The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Turn of Events

I'm back from Tallahassee and completely surprised at hot things have turned out over the last two days. First the Marlins lost an extra inning game against the Cubs, where it looked like the Marlins were poised to capitalize on chasing Kerry Wood.

Then, although I don't really want to talk about football on this site, the Miami Hurricanes pulled off a shocker (at least to me and I was glad to see it) in Tallahassee and won 22 - 14 in the rain (I have been less wet swimming in a pool than I was sitting in the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium yesterday).

Last night, Dontrelle Willis and the Fish came up short (putting it mildly) against the Cubs and Matt Clement. In the process, Jack McKeon benched slumping Juan Encarnacion in favor of returning Mike Lowell to third base and moving Miguel Cabrera to right field.

All of these factors are reasons why I do not bet on sports. Usually I think I have a pretty good idea of what is going on, what's happened, and what will happen in the near future. But then reality happens and you never really know.

Although Juan Encarnacion was a major factor in getting the Marlins to the playoffs this year, I support McKeon's decision to bench him in favor of the hotter bats between Cabrera, Lowell, and Conine. The Marlins are in a position where they have five solid players for their four corner infield and outfield positions. While you could argue that Derrick Lee could have been benched in lieu of Encarnacion, others would argue that Lee's defense is less replaceable than Encarnacion's (although Billy Beane and many others would probably say that defense, particularly at first base isn't anywhere near as important as offense, particulary for the Marlins right now as they are struggling to score enough runs).

Hopefully today's game five won't be the last of the year for the Marlins. Expecting the Fish to come back and win this series is too much to hope for, but winning a second game would at least make the results look more respectable. As was the case going into game 1, I like the Marlins chances with Beckett facing off against Zambrano. But a more important factor will be how the teams approach today's game. There is always the chance that the Marlins will come out flat, effectively having given up hope on winning this series. I doubt that will be the case because that has not been the personality of this team this year. But the lifeblood of their personality - Dontrelle Willis - was knocked around pretty good last night and his attitude, although he won't have any impact whatsoever on the field today, in the clubhouse could influence the team on the field.

My biggest concern about today's game is how many Cubs fans will be present at Pro Player Stadium. From the accounts I've read, the Cubs have been out in force at the two games so far, particularly last night's slaughter. Given that, and that the Marlins have lost some (all) momentum, it would not surprise me to see an even larger count of Cubs fans at today's game. Heck, it wouldn't even be surprising to hear that a number of Marlins "fans" - you know, those folks who ran out and bought their t-shirts and found out about the team this week - show up in Cubs gear and cheer for Sammy and the boys. Either that, or if you're a Cubs fan in the South Florida area today, I wouldn't be surprised if you could find yourself a nice seat to today's game from a disappointed Marlins fan for about face value.

If you're still reading at this point you're probably thinking something like "even the guy with the Marlins blog isn't going to support the Fish today." While that's true, my excuse is that I just got back from Tallahassee. When tickets were around last weekend I wasn't sure that we'd be back in time to make the game or that the game would be played (although realistically, we all knew at least a game 5 would happen). So I didn't get tickets. And since I didn't get to bed until 4 am this morning, I'm pretty tired. Hopefully I won't fall asleep during the game.

But nevertheless, I'll be supporting the Fish next year and in Spring Training - no matter how many players they trade, release, or non-tender. ... oh yeah, and I'll be doing the same for the rest of this year's playoff run. :-)


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