SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Marlins buzz as another disappointing season ends:
### The Marlins can be mildly encouraged but should not deceived by a pretty good September, when they’ve excelled without pressure. They know they need to add one or two starting pitchers, will explore closer options and will discuss what to do with Marcell Ozuna.
The Marlins hope to find a No. 2-caliber starter to join ace Jose Fernandez (who might be on an innings limit in 2016), Jarred Cosart (“you are seeing the guy we traded for, and it’s pretty good,” manager-for-one-more-day Dan Jennings said) and perhaps Tom Koehler.
Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill has said the Marlins cannot comfortably project a rotation spot yet for Henderson Alvarez, expected back sometime next spring from shoulder surgery. He’s expected to be tendered unless he has a setback in recovery before the early-December deadline.
If the Marlins can afford to add only one starter, they could go into March with one spot in competition among Adam Conley (4-1, 3.84 ERA) and Justin Nicolino (they both have had some good moments in recent weeks) and a recovering Alvarez.
“I hope we’ve given them something to consider,” Conley said. “I’ve shown I can get major league hitters out.”
Nicolino --- who was 4-4, with a 4.16 ERA entering his Saturday night start --- said: “I’m proud of how I’ve handled this.”
The Marlins like impending free agents Johnny Cueto (Kansas City) and Mike Leake (San Francisco), but they would be too expensive unless Jeffrey Loria is willing to spend a ton. Numerous cheaper options will be discussed.
### There’s some internal sentiment to trying to upgrade at closer and use closer AJ Ramos and Carter Capps as set-up men, but signing a closer might not be realistic financially.
Ramos (30 of 36 save chances, batters hitting .181 against) said he would “like to think” he has done enough to retain the job. He said he needs to right himself more quickly when he has location issues, and avoid stressful innings, because “my parents are getting older. I can’t do that to them.”
### Though some members of the front office would like to keep Ozuna, Loria is down on him and will consider trading him, multiple sources said. If Ozuna is dealt (possibly for a pitcher), a center fielder will be needed.
The Marlins like Mets impending free agent Yoenis Cespedes, 29, but he wants a six-year contract and probably would be too costly. The other free agent center fielders: Cubs’ Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson, Washington’s Denard Span (recovering from hip surgery), Houston’s Colby Rasmus and Detroit’s Rajai Davis.
Ozuna is hitting .274 since his 5 ½ week banishment to the minors – much better than before his demotion (.249) and with more power (six homers since returning from Triple A; four in nearly twice as many at-bats before). “I like it here but if they don’t want me, I can’t control it. I will learn from this year,” Ozuna said.
### Christian Yelich has been buoyed by his strong finish; his .330 average after the All-Star break ranks in the top 12 in baseball (minimum 200 at-bats) and there’s no thought to trading him. “This is the player I know I can be,” he said. Yelich began tonight's double-header with eight hits in eight at-bats.
### Justin Bour (.263, 23 HR, 71 RBI entering Saturday's double-header) clearly has positioned himself to the starting first baseman in 2016, but he’s largely unproven against left-handers (.221, 15 for 68) and the Marlins might look for a cheap platoon option.
“The power has been good,” Hill said. “Defensively, there is room for improvement. He's a young player, trying to get his feet underneath him at the major league level and we're happy with the progress.”
The bulky Bour, who has six errors, knows he needs “to make strides body-wise. Not weight but more toned. If I take the right approach, I would be a guy who not just hits for power but hits for average and gets on base a lot.”
### Beyond the ongoing managerial search (there are at least a half dozen candidates), changes are also in the works in the baseball operations department. (Check out Clark Spencer's blog from today about that.) Hill remains first in command in the hierarchy, and that isn't expected to change, but Loria ultimately makes every decision.
### Dolphins players continue to gripe privately about defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle --- everything from his substitution patterns, to his read-and-react approach for defensive linemen, to using practice time on things not used much in games, to in-game decisions.
One veteran defensive player expressed concern that Coyle's decision to split middle linebacker snaps between Kelvin Sheppard and Zach Vigil (a platoon that resumed last week) could be disruptive. Another said he has never seen anything like that before at mike linebacker and worried it could lead to errors.
And players aren’t the only ones complaining about Coyle.
“The Dolphins defense is so simplistic and predictable,” ESPN’s Louis Riddick, former Redskins and Eagles pro personnel director, tweeted this week. “Presents no mental challenge for the quarterback to decipher what they are doing pre-snap…. You give a player [Ndamukong Suh] $60 million in guarantees as a UFA, you make damn sure you do everything you can to recreate the environment/scheme he had success in before.”
Joe Philbin ordered Coyle to simplify his defense this past offseason, and players said Coyle spoke this week of simplifying even more, instead of adding creative nuances.
### To put into perspective what middling or worse quarterbacks are doing against the Dolphins, consider four of the past five they’ve faced have exceeded their career passer ratings by an absurd 30 to 87 points when they played Miami.
To end 2014, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater produced an 114.1 against Miami (compared with an 84.4 career rating) and the Jets’ Geno Smith a perfect 158.8 (career 71.5).
This season, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was 102.2 vs. Miami (71.1 career) and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor 136.7, compared with 80.3 career.
One Dolphins defensive player, asked about this, said one reason for these astounding performances by average quarterbacks is that the Dolphins are not stopping the run, either. "We need to make teams one-dimensional, and we're not doing that," that player said.
### Consider passer ratings allowed by Dolphins defensive backs: Walt Aikens (143.3), Reshad Jones (136.5), Brice McCain (95.3 and allowed fourth-most yards in the league at 232) and Jamar Taylor (119). Brent Grimes is at a sterling 41.3.
### According to a player, several veterans spoke up in defensive meeting on Monday --- Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh and others --- taking ownership and saying everyone needs to do their job. But while the players speaking up is fine, another player said talking isn't going to accomplish much.
### Hassan Whiteside, whose 50 percent accuracy on free throws last season would have been the NBA’s fifth-worst if he had enough games to qualify (78 for 156), said he shot 300 a day this summer and “there has been a lot of improvement. I filmed it. I worked on my mechanics. You’ll see. I’m trying to be 70 percent or higher.”
### I asked Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade what has impressed them through the first few days of training camp, and both mentioned guard Josh Richardson.
"I didn't know a lot about him," Wade said. "I like his poise, his ability to play the 1 and 2. He's impressed me."
Said Bosh: "[Both] rookies have impressed me. Justise Winslow is very smart. Josh plays under control, doesn't make many bad decisions."
### Erik Spoelstra twice mentioned this last week: "The ultimate compliment to a player is when everyone wants to play with him" (on his team) in practice. That's Josh McRoberts."
### Yet another reason why UM’s coaching remains justifiably under fire: Miami --- which had recruiting classes ranked 9th, 20th, 12th and 26th by Rivals over the past four seasons --- somehow lost to a Cincinnati team whose classes were rated 50th, 71st, 69th and 57th those years.
Cincinnati looked like it had comparable talent on Thursday night, and that may will be. But the most prominent recruiting site (Rivals) says there was a big gap in the talent of these players before they arrived on campus...
Al Golden is likely going to lose his job if he doesn't get this turned around this season, but one high-level Board of Trustee member said in an in-season coaching change would surprise him, barring a total collapse.
That Trustee said it is obvious coaching is the problem, a view shared by several Trustees with whom we've spoken.
### Next Saturday's UM at FSU game was set for 8 p.m. on ABC.
### When I asked elite St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, before the season, whether UM needs to win to keep his commitment, he responded that UM would win 10 games. It's almost unfathomable to see that happening now.
Bruce also has been quoted as saying that he would look elsewhere if Golden is fired.