Something fishy is going on in south Florida
Posted 6/20/2006 2:46 PM ET
MIAMI — Would you like to go to a Florida Marlins game? Would you like to take along 30,000 of your closest friends?
Don't worry. Plenty of room. Count on it.
If the citizens of south Florida have been paying attention on their way to the beach or the Heat game — and considering the attendance, they haven't — the Marlins are the hottest team in baseball.
The team with the $15 million payroll — not enough to buy one Alex Rodriguez — was 18-6 from May 22 through Monday. Nobody did better. The team that had used 18 rookies had won eight straight games.
"I told our guys in spring training, 'I expect you to win,'" said rookie manager Joe Girardi. "Just because you're young is not an excuse. You have a big league uniform on."
Yep, the Marlins are rolling. One thing, though. The tickets are selling like IRS audit notices.
Barry Bonds? Came here and couldn't break 10,189.
The Braves? They were in town last week. One crowd was 6,940.
The Marlins' average attendance is just over 11,000. Worst in the league, of course. Next is Pittsburgh, at 22,000. Double.
"You've got to remember, a lot of our kids are used to playing in front of 6,000 people," Girardi said. "Some of the crowds we get are big to them."
But about the ambience.
Dolphins Stadium is made to accommodate 75,000 screamers for a football game. A crowd of 8,000 baseball fans gets swallowed like an aspirin. It can seem as quiet as a green when someone is getting ready to putt.
"When you can hear the other team's bullpen phone ring," reliever Joe Borowski said, "it's not a good sign."
"You hear everything," pitcher Matt Herges said. "When you're on the field, you have to block it out. But it's hard to."
"I hear one peanut vendor more than anybody," pitcher Brian Moehler said.
At least Girardi can't hear any leather-lunged second-guessing in the dugout.
"The fans block it out. Those fans," he said, pointing to the electric fans on the ceiling.
Can't put all the blame on the populace. They've seen the Marlins twice win the World Series, and then twice dismantled.
"I appreciate the people who do come out," Girardi said.
Can't put all the blame on the Marlins officials. They're not lying when they say every summer day in south Florida, it looks like rain. A new ballpark with a retractable roof would be nice. There is new hope the state might help pay for one.
Go to a game and you get the idea the Marlins are squatters, playing on Dan Marino Boulevard. The seats are in Dolphins colors, with Dolphin logos. The names of past greats on the stadium façade include Don Shula and Larry Csonka. I half expected to see a coin toss.
Most of the few Florida jerseys worn by fans in the stands carried names such as Rodriguez and Conine. Marlins from the 2003 champions.
One kid, though was holding up a hand-made placard: "His name is Dan Uggla."
Dan Uggla. That would be Florida's starting second baseman.
Clearly, the Marlins must try to appeal to different tastes. Between innings, the jumbo screen showed scantily-clad cheerleaders dancing on top of the dugout, while the message board next to it welcomed a Cub Scout troop from West Palm Beach, and wished Zach a happy 14th birthday.
The Marlins are young, dashing, unspoiled by big money. And they're winning, now 29-37 after a horrendous 11-31 start. Ought to mean something, sooner or later.
"Everybody wants 50,000 in their stadium. That'd be wonderful," pitcher Dontrelle Willis said. "People know. I know when I drive around, people are knowledgeable. You just wish they'd come to the park."
And hopefully bring a date.