sunday, but we won’t mention that.)

Miami isn’t without good players. Right fielder Garrett Cooper has an .891 OPS and .311 average. Catcher Jorge Alfaro is hitting .277 with a .752 OPS. Third baseman Brian Anderson has an outstanding 2.4 WAR so far, shortstop Miguel Rojas is at 2.5 WAR, largely due to a terrific 15 defensive runs saved.

Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins Garrett Cooper swings a big bat for the Fish.

Offensively, the Marlins are last in MLB with 349 runs scored. Just like the Sox, they’re a generally poor hitting team that hates to take walks, so maybe the games on the South Side this week will be fast. Defensively they’re at seven saved runs, way, way better than the White Sox tally of minus-35.

As for the pitching, let’s look at the expected matchups:

Monday: Trevor Richards vs. Iván Nova

Righty Richards sports a 3-11 record, but it’s not his fault. His 97 ERA+ is middling, and he sports a 8.0 K/9 ratio — but walks 4.2 per nine. He appears to be on a downhill slide lately, giving up seven runs in 10 innings in his last two starts. On the Sox side, you never know which Nova brother you’ll get — good brother Nova Abel, or bad brother Nova Cain.

Tuesday: Caleb Smith vs. Dylan Covey:

Lefty Smith is having a really solid year with 1.8 WAR, a 5-4 record on a terrible team, and a 3.47 ERA. He’s striking out an amazing 11 per nine innings, which, given the tendencies of the Sox, could mean he K’s around 30 on Tuesday. Smith is coming off three straight quality, but non-spectacular, starts. As for Covey — well, he’s Covey. Right, DJ?

Wednesday: Zack Gallen vs. Reynaldo López

Rookie righty Gallen will be making his sixth MLB start. He’s 0-2 so far, but has pitched well, with a 3.63 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 22 13 innings. He has control problems, with 14 walks in those innings, but the usual Sox refusal to accept a free pass when offered should help him a lot. Last time out, Gallen held the mighty Dodgers to one earned run in 5 13. On the Sox side, Lopez’s horrible 5.76 ERA has been dramatically lowered from 6.34 by two straight excellent performances, giving up just two earned runs in 13 innings against Oakland and Tampa Bay — gotta root for the good old rule of threes.

All three games start at 7:10 CDT, and the forecast is for perfect baseball weather for the whole stretch.