Playing Out the String: Phillies vs. Marlins Series Preview

J.P. Crawford managed to escape from the Phillies dugout

Though their playoff aspirations are essentially dead, the season continues for the Phillies

If anyone is holding out hope that the Phillies are going to make a 2007-style miracle run for the National League East title, I commend you for your die-hard sense of optimism. For everyone else, watching the Phillies lose game after game over the past couple of months has forced us to accept the reality that the whole playoffs thing isn’t going to happen this season.

Now that the competitive part of the season is essentially over, I’ve decided to change things up for my previews. For some reason, as the season progressed, I became way too serious about these things. I started out openly mocking the Phillies opponents, and then I slowly began to play it more straight. Perhaps that’s the reason why the Phillies haven’t done as well. Because as has been proven time and time again, correlation ALWAYS equals causation. That’s just the way the world works.

So instead of once again discussing the weakness of the Marlins roster, and how depressing it’s going to be when the Phillies don’t beat them, I’ll hit you with a little change of pace. If for some reason you still want a mostly serious preview of things to come, you can always check out that humorless fellow who writes about the Phillies for the Athletic. (It’s totally different than the daily sports page! Because it’s…on a computer!)

The Marlins: One Weird History

This season marks the 25th anniversary of the Florida/Miami Marlins franchise. They first came into existence in 1993 and avoided the basement of the National League East thanks to such luminaries as Orestes Destrade, Chuck Carr, and Charlie Hough. (It also helped that the Mets were dreadfully bad that season.)

Washington Nationals v Florida Marlins
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Charlie Hough

In the years since, the Marlins have captured a grand total of zero division titles, and have only made two playoff appearances. This would be really pathetic if not for the fact that they somehow managed to win the World Series both years they made the playoffs.

The main reason for this lack of postseason appearances is mostly due to the team’s consistently awful ownership. It doesn’t seem to matter who the owner is, he always ends up being horrible. (That said, Jeffrey Loria was the absolute worst. For some insane reason, Major League Baseball allowed him to wreck not one, but two franchises.) For instance, every time the Marlins have somehow managed to get a good player on their roster, he eventually gets traded away. Gary Sheffield, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, and Giancarlo Stanton are just a few of the star players who were sent off to excel for other teams.

Despite those stars once playing for the Marlins, the franchise only has two numbers retired: Jackie Robinson, whose number is retired universally throughout baseball, and Jose Fernandez, who died before he was able to be traded to a good team.

Common Threads

Let’s talk about some guys who played for both the Marlins and the Phillies:

Benito Santiago

Santiago was part of the inaugural Marlins team, and the hope was that he’d provide leadership, and draw in some Latino fans. Santiago made several All-Star teams in the early ‘90s, mostly because these were the days before Mike Piazza, and there were no good hitting catchers. For instance, Santiago won a Silver Slugger award in a season when he slashed .267/.296/.403.

In 1996, the Phillies didn’t think that franchise-ruiner Mike Lieberthal was ready to be a regular yet, so they signed Santiago to a one-year deal. Surprisingly, he turned in perhaps his best offensive season of his career, hitting 30 home runs. In hindsight, the Phillies should have kept him around and traded away Lieberthal so he could have messed up another franchise instead.

Benito Santiago Phillies
Santiago was a rare strong player for the 1996 Phillies

Jeff Conine

Conine was affectionately called “Mr. Marlin” after making a few All-Star teams in the mid-90’s, and then coming back to help them win the 2003 World Series. According to the stat sheet, Conine had five home runs for the Marlins in the 2003 regular season, and it wouldn’t shock me if at least four of them came against the Phillies.

Three years later, the Phillies were so enamored of his work that they traded for him at the end of August to play right field. Considering his advanced age, he accounted himself well, even if he wasn’t able to lift the team to the playoffs.

Juan Pierre

Juan Pierre didn’t have much power, and he didn’t possess the strongest arm. But he could hit well (he twice led the National League in hits), and he was arguably the fastest player in baseball for much of his career.

With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley injured at the start of the 2012 season, the Phillies tried to compensate for their missing bats in a variety of ways. One such way was with speed in the form of Pierre. Pierre was one of the few things that went right for the 2012 Phillies. He had a .351 on-base percentage and played adequate defense. Unfortunately, that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome all the other problems that team faced.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets
Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images
Juan Pierre wasn’t awful for the Phillies

People Who Are Going to Pitch for the Marlins

Instead of doing any actual research on the scheduled starters for the Marlins, I’m just going to look at their names and try to come up with a scouting report. Feel free to correct any inaccuracies in the comments section.

Elieser Hernandez

I don’t recall the Phillies facing a pitcher named Elieser before, so maybe he’s relatively new to the roster. Since the Phillies ALWAYS dominate inexperienced pitchers, I’ll assume they’ll do the same to him.

Wei-Yin Chen

The name sounds familiar, so I assume the Phillies have faced him at least once. I seem to recall them scoring some runs off of him.

Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images
Has Wei-Yin Chen done well against the Phillies? I honestly don’t know.

Jose Urena

Okay, I know this guy! He’s the guy who hit Ronald Acuna on purpose! He’s also not that good, but once again, when it comes to the Phillies, (Cue Dwayne Johnson voice just for the heck of it) IT DOESN’T MATTER IF HE ISN’T GOOD!

People Who are Going to Pitch for the Phillies

The scheduled pitchers are Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Jake Arrieta. Based on recent games, at least two of the three will be gone before the fifth inning, and Gabe Kapler will utilize at least six relievers to get through the rest of the game. It should be riveting to watch.

J.P. Crawford is Real…and he’s Spectacular

We’re not sure what J.P. Crawford did to draw the ire of Phillies management, but it must have been bad since the team apparently felt that Scott Kingery, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Pedro Florimon were better options at shortstop. To be sure, Crawford’s lack of playing time this season was partly on him. He was injured for a long stretch, and his year didn’t get off to a great start either offensively or defensively.

But it’s not like Kingery or Florimon have done much to merit playing time either. Neither man has hit at an adequate level, and neither is good enough on defense to compensate. It almost feels like Kapler believes that if he says that Kingery is a good defensive shortstop enough times, it might actually happen.

Philadelphia Phillies v Milwaukee Brewers
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
J.P. Crawford might actually be able to play if given a chance

On Tuesday night, Kapler apparently ran out of other players to use (Keep in mind he earlier used Dylan Cozens as a pinch runner) and was forced to put Crawford into the game as a pinch hitter. Crawford responded with a double. On Wednesday night, (possibly under instructions from Aaron Nola who might have wanted to have an actual shortstop playing behind him) Crawford got an actual start and went 3-4 with a home run.

Maybe the team signs Manny Machado in the offseason, and he spends the 2019 season as the team’s regular shortstop. I’d be okay with that arrangement. But if Machado chooses to go elsewhere, it certainly seems like Crawford should get the first opportunity to play the position. (Now watch as they re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera to a five-year deal.)

Go Birds!

Has the second half of this season depressed you? Would you like to cheer yourself up by reading about a Philadelphia sports team with legitimate postseason aspirations? Then head on over to my blog where I preview this week’s Eagles vs. Buccaneers matchup. Just be warned: There’s a really large picture of Bucs’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s face.

Prediction

Maybe the younger players on the roster will get more playing time the rest of the way, and their youthful enthusiasm will lead to some victories. Or maybe the Phillies won’t win another series the rest of the way. Based on the way the last month has gone, I’d say the latter is more likely to occur. So the Marlins will take two out of three here.

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