How fast you can go from heaven to hell? 3 days it turns out. That is how long it took for the Miami Marlins to fall from Sandy Alcantara’s ace like performance, Jesus Aguilar’s moonshots and a sweet comeback victory to have half of the active roster on the IL because of an outbreak of COVID-19 among the squad, with the whole season now seemingly in jeopardy.
Those three days from Opening Day must have been the best days of Marlins fandom in many years as the team showed considerable promise and improvement from past seasons. It was encouraging to watch. Small steps but taking the next level. It was heaven. Then came the darkest Monday. COVID-19 test results showed that nearly half of the roster had tested positive. The Marlins were in no position to play that day and by Tuesday morning MLB had released a statement that the Marlins season had been put on a hold for at least a week. Welcome to hell.
Opening Day. Baseball was back. Everyone was feeling great and it certainly turned out to be a day to remember. Sandy Alcantara was named the Opening Day starter and the ace-like performance that Fish fans were waiting for came to reality. Sandman was attacking the loaded Phillies line-up all day with 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER and 8 Ks. Bryce Harper was able only to swing his hair that day. As usual, the Marlins bullpen – loaded with new faces – almost did everything they could to blow the lead. Yimi Garcia loaded the bases in the 8th inning to give the Phillies a chance to take the lead but eventually got out of the jam and saved a lot of Marlins fans from having a cardiac arrest. Incredibly, this was the first Opening Day victory for the Marlins since 2014.
Oh hey, it's 98mph upstairs from Sandy Alcantara to strike out Bryce Harper.
I like this. A lot. pic.twitter.com/P0bIaZmOcc
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) July 24, 2020
The Phillies came to the second game of the series with their newly acquired pitcher Zack Wheeler and the Marlins had no chance against the former Met as he kept the Marlins bats down all day. It was a game to forget for Marlins pitcher Caleb Smith who was quoted saying after the game ”it was horseshit” after he only survived 3 innings, giving up just one hit but six walks. The left-hander, who is nicknamed Dr. K, was Dr. BB that day.
I agree, That was horseshit. I’ll be better next time.
— Caleb Smith (@CalebASmith12) July 26, 2020
The final game of the series was a game many Marlins fans will talk about in the future. A comeback victory from being 4-0 down early on, eventually taking an 11-6 victory. This game showed signs of having the rebuild on track. Starter Robert Dugger struggled, having only got the call from manager Don Mattingly around 8 a.m in the morning, giving up 5 runs, 4 of them earned. But the comeback was orchestrated by club captain Miguel Rojas who hit a 3-run home run to tie the game, Jesus Aguilar followed with the second home run of his Marlins career (or as I like to call them #Jesusbomb), and Brian Anderson and Corey Dickerson also went deep. The Marlins were dead last in the home run statistics last season but now they can’t stop hitting them out of the park. Talk about the James Rowson effect. The hitting and bench coach has a slogan ”do damage” and that certainly seems to have stuck with the team. This was heaven. The Marlins were ready to take over the world!
Monday morning the news broke that several Marlins players and staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. The Marlins, who had a game scheduled against the Orioles in Miami, had stayed in Philadelphia after the game against the Phillies to wait for the test results. MLB decided to postpone the game on Monday as it seemed that Marlins were in no position to field a team that day. On Tuesday morning came the sort of weird but highly expected decision from the league: the Marlins season had been put on hold for at least a week. Chances are that they will not be playing the games they miss during this suspension so it will be around a 50 game sprint for the Marlins if this season goes on as planned. Nobody knows who they will play against next and when.
#Phillies are scheduled to play Marlins next Tuesday-Thursday in Miami.
Klentak: "There are still questions about next week's schedule. I think the league is managing that process, but I think it is very possible that we will have a different opponent next week."
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) July 29, 2020
The team is now being tested every day and it remains to be seen when they will field a team again or indeed who they will be fielding. Among the players who tested positive were Sandy Alcantara – there goes the ace – and Miguel Rojas who was having a career weekend with a .700 BA and 5 RBIs. It looks like the team is trying to use the waiver wire and free agent pool to add some less heralded players and field a Frankenstein sort of team which the guys from BFN talked about in the great podcast episode of this madness with the Marlins UK Pete Pratt. Give it a listen!
Who is this situation to be blamed on? I really don’t know. Maybe the blame is on everybody involved. The league and the team. Most of the blame was thrown on Don Mattingly which seemed to be a little harsh. This happened to the Marlins. It could have happened to any team and if the league decides to let this show go on even with changes to safety protocols, I won’t be that surprised if it happens again. MLB seems to have a plan to just pile up bodies at the front line of the war. They decided to play with fire and now they have burnt their fingers. Let’s hope they don’t burn the house down. Enjoys baseball while it lasts and be safe. Marlins fans will be looking for Opening Day 3.0 maybe next week!
Tomi Korkeamaki is covering the Miami Marlins during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @TKorkeamaki