The Florida Marlins have avoided a fate typically cast on them in recent history: being statistically eliminated from the playoffs. This time around their chances are not high, but they still exist, which is better than being done altogether.
The Marlins have strung together 35-26 second half to the season and have kept fans focused on the N.L. East and Wild Card standings. With Phillies and Rockies playing stellar baseball it has been a great task for the Fish to make a significant dent in their leads. Nonetheless, just nine games away from the end to the 2009 regular season the Marlins are still in the race.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day the run might not be enough, but that should not discourage fans from being proud of Florida's season. The Marlins have assured themselves another over .500 year for the third straight season - a sign of consistent efficiency from a team with the lowest payroll in the Majors.
Now the Fish must focus their efforts towards a legitimate playoff push - and we're talking deep into October. There are some roster moves expected to take place this offseason which could improve the team next year.
Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida have both come up in trade rumors and are not seen as part of Florida's future. With that said, the starting rotation has been unstable all season, outside of Josh Johnson, and should be a part of the roster tune-ups. Perhaps we will see a package that includes Uggla and Hermida for a starting pitcher and a prospect. All of this is speculation, but seems like the most plausible kind of deal for the Fish.
Beyond the potential offseason moves, the Marlins found some gems in 2009. Chris Coughlan emerged as a solid hitter in the rotation and worked his way into Rookie of the Year candidacy. With over 450 at bats, Coghlan swung into a plus .300 batting average and secured himself a job going into next season. Being a natural second baseman, he could be another reason why Dan Uggla wont be wearing the teal and black next season.
Let's not forget about Florida's two stars: Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson. High in expectations, both players lived up to the hype. Ramirez is batting for a dominant, above .350 average and could hold the hitting title come season's end. As for Johnson, he has posted a 3.15 ERA with a 15-5 record. There's no doubt he earned the role of Ace in the rotation.
It's safe to say that the Fish have a nice core to build around, but holes in their pitching and defense seem to be what plagues each season. Dominant pitching wins championships. And an example that clearly depicts that is the New York Yankees, going out and acquiring C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett after a playoff-less season and entering the '09 playoffs with the best record in the MLB. Better pitching, better record, better team.
In the short-term, Fish fans can cross their fingers for a miracle post season appearance.
In the long-run, there's plenty to look forward to come next season (and two seasons from now when the Marlins begin play at their new stadium).