It’s time for the Marlins and Nats to be their fiendiest

My goodness, how the tables have turned. I’ve spent months, even years, looking down on two of MLB’s most pathetic franchises – the Washington Nationals and the Miami Marlins. Often, in private and sometimes in public, I’ve disregarded their rosters, scoffed at their team-building “philosophies” and rolled my eyes when their irrelevant games exist to prevent me from getting matchups I actually want to see. But the joke is mine now: this coming weekend, two of baseball’s most important must-see teams are the same Marlins and Nationals.

With not even a week left in the MLB season, we find ourselves in that weird section of the calendar where most games mean nothing but a few games all. In the American League, the guest list for the playoffs is pretty much set. The Yankees, Guardians and Astros are guaranteed to be your division champions, while only the Orioles, with their robust 4.5 game deficit in the wild card, have even a mathematical way to slip into the picture. The National League, on the other hand, has the Dodgers and Cardinals in first and third place, but offers a few down-to-the-wire races. In NL East, the Mets’ one-game lead over the Braves must be maintained if they are to exit the wild card round. And on the sidelines, the Milwaukee Brewers are just half a game behind the Philadelphia Phillies as they try to get the last ticket.

With that in mind, there are so many series this weekend that don’t Yes, really must be played. Rangers Angels, Pirate Cardinals, Gemini Tigers – they can certainly exist when the local people feel like going to one last ballgame before the long winter, but from any other perspective they don’t affect anything important at all. The neutral TV viewer simply has to tune in to Mets-Braves for the absolute highest stakes (Atlanta weather permitting), while the defending world champions battle their charismatic rival for new money for the right to build a bridge over the first obstacle of the to cross finals. But what about the Brew Crew and the Phils? Both have a treat in the form of reportedly easy wins. Milwaukee hosts the Marlins for a four-game series starting Thursday night, while the team, currently in the third wild card slot, takes on the Cubs today before traveling to DC for four against the Nationals in three days.

That’s exactly what you want when you’re still fighting for your season. The Nats are an absolute wreck — 54-101, missing even the few hitters who have added anything notable to them this year, and lacking respectable starting pitching. The Marlins are a little better at 64-91, but while they showed courage in the spring, they’ve been reeling at 17-36 since early August as they’ve continually struggled to give their very good pitching staff every running support and have preemptively announced the departure of their manager, Don Mattingly, before he actually departed. They should not be competition for motivated teams in must-win situations. And yet.

You and I both know it’s not that easy. Hell, the Mets and Braves themselves learned that lesson this week. In Queens, New York pitchers failed to stem the Marlins’ offense on Tuesday, and only a 10th-inning walk-off by Eduardo Escobar on Wednesday prevented the humiliation of a sweep. In Washington, after winning the first two, the Braves lost a game at the Mets last night when CJ Abrams – a 21-year-old member of the Soto trade – captured the Braves’ bullpen to electrify the few true believers, who actually started for the home team.

Baseball is a dangerous game no matter who is playing it. Brewers and Phillies fans could thank their lucky stars that they aren’t going up against the Mets or the Braves at this crucial moment. But just because their two basement-dwelling opponents didn’t enjoy their own season doesn’t mean they can’t ruin someone else’s as well. The Phillies slide into the present day having just suffered a few heartbreaking losses to threaten their position, and while they should theoretically be hitting the ball from a tee box against guys like Erick Fedde, they’re still grappling with the chaos , which was caused by the Nats’ sheer inexperience with batting order — Abrams, Alex Call, 30-year-old rookie slugger Joey Meneses. And the Brewers, in addition to the imposing task of facing Sandy Alcantara on Friday (they’ll have Corbin Burnes, at the very least), could find themselves thwarted by just one silly play, perhaps caused by Jon Berti and his 37 steals. or Bryan De La Cruz and the September hot streak he’s been enjoying since rebounding from AAA.

As little as these teams institutionally try to win these days, baseball is a dumb sport, and MLB only includes players who, by definition, have the potential to play at the highest level. While you’re right if you’ve been ignoring them so far, it’s time to familiarize yourself with these terrible franchises just to see how much they can screw things up for someone else. It’s time for the Marlins and Nats to be their fiendiest

John Verrall

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