From bottom feeders to postseason bound, the Miami Marlins are the story of 2020.
Coming fresh off a 57-105 2019 campaign, the Marlins were counted out before the season started. Despite expectations, the club did the right thing by not listening to critics.
Here’s how they went from worst to first.
Before the 2020 season, Miami was projected to go 66-96 in 2020 (26-34 in the adjusted season). And everyone around the league was already counting on Miami to have a top-three draft pick in 2021. “The Marlins will miss the 2020 postseason—that’s an obvious prediction,” said Ele Sussman of Fish Stripes.
Little did Ele and every other fan of baseball know that Miami was in for a rollercoaster ride of a season.
Per MLB Tonight, the Marlins had a 1.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Wisely, manager Don Mattingly and Miami took that challenge and got to making offseason signings.
The Marlins brought in Jesus Aguilar, a well-known hitter and a razor-sharp first baseman. They also brought in Jonathan Villar, a speedster around the diamond, former All-Star, Gold Glover and a great hitter. Others brought in were OF Matt Joyce, OF Corey Dickerson, C Francisco Cervelli, P Brandon Kintzler and P Yimi Garcia among others.
Two weeks before the season was set to begin, the impossible became possible. COVID-19 ravaged sports and the world quickly, forcing a domino effect of closures, quarantine and ultimately no baseball. Fast forward to July 6th, and the league announced that it would be returning at the end of July.
And it’s safe to say that Miami was ready to play. But after a very successful opening series in Philadelphia, the Marlins’ nightmare became reality. Their season was put on pause after 18 players and two coachers were infected with COVID-19. Some of these players included Miguel Rojas, Sandy Alcantara, Isan Diaz, Jorge Alfaro, and almost the entire Marlins Bullpen.
CEO Derek Jeter blamed the players, saying they “let their guard down.”
Even down 18 players, the Marlins didn’t stop their work. The front office needed to fill lots of positions, mostly in the ‘pen. Miami signed pitchers Richard Bleier, Josh D. Smith, Justin Shafer and Mike Morin among others.
Although the Marlins acquired many players through trades and waivers, they still had plenty of roster spots to fill. Throughout the season, Miami brought up 17 Prospects from its coveted farming system. Those prospects included No. 1 prospect Sixto Sanchez, No. 4 prospect Jazz Chisholm, No. 9 prospect Trevor Rodgers and No. 10 prospect Monte Harrison.
Sitting at 14-15 heading into the Trade Deadline, the Marlins were in a position for a final push to the postseason. One thing interchanging in Miami’s lineup was their outfield. The club secured a definite centerfielder in a blockbuster trade, acquiring Starling Marte in exchange for Caleb Smith, Humberto Mejia and Julio Frias.
While in Arizona during the first part of 2020, Marte was “flat out excellent.” Starling made some fans early, hitting the go-ahead hit to secure a Marlins win in his first game with the club.
Towards the end of Miami’s first game against the Yankees, the buzz in the dugout was that Tampa Bay beat Philadelphia, meaning Miami’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth was down to one.
It took extra innings, but Brandon Kintzler closed the game in double play fashion, and recording Miami’s fifth of the night.
With the dramatic win, the Marlins finally secured themselves a playoff spot in 2020. Through adversity, teamwork, hardship and effort, Miami defied all odds and completed the greatest comeback of 2020.
Before the season, the team’s goal was to win.
“We’re here to win baseball games,” said third baseman Brian Anderson. “Our expectation is to go out and win baseball games.”
Well B.A., you spoke it into existence and your team is going to play in October. For anyone who at all doubted the Marlins in 2020, do what their postseason shirt says: “Respect Miami.”