The Miami Marlins exited baseball’s postseason fast, eliminated in the minimum two games.
But they won.
By any fair gauge or broad-view angle, this MLB season was an uplifting success — a joyride of a surprise — for the sport’s oft-ignored, southeastern-most franchise.
It ended Wednesday night in a resounding 7-1 loss in Philadelphia, after the first game in the best-of-3 had ended 4-1.
Nobody expected this of the Marlins. Getting this far. A playoff race won. A 33-13 record in one-run games, best in the majors. Sixteen comeback wins. Excitement.
The New York Mets and Yankees and San Diego Padres combined spent $879 million on player payrolls, the three most lavish budgets in baseball. None of ’em reached the postseason.
But the Marlins did, with a payroll ranked 22nd of 30 clubs, at a modest $105.4million. With a team whose preseason World Series betting odds were bottom 10, tied for 22nd overall. With a new manager, and a club that hadn’t had a winning record in a full season since 2009.
This has been an historic past year-plus in South Florida sports: Heat in the NBA Finals, Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final, Hurricanes basketball in the men’s Final Four, a resurgence for the Dolphins and UM football, and Lionel Messi signing with Inter Miami.
And the Marlins, most unexpectedly, joined the party. Instead of being the outlier, baseball surged, too.
Skip Schumaker proved a ready and able first-time manager. Owner Bruce Sherman increased the player payroll appreciably; granted, a low bar to clear. top. Kim Ng hit big with deals — notably Luis Arraez and later Jake Burger and Josh Bell — to become baseball’s first female general manager to make the playoffs.
Marlins home attendance in turn topped 1 million for the first time since 2017 and saw a 30 percent increase, one reason resurgent MLB enjoyed its biggest total attendance in 30 years.
The club presidency of Derek Jeter ended without much to show but disappointment, now this season marked the moving on, the onset of a promising new era.
That this season was so special, even with the quick postseason exit, is because it is only the fourth playoff year in 31 franchise seasons. And the first since 2003 in a full season not under the asterisk/shadow of a pandemic, a delayed and shortened schedule, no fans and added playoff teams.
[Aside to MLB: No team that has earned a three-game playoff series across 162 games (or its fans) should endure all three games being at the other team’s stadium. It’s an unfair, unjustified disadvantage. Tweak your format.]
In Miami’s 4-1 Game 1 loss the Phillies presented a mighty lineup with six men who had hit at least 20 home runs.. But it was Zack Wheeler’s arm dealing sinkers and sliders that beat the Marlins and sent them to Wednesday night’s elimination precipice.
Miami began the postseason as the biggest underdog in any series, given only a 35.6 percent chance of beating Philly and a 1.2 percent likelihood of winning the World Series, according to ESPN’s computerized power index.
The Marlins had only six fewer regular-season wins than the Phillies (90 to 84), and Miami was 7-6 head-to-head vs. their NL East rival —- including 4-2 in Philadelphia.
Yet Philly as the big favorite was understandable. They reached the World Series before losing last season. And that power! Plus Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara and rising star pitcher Eury Perez both were out injured for the postseason.
Still, the Marlins got this far.
It seems strange to say.
Miami’s postseason just ended in 4-1 and 7-1 losses.
And it still feels like a season worth celebrating.