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.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Coming Home

Well, last week, as expected, was a tough week for the Marlins. After taking an impressive two of three games from the Rockies in Denver, the Marlins lost three of four to the previously struggling Giants in San Francisco. Yes, going into last week, I said that I hoped the Marlins would come back East with three wins in their games against their NL West opponents; however, that was when I (mistakenly) thought they had six games (two three game series) in total to play. It turned out that the Marlins actually had seven games, so three wins was not quite enough.

Particularly not enough when you consider how the last three losses came. Friday night came after the Marlins blew a 9 – 2 lead and lost 12 – 9. Saturday’s lost came when the strategy of walking Barry Bonds worked out as if they had pitched to him, and he scored the winning run late in the game. Sunday’s loss came without Bonds in the lineup; so the Marlins effectively lost to a glorified triple-A team.

Tomorrow though, the Marlins return home for a six game homestand (yes, I counted this time). Today’s a much needed off day. Starting tomorrow, they play the surprisingly strong Dodgers for three games, and then the red-hot Padres (and their funny colored uniforms) come to town for the weekend.

The Dodgers series should be interesting. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Milton Bradley play; he seems to have awoken the Dodgers’ bats somehow. Hopefully Bradley will play; he say out LA’s last three games with an ankle injury.

I’ll also be curious to see how, if at all, the crowd acknowledges Alex Cora. Some are likely to remember that Cora played shortstop for the University of Miami during the mid-90s. In fact, he was the shortstop for the 1996 College World Series runner-up team; sadly the lasting image in my head of Cora is him collapsing on the infield in reaction to Warren Morris’s game winning blast in the 9th inning that won the championship for the LSU Tigers. When the Phillies came to town, with former Canes Pat Burrell and Jason Michaels, and when the Braves came to town with former Seminole star J.D. Drew, Marlins fans cheered for them, in an apparent acknowledgement of their ties to Florida baseball. I’m not so sure that Alex Cora will get the same recognition, but I hope that he does.

Later in the week, when the Padres visit Pro Player Stadium, I will be most curious to see their sand colored uniforms in person. They appear to be less bothersome on television than I expected them to be (based on the photographs I’d seen in magazines and on the web), but I think they might look a little odd in person. I suppose the sand color fits in today, as it is a bit like the throwback styles that are coming back into vogue; the sand color is reminiscent of the blue uniforms worn by the Cardinals and Royals back in the 80s (well, to some degree). But more importantly, at least on the field, is that the Padres are playing very well right now. It appears that their much maligned plan to build the team up in time for the opening of their new ballpark may be paying off. The Padres are not a club filled with house-hold name superstars, but they do have a solid mix of young prospects and contributing veterans. Those elements should combine to make it a challenging series for the Marlins.

All in all, it will likely prove to be a challenging week for the Fish. They will get two starts from Josh Beckett though, and that should be a good thing. Ideally, the Marlins would take two out of three games in both series, although I suppose that’s what the manager hopes for, at least, going into every series.

Other than that, I hope teams start pitching to Barry Bonds. I understand that it may be sound strategy to pitch around Bonds and to intentionally walk him on occassion. I highly doubt, however, that Bonds is twice a fearsome of a hitter as Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, or Willie Mays; although, by the count of the times he’s been intentionally walked this season and in his career, you would think he was (sometime soon Barry will have received twice as many intentional walks as the second and third most intentionally walked ballplayers of all time). By walking Barry so excessively, Major League Baseball is depriving you and I, the fan, of witnessing history in the making.

For the second consecutive week last week, Mr. Bonds was walked in more of his plate appearances than he was able to hit. Barry had ten official at bats last week and twelve (twelve!) walks. The previous week’s totals were even more impressive (or depressing), as Bonds had only nine at bats and fourteen walks. Going into the weekend series against the Marlins, I hoped that we would see a change in the recent trend, and that the Marlins, with their young, successful staff, would go right after Bonds and challenge him more often than not. They didn’t; in the three games Bonds played against the Marlins, he had five at bats (including two hits – one of which was a home run) and ten (ten!) walks. Bonds was walked in twice as many plate appearances as his total number of at bats in the series. If this trend keeps up, Bonds will have more walks this season than at bats. I’m sorry, but no matter how good of a hitter Bonds is, he doesn’t deserve this kind of super-superstar treatment (well, unless the Giants fail to score him when he’s put on base – which they are doing quite a bit lately).

Buy a Pitch to Barry t-shirt and let the world know how you feel.


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