Miami, Florida – When assessing the Miami Marlins midway through the 2021 season it’s time to address the elephant in the room. The playoffs are out of reach. Heading into the All-Star break Miami’s record stands at 39-50, that’s last place within the division.  As of late Sunday afternoon, they are nine games behind the NL East leading New York Mets and 12 games away from the final wildcard spot. Unless something happens, it’s looking like both wildcards will be claimed by the NL West.

In spite of a highly competitive division, Miami has fallen too far behind to really participate in the dogfight. Save for a miraculous comeback, it’s happened before, this season will not see the Fish advance. As we creep closer to the trade deadline, moving Corey Dickerson and Adam Cimber is only the beginning. What’s important to know is the core of the Marlins’ strength, their starting pitching, is staying put along with several others. However, it’s getting harder to buy into the idea that Starling Marte, one of our most productive bats, will get an extension.

Prior to the season, there was a degree of optimism the Marlins were going to compete. Not necessarily winning the division but at least be right in the thick of it. For a while there, we really did battle. Then the losses piled up and the hole got deeper. Although they have a run differential of +17, they’re 9-20 in one-run games and do poorly on the road (17-29).  So how did we get here? What went wrong? There are two primary reasons the team has struggled: injuries and inconsistent play. We’ll deal with the first.

A revolving door of ailments

In every campaign, there will always be injuries. When you play 162 games it’s pretty much inevitable. For the Fish though, they’ve experienced difficulties in trying to stay healthy. When the season began we saw Sixto Sánchez and Elieser Hernández go on the IL. Throughout the year we saw guys like Garrett Cooper, Brian Anderson, Jorge Alfaro, Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Jordan Holloway, Miguel Rojas, and Cody Poteet miss playing time. Some more than others, of course, although it seemed like every other week another person got injured.

Rarely has this lineup been at 100% and when it has, it’s been pretty brief with mixed results. Even now we’re missing Anderson’s big bat. Andy, unfortunately, suffered a shoulder injury right when he was getting over his hitting slump. It’s true that even at full strength, the offense wasn’t expected to be our greatest advantage, much less one of the best in the league, but the trips to the IL made the issue that more pertinent. As they say, when one goes down another has to step up. And that brings me to the next reason the season (so far) has not gone as planned.

Two steps forward, four steps back

The word that lays low any team brimming with potential: Inconsistency. I saw it covering the Miami Hurricanes this past season and it’s definitely present within the Marlins. They have moments of brilliance showing how good they can truly be only to fade. The offense, in particular, has at times been feast or famine with long periods of anemic performances. The relief corps too at times looks shaky, those blown saves (18) really add up. One only has to look to this past week. After the disastrous game against the Braves on Sunday where the bullpen nightmarishly imploded, the defending champions were coming to town. In a flash of good fortune, Miami took three of four from the Dodgers only to drop the weekend series against Atlanta.

If someone asked me when did our hopes begin to slip away, I’d say it was in late May, early June. In the last game of the homestand, the Phillies beat the Marlins to split the series on May 27th. The rainy road stint in Boston was only the beginning of what became an eight-game losing streak culminating in dropping three of four against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. We can’t lose to teams like these. On June 5th Miami was in last place at 24-33, seven games behind the division-leading Mets. A big fall we’ve never fully recovered from.

The Fish would rebound and win the next two series against the Rockies and Braves, only to get swept by the Cardinals. This specific timespan is pretty much a microcosm of the season as a whole. They just haven’t been able to string together a lasting winning streak to help crawl out of the hole they’ve been in.

Buy, Sell or Hold?

I don’t think much will change between now and July 31st. The Marlins will be sellers at the trade deadline and they will likely move Marte to get some sort of return. Another person that is probably gone is Adam Duvall, if they’re shipping out Marte they might as well make room for the youngsters and prospects coming up in the outfield. Several players are off-limits to other teams but I’m sure the front office would entertain any and all offers. It never hurts to listen.

In the preseason I predicted the team finishing 78-84. They’re trending a bit worse than expected at the halfway point. The hope is no matter what happens at the trade deadline, Miami makes a big turnaround getting right back into the race for the NL East. If they prove me wrong so be it, it’ll be a very pleasant surprise. However, I won’t be holding my breath.

Photo | Danis Sosa

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Gabriel Garcia
Just an avid sports fan who happens to have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with his local teams be it collegiate or professional and also happens to be a news junkie. Mix in outstanding optimism with cold realism and you've got yourself a balanced cocktail perfect for champions.

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