Living here in South Florida, you might be downright giddy that our Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour are in the Home Run Derby on Monday at Marlins Park and Stanton and Marcell Ozuna are in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Except that, living here in South Florida, you also might not even know All-Star Week has arrived. Even if you know, it’s not clear you care. The sport that prides itself on statistics above all others finds one stat most relevant about this Midsummer Classic.
Not home runs. Not strikeouts. Not even the all-powerful OPS.
Just this: Attendance.
How many fannies will be in the seats?
Right now, the answer starts with: Can we send a car for you?
Typically, an All-Star controversy revolves around player snubs or some scrub not getting in the big game. Those are down-the-lineup items this time.
Leading off, we have the Marlins’ sale-or-no-sale dominating talk, meaning who’s in (Jorge Mas?) and who’s out (Derek Jeter?) and why this threatens to go on and on like one of those endless, nine-inning games?
Batting second, we have the impending Marlins’ Fire Sale IV coming up. And it is coming, folks. They’ll sell everything but the home-run sculpture. The Marlins have shipped out scouts to a half-dozen teams’ minor-league parks to study prospects and consider trades.
What’s more it makes rebuilding sense considering the stagnant record, the record payroll, the lack of pitching and prospects and the coming storm of contracts. So give Ozuna and Bour and even Stanton a really big ovation Monday and Tuesday considering, well, you know.
This brings us back to the attendance. You can blame the ticket costs ($280 list price for the game). You can blame Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (why not here, too?) You can blame baseball dying on the vine here since the Marlins have the longest stretch in the sport without a winning record (2009) and only Seattle has a longer run out of the playoffs than them (2003).
You also can blame the never-ending controversy over Marlins Park’s financing and location, if not exactly its never-ending capacity of 36,742. That’s a purposeful Honey-I-Shrunk-The-Stadium capacity just so embarrassments like this wouldn’t happen. And it’s happening.
Question: Is it too late to vote in Tim Tebow?
Maybe it’s not time to panic. Maybe South Florida fans are just waiting for the big event to start buzzing about it. But I’m surprised by this. I figured all the baseball fans here who have complained they’ll come back when Loria leaves would go out of their way to join this fun.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll reflect upon what the next few days affords us — the great talent, the wonderful stage — and will write poetry about how baseball and South Florida rekindled a few-day affair.
But that will be my heart trumping my head.
Today my head says: We don’t deserve this.
Beyond that, it seems we don’t even want it.
There are murals and images of Stanton on downtown Miami buildings. There are baseball legends and interactive games at the FanFest on Miami Beach. There are celebrity softball games and concerts at Marlins Park.
There also are enough tickets remaining no one wants to say exactly how many. Oh, everything will “sell out” even if doesn’t sell out. Some summer camp kids will flood the stadium like a noon start in August if that’s what it takes to put a fanny in every seat.
We’re an odd sports market. We know that. It’s not exactly fair to say baseball does awful here. The World Baseball Classic was a carnival of baseball and South Florida, and sold-out games in a manner no other market matched.
It was a big event that week. And South Florida sports does big events in a big way. Or it did. Until now. Until this. Unless something changes overnight, as things can.
Question: Would a format change to U.S. All-Stars vs. Dominican Republic All-Stars help?
The home-run derby will be a belly laugh. The game will be a blast. Baseball itself will have free-for-all of fun these next few days. But everything leading into this stay-cation leaves you staring at a glass half empty hoping the Midsummer Classic won’t be our Midsummer Catastrophe. I ask again: Can we send you a car?