No, not the Miami Marlins' best player in 2012; that would be Giancarlo Stanton, one of the more exciting young players in the majors. No, we're trying to spot the player -- good, bad, or ugly -- who best epitomizes the 2012 Miami Marlins. This was supposed to be a daily feature, but I let the Division Series throw me off my game last week. I hope to catch up by the end of the World Series, but then I hope to do a lot of things. Anyway, next on our list is the Marlins, who began the season with such high hopes and yet finished in last place with a 69-93 record?
Okay, so the best candidate for the Marlins' Player of the Year is Heath Bell. In fact, it was Grant Brisbee's piece about Bell that inspired me to start this series in the first place. But there's no point in rehashing Grant's piece here; you go read that (if you haven't already) while I try to come up with another symbol of the Marlins' crummy season ...
The Marlins, as you might recall, were given an outside shot at making some real noise in the National League East. They were probably co-favorites for third place, with the Nationals.
The Nationals won 98 and the Marlins lost 93. So yeah, not so much. But on the 4th of July when the Marlins traded a couple of young players for Carlos Lee, they were still in the hunt for a Wild Card. Theoretically at least, as they were roughly five games out in the Wild Card standings. And one of their big weaknesses had been first base, where incumbent Gaby Sanchez had been just atrocious.
So Carlos Lee was in, and Sánchez was out, dispatched first to the minors and later to Pittsburgh.
From July 4 through end of the season, Carlos Lee batted .243/.328/.325 and Gaby Sánchez .241/.323/.397.
So, no: Sánchez wasn't going to put the Marlins over the top, and perhaps he wouldn't have upped his second-half numbers if he'd remained with the Marlins. But the notion that Carlos Lee was going to put the Marlins over the top seemed then, and especially seems now, at least slightly delusional.
The good news was that the move didn't cost the Marlins any money; Lee was ridiculously well-paid this season, but the Astros were on the hook for almost all of that ridiculous money. The bad news is that the Marlins actually gave up a decent prospect, Matt Dominguez, to get Carlos Lee. Dominguez, the Marlins' first-round draft choice in 2007, hadn't done much in the minors but he was still young enough to improve, and actually played well in the majors for the Astros after joining the big club late in the season.
That was probably just a mirage. But the Marlins somehow managed to turn two modest assets (Dominguez and left-handed pitching prospect Rob Rasmussen) into the worst first baseman in the National League (Lee).
That's a really good trick if you can pull it off. And boy, did the Marlins pull it off. Did they ever.