Now that the book is now closed on an incredible season for the 2023 Miami Marlins, it's naturally time to wonder what lies ahead for the franchise.
On the surface, all seems bright. Miami is coming off a playoff appearance, and boasts an impressive foundation that should help keep things moving in the right direction. Those are two things that have hardly been commonplace for the Marlins. This was only their fourth trip to the playoffs in franchise history and first in a full-length season in 20 years. Plenty has contributed to that lack of on-field success beyond issues with the manager and front office. However, with the exception of about three months in 2020, the track record there has been far from sterling for well over a decade.
However, it's not a question of how great 2023 was. It's a question of how aggressively the Miami Marlins, and specifically owner Bruce Sherman, will look to build upon all the good will and respect they just earned heading into 2024.
What comes next for Miami Marlins?
As alluded to above, three other playoff runs preceded this 2023 postseason berth: 1997, 2003, and 2020. For Marlins fans, the root damage goes back to that first trip and first World Series championship, when that team was unceremoniously blown up the following season and never even given a chance to defend their title. For Marlins fans of a certain age, the scars still remain from that perceived betrayal.
Following the second trip and title in 2003, things somewhat improved. The core was retained, but there was no denying that the team was weaker. Two of Miami's top three offensive performers weren't retained, and money was the reason. In fact, the 2004 team spent signficantly less than the 2003 team.
As for the 2021 Marlins? Less money spent than the last full season in 2019 and no major additions made. To be fair though, they did refreshingly start the season with all the key players who played a hand in making that 2020 playoff push.
Bottom-line, the Miami Marlins have never really, truly defended and built upon a playoff push. Certainly not in a way that made fans really and truly believe that they were watching a more talented team than the one from the previous season. Particularly those fans of a certain age that happen to be the same age that comprise the bulk of the able to afford season tickets wing of the Marlins fanbase ... a group that has now, conservatively, been thrice jilted in this situation.
So just what will happen with these 2024 Marlins?
If the fortunes are finally going to turn for this franchise, it's imperative for Sherman to do his part to make sure the 2024 Miami Marlins break that mold. At least one, and probably two bold moves have to be made. Admittedly, there's a strong case to be made that luck played an oversized role in that 2023 success. There's also the small matter of staff ace Sandy Alcantara needing to miss all of 2024 on account of Tommy John surgery. In short, two pretty good excuses to precede with caution when it comes to expending more payroll and prospects on the current roster. The thing is, given the Marlins long history ... all the excuses in the world wouldn't matter. If South Florida is going to finally turn out and support this team, this is what it's going to take.
To be clear, this isn't a lament about the Marlins not doing enough last season in this regard. They did. More to the point, Sherman did. It's also certainly possible that the Marlins could field a better team next year while spending less. However, if the team does choose that path, there had better be some flashy young players or seasoned veterans coming back Miami's way ... names that will electrify the fanbase and not just cause them to perceive business as usual. Because that's the thing that needs to change at this point, and it's really all that's left to change. The winning season? Check. The playoff trip? Check. The front office making good trades, and being aggressive enough if needed at the trade deadline? Double check.
But can the the Miami Marlins be consistently competitive, and is winning truly the most important thing?
In all of their history, the answer to that question has never been perceived as a "yes" for two seasons in a row or more. It's on Bruce Sherman to make sure every Marlins fan in attendance next Opening Day believes that will be a different story in 2024.