Chris Coghlan has Rookie of the Year written all over him, at least in my book. I was joking with Hanley Ramirez earlier in the clubhouse that if he didn't watch out, Coghlan was going to catch him in the batting race. To which Ramirez smiled and replied, "Good for him." Even though Ramirez is slumping -- 11 for his past 58 last time I looked -- he isn't going to be caught by Coghlan or anyone else. But the way that Coghlan is hitting, you have to wonder if -- given another month -- he wouldn't get past his teammate. Coghlan raised his average to .319 with a 3 for 4 night in Atlanta on Tuesday. That puts him in a tie for fifth with Cincinnati's Joey Votto.
Forget rookies. You'll find Coghlan's name among the league leaders in several offensive categories, which is something you can't say for the other leading ROY candidates. Batting average with runners in scoring position? At .353, Coghlan ranks fifth in the NL -- behind Yunel Escobar, Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Michael Bourn. Most hits since the All-Star break? Coghlan tops the majors with 106. Derek Jeter, with 98, is second.
Coghlan wouldn't be the Marlins' first NL Rookie of the Year winner. Dontrelle Wilis in 2003 and Ramirez in '06 also captured the honor. Looking back, former Malrins Preston Wilson in '99 and Livan Hernandez in '97 didn't have bad rookie seasons either. Nor did Edgar Renteria in 1996 or Josh Johnson and Dan Uggla in 2006. Of the eight -- Coghlan, Ramirez, Willis, Hernandez, Wilson, Renteria, Uggla and Johnson -- who had the best rookie season?
Here are a few thumbnail sketches to job the memory:
Livan Hernandez came up midway through the '97 season, made 17 starts and went 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA (Sorry, Livan. But for comparative purposes, we're counting regular season stats only).
Preston Wilson hit .280 with 26 home runs, 71 RBI and stole 11 bases as a rookie in '99.
Dontrelle Willis was called up in May of '03 and went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 27 starts.
Hanley Ramirez hit .292 with 17 homers, 59 RBI, scored 119 runs and stole 51 bases as a rookie in '06.
Chris Coghlan, who was called up in May. is hitting .319 with nine home runs, 44 RBI, 78 runs scored and has 7 stolen bases.
Dan Uggla hit .282 with 27 home runs, 90 RBI and 105 runs scored in 2006.
Edgar Renteria hit .309 with 5 home runs, 68 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 1996.
Josh Johnson went 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA and struck out 133 in 157 innings in '06.
With so many Marlins battling the flu, Ross Gload felt it appropriate to walk through the clubhouse on Monday wearing a surgical mask. The get-up brought laughter from some members of the coughing and sniffling club. But even if they're over their illnesses come tonight, the Marlins might want to keep the Kleenex handy. And Gload might consider trading in his physician's garb for an undertaker's outfit. Because tonight could be it for the Marlins. This could be the night they receive the 'x' next to their name, as in eliminated. A Marlins loss or Rockies win will make it official.
The Marlins already look like death warmed over. Nick Johnson appears pale and thin, having spent the past week battling the flu. Josh Johnson spent Sunday in bed. John Baker, Jeremy Hermida and Brett Hayes have been under the weather. Manager Fredi Gonzalez sounded stuffy during his post-game remarks last night.
And that doesn't even count the healthy players who appear Zombie-esque at the plate. Hanley Ramirez still holds a comfortable lead in the batting race. But he's 11 for his past 55 and his average has slipped. The Marlins haven't scored since Saturday's big, 7-run burst. They hit a few balls to the warning track last night, but you never got the impression they were ever in it. The 4-0 loss seemed more like 14-0.
So get out the violins. If the Marlins can take small satisfaction in anything, it could be that, along with their winning record, they'll have ended up playing more meaningful games this season than the Miami Dolphins, whose season already appears over.
Ross Gload gets the start at first tonight for the Marlins as Nick Johnson is home with the flu. Johnson is mired in a 0 for 21 slump. Gload set a club record Friday night when he collected his 20th pinch hit, breaking the old mark of 19 held by Lenny Harris.
The Marlins have some roster decisions to make this winter, but closer Leo Nunez -- despite Friday's ninth-inning meltdown -- should remain in the fold, even though he'll command a hefty raise as a first-year arbitration eligible player. Look for Nunez to make in the neighborhood of $2 million, or similiar to salaries received by relievers Mike Gonzalez ($2.35 million), Jose Valverde ($2 million) and Jonathan Broxton ($1.85 million) in their first arb years. A bigger question might be what to do with Matt Lindstrom, who is another first-year eligible. Lindstrom should fit in the $1 million to $1.5 million range.
By the way, last night's loss by the Marlins was only their third this season in which they held a lead after the 8th. They are now 70-3 when they lead after 8 but 6-62 when they trail after the 8th.
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Ross Gload, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. John Baker, c; 7. Cody Ross, cf; 8. Brett Carroll, rf; 9. Sean West, p.
Mets: 1. Angel Pagan, lf; 2. Luis Castillo, 2b; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4. Carlos Beltran, cf; 5. Jeff Francoeur, rf; 6. Fernando Tatis, 1b; 7. Omir Santos, c; 8. Anderson Hernandez, ss; 9. John Maine, p.
Hanley Ramirez was honored for the third straight season as the Marlins' Most Valuable Player by members of the Miami chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. No surprise there. Nor is it any surprise that Chris Coghlan was named the team's Rookie of the Year by the local chapter.
Ramirez is the first three-time recipient of the chapter's MVP award, receiving the honor in 2007, '08 and this season. Miguel Cabrera, Jeff Conine, Cliff Floyd and Luis Castillo were each two-time winners.
"It's not about one guy," Ramirez said "I feel happy what we've done as a team and I feel happy that I have helped."
Coghlan started the year at Triple A New Orleans figuring the only chance he had of getting to the Marlins this season would be as a September call-up. But since being promoted in May, Coghlan has emerged as one of the top newcomers in the majors and is a leading candidate to win NL Rookie of the Year honors.
"I just figured there was nowhere for me to go, with Uggs (Dan Uggla) playing second and him doing the great things that he does here," said Coghlan, a second baseman before the Marlins converted him into an outfielder when he was called up. "And so I just went down to Triple A and tried to prepare myself for September. If I had to pinpoint (a time), that's when I thought I would get called up."
The chapter also announced outfielder Cody Ross as it's winner of the Charlie Hough "Good Guy" Award, given to the Marlin who fosters a strong, working relationship with the media, and Wes Helms as the Jeff Conine "Mr. Marlin" Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and determination of the former Marlins' player.
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Nick Johnson, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. John Baker, c; 7. Cody Ross, rf; 8. Cameron Maybin, cf; 9. Ricky Nolasco, p.
Mets: 1. Angel Pagan, lf; 2. Luis Castillo, 2b; 3. David Wright, 3b; 4. Carlos Beltran, cf; 5. Daniel Murphy, 1b; 6. Jeff Francoeur, rf; 7. Josh Thole, c; 8. Anderson Hernandez, ss; 9. Tim Redding,
Ho hum. The Marlins, the team with the lowest payroll in the majors clinched another winning season with last night's bottom-of-the-ninth comeback. (Quick: How can anyone believe the Phillies will repeat as World Series champs with Brad Lidge as closer?)
So that makes five winning seasons out of the last seven for the Marlins. Consider that the Pittsburgh Pirates haven't finished above .500 since 1992, the year before the Marlins joined the majors. And the Reds haven't had a winning season since 2000. The Marlins have had more winning seasons since 2003 than the free-spending Mets, who have enjoyed only four, and as many as the Chicago Cubs (For this season, I'm crediting teams with a winning record if they have one at the moment).
Here's a breakdown of winning seasons over the past seven years:
7 -- Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox
6 -- Cardinals, Dodgers, Twins, Angels
5 -- Marlins, Braves, Cubs, Astros, White Sox
4 -- Mets, Padres, Blue Jays, A's
3 -- Giants, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Tigers
2 -- Rangers, Indians, Brewers, Rays, Rockies
1 -- Expos (Nationals), Royals
0 -- Pirates, Reds, Orioles
The season's not over yet, of course, but I'm wondering how others feel about the Marlins. Do you think they've met or exceeded expectations? Or do you think they should have done better?
Okay, let's see. Brendan Donnelly is called for an illegal pitch in Cincinnati on Friday, and for good reason. Donnelly, in some sort of brain meltdown, was pitching out of the stretch when he inexplicably stepped off the rubber with his back foot while simultaneously delivering the ball to home plate. The batter, Brandon Phillips, lined the 3-ball pitch to right, where Brett Carroll made the catch and fired back to first to double off the runner.
Or so it seemed.Second base umpire spotted Donnelly's unusua foot movement and called him for an illegal pitch. Under the rules, that meant automaticall became a ball -- ball four in this instance -- Phillips took first and Joey Votto, who thought he had been doubled up at first, advanced to second.
Donnelly said afterward that he told teammates when he joined the Marlins that they should be prepared.
"I'll show you things you've never seen before," Donnelly said. "And tonight I showed them."
It's not the first time Donnelly, a colorful, Bull Durham type of veteran, has been involved in the unusual.
While with the Angels during the 2005 season, Donnelly inadventerly went to the mound with a ball in his hip pocket. That same season, he was suspended for 10 games when pine tar was disovered on his glove.
As expected, the Marlins will open their 2010 season on April 5 in New York against the Mets while their home opener will be on April 9 against the L.A. Dodgers.
But the home interleague schedule consists of June visits by only the Texas Rangers and the Marlins' "natural" rival, the Tampa Bay Rays -- not exactly thrilling stuff.
Here's my question to baseball fans in South Florida: Other than the Yankees or Red Sox, which American League team would you prefer to see visit the Marlins:
A newt Sports Illustrated poll shows that Land Shark Stadium isn't a favorite among players. The only park that rated lower was the A's Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. In its survey, SI asked players "Which ballpark do you least like to play in?"
Oakland-Alameda topped the list at 11 percent, followed by Land Shark (10 percent), the Twins' Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (10 percent), Boston's Fenway Park (9 percent) and Chicago's Wrigley Field (8 percent).
Fans may love Fenway and Wrigley, but I have a good idea why a lot of players probably don't. There are probably many high school locker rooms that would seem posh alongside the visitor's clubhouses at those two historic ballparks. Think cramped dungeons.
However, in a separate SI poll, Fenway and Wrigley topped the list of parks players "most like to play in." So it's like one of those Howard Cosell love-hate things, for those old enough to remember.
Gotta figure the lack of ambience and abundance of rain have a lot to do with Land Shark's low rating.
With three weeks left in the season, the Marlins are more focused on catching the division-leading Phillies instead of the wild-card leading Rockies. Why? They've got six games left against the Phillies and the Rockies control their own destiny.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said his team was scoreboard watching in New York Thursday night and wincing as the Phillies rallied with five runs in the ninth before falling against the Nationals.
Cody Ross said the Marlins believe their previous calls might be what ultimately puts them over the top.
"It seems like everytime this point in the year we find ourselves in the same spot and hopefully now that we have had those experiences and a couple games under our belts we can prosper this year and move forward instead of the other way," outfielder Ross said.
"We fell short the last couple years and that's not a good feeling. Nobody in here the last couple seasons after the year was over was saying that was good run, nice going. That's not what we're about. We want to go out and we want to play in October."
IDENTITY THEFT: Even professional baseball players can fall victim to identity theft.
Reliever Kiko Calero is the latest. The Marlins reliever received an unexpected phone call from an Arizona state detective Thursday asking him to identify himself after police stopped a man on Phoenix freeway who presented a fake Puerto Rican driver's license with Calero's name on it.
The 41-year-old man, identified by an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman as a Mexican citizen, was pulled over for having a low tire. When he presented a license and social security card with Calero's digits, authorities quickly became suspicious.
Fingerprint confirmation and a criminal history check identified the driver as Oscar Corral. He was arrested for possession of forged documents.
Calero said he had his wallet stolen while he was living in Puerto Rico in 2000, but never called social security because he thought nothing was going to happen. "This was the first time anybody used my identity that I know of," Calero said. "Now, there could be more than one person who bought or copied my ID. It's going to be a headache. But I've been told I'll be ok."
> Chris Volstad will start Sunday in place of Rick VandenHurk. Fredi Gonzalez, however, was non-commital about starting Volstad after Sunday.
Just saw this story, in which an Arizona man was arrested for trying to pass himself off as Marlins reliever Kiko Calero. Check it out here.