Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It all started so positive for the Miami Marlins in 2012. A brand new logo, the opening of a state-of-the-art stadium, a re-tooled roster, a World Series winning manager, it was supposed to be the launching point of a promising future.
Instead, it has ended with a resounding thud as the team hits rock bottom.
About the only thing the Marlins have been able to pull off without problems this year is the debut of the new uniforms and the opening of Marlins Park. But even Marlins Park, a taxpayer-funded stadium that will eventually cost upwards of $2 billion, wasn’t enough to overcome poor play.
If you recall, the Marlins at one point promised home attendance in the neighborhood of 2.5 million if its request for a retractable roof stadium was granted. The Marlins got the stadium, but forgot that in South Florida, if you’re not winning, no one is going.
The Marlins have been in last place and have not showed any signs of life for a couple of months. As a result, the attendance fell and kept falling. Officially, the Marlins reportedly drew 2,162,317 fans through Monday night, which ranks 12th in the National League.
According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, the attendance figure ranks as the worst opening year attendance for a new Major League Baseball stadium since 2001. The Marlins will have a secondary issue as well heading into next year because attendance at new stadiums typically drops as the novelty wears off.
Marlins president David Samson said that overall, the team is happy with the way the ballpark has turned out after one season.
“We are happy, but not satisfied,” Samson told the Herald. “Clearly it’s a different world than we had at Sun Life. The main thing is the ballpark will last much longer than the disappointment of the season.”
The Marlins hope the novelty doesn’t wear off because the team has been terrible this season. The Marlins enter Wednesday’s final game with a 69-92 record, dead last in the NL East. The team scored 607 runs and allowed 720 runs on the season.
The Marlins had a team batting average of .244, a team slugging percentage of just .383 and a team OPS of .691. Only three NL teams finished the season with a lower team batting average than the Marlins, the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The pitching wasn’t much better for the Marlins in 2012. The team ERA was 4.11, but did only give up 130 home runs on the season. Marlins pitchers struck out the fewest batters in the National League in 2012.
All of that said, the Marlins did have a few bright spots in 2012.
Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes started off slowly, but got rolling as the season rolled on and will likely finish the season with a .287 batting average and a .348 on-base percentage. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano also played well down the stretch, hitting .313 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI’s.
The face of the franchise though remains power hitting right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. At different points during the season, Stanton was the biggest nightmare opposing pitchers faced in the Marlins lineup. He was also elected to his first All-Star game this season, though an injury prevented him from playing.
Stanton has hit .291 this season with a .612 slugging percentage and a .974 OPS. He’s crushed 37 home runs and knocked in 86 runs, along with 30 doubles. Stanton made just seven errors on the season in the field as well.
So the Marlins will rebuild around Stanton and Reyes which is a good starting point for the franchise as far as hitting.
When it comes to pitching, the only reliable starter the Marlins had all season was veteran Mark Buehrle. He pitched more than 200 innings and finished with an ERA of 3.74, which is pretty good considering the lack of run support he got in most of his games.
Buehrle is signed for another three seasons. But the Marlins have a bigger decision with the staff “ace” Josh Johnson. The once towering pitcher was a shell of himself one year removed from major shoulder problems.
Johnson finished the season with an 8-14 record and an ERA of 3.81, the highest since 2008. Johnson did pitch 191 innings, but gave up the second most hits of his career and tied his career record for home runs allowed. Overall, Johnson had a strikeout to walk ratio of roughly 2.54.
Johnson could be trade bait in the offseason if he isn’t willing to slash his $13.75 million salary and sign long-term with the Marlins. The team wants to cut payroll in the coming seasons and dealing Johnson, who has just one year left on his contract, might get a good young prospect.
Needless to say, the Marlins will enter the 2012 offseason with lots of answers. But, the team said don’t expect another free agency spending spree, so where the team ends up heading into 2013 is anyone’s guess.