Here's to rooting for the Marlins to make the playoffs


Here's to rooting for the Marlins to make the playoffs

As someone who is leery of fans to the point where distrust and annoyance are in the rearview mirror and abject fear is dead ahead, let me walk you through the final six days of the major league baseball regular season.

First, though, let me tell you who you’re rooting for to make the playoffs.

Miami. Pure and simple.

Under normal circumstances, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would be the representative of everything you root against in sport – and that’s saying something given the already low owner/likeability scale we apply. But sometimes even detestability must take a back seat to the demands of a nation, and the Marlins both helped their city start the process of grieving and help hasten its end with a performance that we needn’t remind you was a triumph of dignity through empathy, with a side of “Are you kidding me with that?”

Now the Marlins, like nearly every other team, has only six games left to play and are four games to the bad of the Giants, the team who only this past weekend passed the Minnesota Twins for the honor of having the worst record since the All-Star Break, and the Metropolitans, whose lovability begins and ends with Bartolo Colon. Plus, there are the St. Louis Cardinals, who seemingly cannot pitch or field but hit metric tons of home runs, and probably have a healthy dose of humble coming their way.

Frankly, and I am allowing for Giant fans and their understandably blind allegiance to a team that by rights really should be out of the race by now and survive only through the kindnesses of strangers, but the truth is that they really should be out of the race by now and survive only through the kindnesses of strangers. And objectively speaking, that’s not a sufficiently compelling reason for anyone other than the truest orangy-black fans to not prefer the Marlins instead.

As for the Mets, well, they’re the Mets. And the Cardinals have alarmingly offended their own fan base, where manager Mike Matheny is savaged daily as though he were actually Robin Ventura.

Look, this is all about feel and mood and impulse, and two days ago it wouldn’t have mattered at all what Miami did one way or the other. They could have wondered about what might have been had Giancarlo Stanton not gotten hurt, or if they hadn’t lost eight games to .500 since the break themselves.

But it matters now, because we’ve seen the restorative powers of unity in grief, and the intrinsic value in magic.

Plus, as we all know, I’m a sap for a good narrative (this last bit, of course, being a monumental lie).

But it does matter. It matters far more than whatever emerges from the primordial ooze of the American League, where Detroit and Seattle fight daily to see which team is not going to catch the struggling Baltimores, or whether the underachieving Bostons (the second-best team in baseball by record and since the break, yet still five games below their Pythagorean number of 97-59), the stealthy Clevelands (no real weaknesses), or the improbable Texii (who ought to be barely ahead of Kansas City for ninth rather than a half-game behind the Red Sox).

So yes, Miami’s needs are greater, and no, the Giants acquiring Gordon Beckham (if that deal, the first six-day rental in available memory, actually happens) does not somehow increase their attractiveness. Their desperation in the face of the Eduardo Nunez injury, yes, but not their attractiveness.

Now this is not some sort of command that Giant fans should abandon their lifelong Kool-aid addiction, or some cheap form of defiance to our Comcastian overlords. You want to root for the Giants, go ahead – just so long as you do it where I can’t see, hear or read you (except for McCovey Chronicles’ Grant Brisbee, the one fan/typist who has diplomatic immunity).

But at least you should all have the minimal human decency to be genuinely melancholy when the Marlins are eliminated, which could conceivably happen as soon as Wednesday night. Just so you remember that you have no call to sorcery or sympathy when your not-quite-the-Twins heroes gimp into the weekend trying to explain why a team that is not-quite-the-Twins still is in play.

Bruce Bochy, Ned Yost reflect on touching moment after 2014 World Series

Bruce Bochy, Ned Yost reflect on touching moment after 2014 World Series

SAN FRANCISCO -- A few minutes after his team lost the 2014 World Series in a heartbreaking way, Royals manager Ned Yost walked over to the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium and quietly slipped into Bruce Bochy’s office. With champagne still flying through the air and players getting deep into their celebrations, Yost and Bochy shook hands and had a brief conversation.  

The show of class and sportsmanship meant a lot to the winning side. That moment meant even more to Yost. 

“I’ve still got that picture hanging in my office,” he said recently. “I don’t have many pictures that I put up, but there’s that one of me and him shaking hands afterward. That one is special to me. It was a hard time because he was trying to celebrate, but I just wanted to tell him congratulations.”

Yost’s Royals will face Bochy’s Giants today in Cactus League action, and it will almost certainly be the final matchup between their teams. Bochy has announced his intention to retire, and neither team is favored to reach the postseason.

That 2014 matchup was a memorable one, though, and it still leaves Yost shaking his head. A day after Bochy announced that 2019 would be his last season, Yost, at an MLB event, recalled thinking he had gotten the better of Bochy. 

“I just remember him sending Bumgarner out in Game 7 and I just thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to kill him.’ And it just didn’t turn out that way,” Yost said. “Even to send Bumgarner out there in the ninth, it was like, ‘whoa,’ but it worked out perfectly.”

Yost and the Royals would win the next year, getting their own moment in the sun. But on that cold October night in Kansas City, Yost watched Bumgarner get out of a jam in the ninth. He watched Bochy celebrate, and then he went over to congratulate a manager he says is a surefire Hall of Famer. 

[RELATED: Bochy announces he will retire after 2019 season]

“I just have the ultimate respect for him. I’ve always admired him, his longevity, and what he has been able to do,” Yost said. “The one solace I can find, as tough as it was to lose a World Series, especially when you’re 90 feet away, is just that I lost it to my boyhood team and to a manager who I probably have more respect for than any other present manager in the game. 

“He’s right behind Bobby Cox for me. He’s accomplished everything that every manager looks to accomplish.”

Bryce Harper explains hitting at Oracle Park wasn't a factor in decision

Bryce Harper explains hitting at Oracle Park wasn't a factor in decision

When it was first reported the Giants were interested in acquiring six-time All-Star Bryce Harper, we checked the numbers on how he performed at AT&T Oracle Park.

Across his career thus far, Harper boasts a .164/.305/.284 line with just two home runs in 19 games. 

Not great, but he knew that.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal recently asked Harper if the difference in parks offensively was an issue. Harper said that wasn't a concern -- he did the homework just like you and I did.

“I saw my (home-run) overlays on each park — Nationals Park, L.A., San Fran, Philly. The overlays weren’t as crazy as people would think," Harper said in an interview with FS1.

“Hitting the ball to left-center in San Francisco, it’s a little bit of a jet stream. And I hit my balls to left-center a lot. Of course, you factor in wind and cold weather, things like that. But that was never really a factor."

Oracle Park is a terror to hitters not named Nolan Arenado or Gerardo Parra. but it can be a pitcher's best friend if said pitcher is able to take advantage of that.

[RELATED: Giants offer Harper 12-year, $310 million]

We will see if that confidence still resonates with him when he and the Phillies come to Oracle Park later this summer