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View from the other side: Marlins questions for Ely Sussman of Fish Stripes

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MLB: APR 15 Marlins at Braves Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Marlins are fourth in the NL East, 4.5 games back of the Mets. They are eleventh in the NL in runs scored per game, at 3.87. And they are fourth in runs allowed per game, at 3.67.

I sent off some questions to Ely Sussman, manager over at Fish Stripes, SB’s Miami Marlins blog.

Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Blue Jays are likely to see. I would be ok with it if we could miss Trevor Rogers. Is he going to be NL Rookie of the Year?

As a result of Sunday’s rainout, Sandy Alcantara will start on Tuesday, followed by Pablo López on Wednesday. Alcantara has the deepest pitch arsenal of anybody on the Marlins staff and he’s the one guy who gets the green light to remain in well beyond 100 pitches when he’s on top of his game.

Pablo López will start Wednesday. After years of having his career interrupted by arm injuries, he has made every scheduled start since 2020 and emerged as a legitimate All-Star-caliber pitcher. He gets beautiful 2-plane movement on his changeup and leans heavily on that pitch, complementing it with well-located fastballs up in the zone. The Marlins’ pitching plans for the other game are a total mystery—that’s the void in their current 4-man rotation. Expect a handful of relievers to patch it together.

You don’t have to deal with Trevor Rogers, fortunately. He is very much on the same trajectory that José Fernández was when he claimed NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013. The undisputed frontrunner for the award right now.

You have a couple of former Jays on the team, so I gotta ask about them, how are Jon Berti and Anthony Bass doing for you guys?

Jon Berti surpassed everybody’s expectations in 2019 and 2020 as a speedy super-utility guy who could actually hit! His plate discipline has slipped this season, dragging down his overall value, but he’s Miami’s primary third baseman currently because Brian Anderson is on the injured list. Perhaps those consistent reps will help him regain his good habits.

Bass’ first season with the Marlins has been a rollercoaster. He was handed the closer’s job in spring training and immediately lost them a few games in early April. Recently, he’s found a comfort zone in the 7th and 8th innings. His slider was almost unhittable in May. Slight disappointment all things considered, but credit to him for being accountable (to reporters and on social media) when he doesn’t get the job done.

The Marlins are 4th in the NL East, but just 3.5 games back of the Mets (as I type this), who have about a dozen former Jays on the team). It doesn’t seem like the strongest division. What do you think of your chances?

It feels like the NL East has been decimated by more injuries than any other division. To be brief, I expect you’ll see much stronger play in the second half of the season. It’s difficult to gauge how the Marlins fit into that picture because they’re the 1 team that has less “urgency” to contend in 2021 and there is a temptation to flip their pending free agents for more prospect depth. The absolute best-case scenario is claiming the final Wild Card spot, but I agree with most projection systems which say the percentage likelihood of that is in the low single digits.

I have to ask, wouldn’t you rather have the far superior DH style of play? You can’t really like watching pitchers strike out 3 or 4 times a game? (this is known as leading the witness). Is this the last year without the DH?

This road trip is the first time all season that the Marlins have been able to use the DH—I couldn’t be happier. It is far superior. The Marlins assembled their roster with the expectation that the league would make it universal in 2021. It was so deflating to see that fall-through. They’ll get it right for 2022 in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Who is your favorite Marlin to watch?

The most watchable Marlin is Jazz Chisholm Jr. His athleticism, aggressiveness, and swagger has made him an instant fan favorite. Honorable mention to Sixto Sánchez who unfortunately has been away for the last two months rehabbing from injury.

What do you think of Derek Jeter running the team? I’m sure anyone would be better than that creep Jeffrey Loria. Is there more interest in the team with Jeter?

The bar set by Jeffrey Loria was so low, yes. Derek Jeter encourages more front office collaboration and is more receptive to fan feedback. No doubt, his star power helps boost morale in the community and even among the active Marlins players who grew up watching him. However, his “approval rating” won’t come close to unanimous until payroll increases dramatically (currently in the $60M range for 2021).

I grew up listening to Dave Van Horne call baseball. It amazes me that he is still doing it. I occasionally will listen to a Marlins game on the radio just to hear his voice. What do Marlins’ fans think of him?

It’s been 20 years for DVH in South Florida, believe it or not. He is adored enough to earn a spot in our Fish Stripes Marlins Hall of Fame. His radio call of them clinching the 2003 National League pennant was an all-timer. That being said, his workload has been trimmed a lot for this season. Glenn Geffner is gradually taking the reins as the radio voice of the Marlins, and I think he’ll be a worthy successor.

Anything else we should know about the Marlins? Do you miss the ‘monstrosity’?

One misconception about the home run sculpture is that they got rid of it. Not true! It resides on the plaza directly outside LoanDepot Park, in full view of the public. It is an impressive art piece, but I like this compromise—the original placement of the sculpture distracted from the gameplay.