Don’t look now, but Florida’s two Major League teams sure are making things interesting.
The Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays are both 9-1 in their last ten games. This is a Marlins team which has been without Jose Fernandez since mid-May and a Rays squad that seemed firmly planted in the American League East cellar just weeks ago. So much that rumblings about their inevitable trading of David Price dominated the baseball landscape. The questions were “Where would Price land?” and “When will they trade him?”
Now, it not only looks like Price will be sticking around in St. Petersburg for at least the rest of this season, but the Rays have climbed to just a game below .500 at 53-54 and find themselves 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.
And the Rays have surged back into contention while missing a crucial star themselves; right fielder Wil Myers has been on the disabled list since May 30. Myers is on pace to return to the Rays in mid-August. That’s a frightening prospect for the rest of the cluttered AL East as they prepare for the stretch run.
Miami, on the other hand, has enjoyed a pleasantly successful season after finishing 62-100 in 2013. Giancarlo Stanton is back to his All-Star form, Casey McGehee has rediscovered his swing and the young core has even exceeded its high expectations.
Though the team crashed back down to earth after posting an 11-16 month of June and the magic seemed to have run out. That is, until a Marlins franchise-record 6-1 road trip July 21-27 in which they took three-of-four from the Atlanta Braves and swept a three game set against the Houston Astros.
Then, on Monday and Tuesday night, the Marlins took the first two games in a three game set against the Washington Nationals.
The first-place Washington Nationals.
Now, both teams in the Sunshine State face the dilemma of whether to be buyers or sellers at Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Or, I suppose they could choose to simply stay put and hope for the best?
It’s a pleasant surprise to see the Marlins and Rays enjoying this success, but the timing has to be incredibly inconvenient for both teams. I mean, every team would rather win, but baseball is a game where front offices have to find a balance where they are putting solid products on the field every night but also building for the team’s future.
Are the Marlins and Rays likely to keep up this pace? Of course not. Both teams find themselves within relative striking distance of a Wild Card or, more of a stretch, a division title. The Marlins have been linked to Jon Lester, but a deal for the southpaw seems incredibly far-fetched.
As for Tampa Bay, I suppose trading Price in the next two days is still plausible, if they feel their winning streak is unsustainable and it would be in the better interest of the franchise moving forward.
Whatever happens, let me go on the record by saying that on this date, July 30, 2014, the two best teams in baseball resided in the Sunshine State. Sure, the cliche states that “baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.” The Marlins and Rays could easily turn around and lose nine of their next ten games and this article would look pretty silly.
But, man, as a fan of Florida teams the past couple weeks has been a really fun ride.