SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
A few timely South Florida-flavored points to consider on the topic of “clutch” play:
### The Marlins’ performance in the clutch, offensively, must change as much as anything about this team, as they await Monday's season opener. Besides being generally unproductive last season, Marlins batters were abysmal in the clutch (two outs and runners in scoring position).
Last season, MLB teams hit .232 and averaged 200 runs in that situation. The Marlins hit .193 in the clutch, ahead of only Milwaukee, and scored 151 runs.
Giancarlo Stanton hit .259 but with a league-high 22 clutch strikeouts. Among others: Logan Morrison, dealt to Seattle, hit .167 in the clutch, Adeiny Hechavarria .215, Ed Lucas .107 (3 for 28), Rob Brantly .192, Jeff Mathis .133, Christian Yelich .111 (2 for 18), Marcell Ozuna .226 and Derek Dietrich .130.
How have the Marlins’ new starters done historically in the clutch? The news is mixed.
New catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit .283 in 60 clutch at-bats in 2013, which was ninth among qualifying catchers – a big jump from .210 in his career. New third baseball Casey McGehee, who spent 2013 in Japan, has been excellent in the clutch throughout his MLB career (.318). New second baseman Rafael Furcal, who will begin the season on the disabled list, is a .261 career clutch hitter, .287 in those situations late in close games.
But Miami’s new first basemen have been poor in the clutch in their careers: Garrett Jones at .188, Jeff Baker .181. In Furcal's absence, Baker will start at second base on opening day, Monday against Colorado.
### Though Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was correct in saying he probably should have given LeBron James the last shot of the Pacers game last week, keep in mind that Chris Bosh entered the weekend with the NBA’s highest shooting percentage (minimum 40 attempts) on shots in the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.
Bosh is shooting 54.5 percent on those shots (30 for 55), compared with 47.6 percent for James (40 for 84) and 36.4 for Dwyane Wade (8 for 22).
### Daniel Thomas exasperated the Dolphins with his inability to consistently convert in clutch situations (third and fourth and short). New Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno will be an upgrade there.
In his career, Moreno has gotten a first down on 28 of 42 rushing attempts on third and fourth down when he needed two or fewer yards for a first down (67 percent). Conversely, Thomas has converted just 13 of 25 (52 percent), and Lamar Miller only 2 of 7 (28.6 percent).
### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he will talk to Dan Marino about a potential job within the organization. But he said he has “no idea” what it might be.
### A bit more on Moreno: "Solid contributor but not a No. 1 back,” ESPN’s Bill Polian said. “Most of his success from 2013 was a function of the [Denver] system. His acceleration to the hole is the reason” why Polian gave him a “minus” grade for speed.
But “the rest of his game is good,” Polian said. “He just doesn’t hit the big plays you need from a No. 1 running back.”
Pittsburgh-bound LaGarrette Blount expected Miami interest, but the Dolphins never called him, and he isn’t nearly as good as Moreno in pass protection, which is being prioritized by Miami.
### Moreno's one-year, $3 million deal leaves the Dolphins with just over $16 million in cap space, with a little less than a third of that needed to sign draft picks.
### Postscripts from last week’s NFL owners meetings: Though some have criticized Miami’s signing of cornerback Cortland Finnegan, one competing general manager insisted it was a smart move because “he’s tough and physical” and might regain his previous form in a defensive system better suited to him.
Finnegan’s coach in St. Louis, Jeff Fisher, said “you get to that age  where you have to be aware of [potential loss of speed]. But when he was playing for us, he could still run.”…
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, on what Miami is getting in Branden Albert: “Great leader and an All-Pro. As good a player as he is, he's an even better person. He'll take care of your left side and do a great job for you. Pass blocking, run blocking – he’s good at both.”…
Fisher said even though Shelley Smith started only two games for the Rams in 2013, he’s a starting-caliber guard, plus “an outstanding run blocker and very physical.”
### Among coaches, there were mixed views expressed about whether Joe Philbin was culpable for not knowing about the bullying in his locker-room. One coach said it was obvious on HBO’s Hard Knocks in 2012 that Philbin was too detached and spent too much time in his office.
But Carolina’s Ron Rivera said: “A coach can't know everything. Coaches are held to a standard that sometimes is impossible. These players are men. I don’t know how we’re responsible for what they do.” Saints coach Sean Payton said: “How Joe is viewed in our circles is outstanding.”
### The last time the Marlins gave a three-year contract to an American League East catcher in his late 20s, who was coming off his best offensive season (John Buck), it was a disaster.
But the Marlins insist there’s no concern Saltalamacchia will be another Buck. “I don’t see any similarities; Jarrod is more of a contact guy, a gap hitter,” Marlins executive Michael Hill said.
The Marlins gave Buck $18 million over three years after he hit .281 for Toronto in 2010 – after never hitting better than .247 in any previous season. He bombed in Miami (.227, .192).
This offseason, the Marlins gave Saltalamacchia, a career .246 hitter, a three-year deal worth $21 million, after he hit .273 for Boston in 2013. The Marlins love how Saltalamacchia has taken charge of the pitching staff and believe he became a more disciplined hitter last year.
### Giancarlo Stanton, on the Marlins' decision not to bring in the Marlins Park fences: "I reiterate that they need to be brought in, in years to come. And it's not just my opinion. It's everyone's opinion here. And everyone's opinion on visiting teams."
But Marlins president David Samson said: "Where the fences are has helped us more than hurt us. We do measure it, because we've got smart guys. We're not ready to tell you permanently what we're doing; we're still studying it."
Over the past two seasons, Stanton actually has hit more home runs at home (31) than on the road (30). But Miami had only 31 home runs at home in 2013, compared with 59 on the road.
### The Mirage and 12 Nevada casinos have the Marlins at 100 to 1 to win the World Series. Only the Astros, at 200 to 1, face longer odds.
### UM wouldn't allow reporters to watch Saturday's scrimmage, but it did release a few details. Among them: Ryan Williams and Kevin Olsen took all the snaps... Williams made some nifty throws: a long TD pass to Phillip Dorsett and a sharp throw to Rashawn Scott for a big gain... But Williams was sacked by Anthony Chickillo and Al-Quadin Muhammad for a safety on the first play of the day. Muhammad had a sack on another play.. Stacy Coley made a couple of terrific catches.... UM ran for four touchdowns and threw for two....
Impressive early enrollee Darrion Owens made his mark at linebacker Saturday, generating pressure on the quarterback.... Artie Burns intercepted a pass.... Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker looked good running the ball... Safety Dallas Crawford stuffed a running play for a loss... Williams said this is the most physical the offensive line has looked since he has been here. But offensive penalties were a problem, Jon Feliciano said.
### Following in the footsteps of the more accomplished Jimmy Graham, UM 6-9 forward Raphael Akpejiori plans to try out for the football team in the coming weeks, according to multiple reports.