Miami Marlins: Streaking Under Don Mattingly’s Leadership
There’s such a love-hate dynamic when we talk about the Miami Marlins.
There’s love for the team because everyone in Miami loves to rep their sports teams to the death. There’s also love because fans of the Marlins already understand that this franchise is one of the few in baseball that has multiple World Series championships.
But there’s so much hate when it comes to this franchise because fans want to see change. Fans want the Marlins to succeed. Additionally, a bit of that hate stems from the Marlins not living up to their potential. Thankfully, because management is finally taking a more organized approach to winning, the Marlins have made the right strides to success this year.
With a 20-17 record, the Marlins are starting to surge and they’re getting their wins early in the year. Although the talent on the team is playing well, the architect of the Marlins success directly comes from their manager, Don Mattingly.
As a veteran of the MLB for nearly 30 years, Mattingly has more experience in his pinky than most of the players in the game today. That’s why when the Marlins had a rough stretch in the beginning of the year with their 5-11 start, Mattingly wasn’t too scared about the outcome of the season. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s what Mattingly understands and that’s why he continues to manage winning teams.
“He’s so respected in a clubhouse because he’s been a winning guy ever since he was a player,”,” said infielder Miguel Rojas. “Now, as a coach, he’s been showing everybody he can win with his mentality to be ready to compete every day.”
This season the Marlins have started playing their best baseball and they’re over .500. Mattingly quietly gathered the troops during the beginning of the year when the team wasn’t winning and the Marlins have made tremendous turnarounds. The Marlins now stand at 20-17 including splitting the series with the Washington Nationals, a team in which everyone thinks could get to the World Series. Additionally, with the last two wins in the series against Washington, Miami now has the longest active winning streak in the NL East. They currently are 2.5 games out of first place and they could get there after their next series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
What’s been very impressive this season about the Marlins is the way the team has been playing without their All-Star second baseman, Dee Gordon. A huge part of managing is motivating the players to play well when times are less than ideal and Mattingly has steered the ship in the right direction. In spite of Gordon’s 80 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs being a huge distraction, it’s actually helped the team bond closer together. The talent on this year’s squad is tremendous and Mattingly is letting the chips fall into place.
This club’s got a lot of talent, and he knows it,” Rojas said. “He’s giving us the opportunity to be ourselves and to be the club we can be.”
Furthermore, Mattingly is also getting players to respond to his managing style. Last season at one point Marcell Ozuna was sent to the minor leagues. Most recently, since April 30th Ozuna has been batting .433 since he started using Barry Bonds’ bats. Ozone this weekend also had a huge series against the Washington Nationals. In his last game, he had three hits and drove in two runs. During the 14-game hitting streak, Ozuna has increased his batting average from .218 to .312.
“I think this tells you how young guys progress. They have a good year and sometimes they take a step backward. They go back to work and the next thing you know they’re that guy again” said Don Mattingly. “What he’s been able to do — use the whole field, hit the ball up the middle, he’s using the right-field corner, he’s hitting the ball to left — he’s taken his walks when he has to. To me that’s where it all started. It’s fun to watch him play. He loves to play, he’s always got a smile on his face.”
The Marlins look like they’ve made changes for the better and there’s nothing wrong with that.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey