After Season of Challenges, Marlins Are on the Verge of a Breakthrough

After Season of Challenges, Marlins Are on the Verge of a Breakthrough

Derek Jeter, the Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop, took over as chief executive two years ago after investing in a group led by Bruce Sherman that bought the franchise for $1.2 billion. Jeter made sweeping changes but retained Mattingly, his predecessor as Yankees captain, who could be the N.L. Manager of the Year.

“If he doesn’t win that award, I will be absolutely floored,” said the Marlins television analyst Todd Hollandsworth. “I cannot imagine a manager that’s done a better job than Don Mattingly has. Every moment they’ve had the opportunity to pack it in and say, ‘We’ll be like every other Marlins team for the last 17 years,’ he just would not allow them to do it. He continues to motivate them and bring out the best in everybody.”

Hollandsworth, a reserve outfielder for the 2003 champions, said he could not think of a Marlins player who had regressed this season. Starting infielders Jon Berti, Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson have continued to establish themselves, and the young starters Jorge Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez had combined for 24 starts with a 3.44 E.R.A. entering Friday.

Yet the Marlins are not really a young team. They have gotten little from the prospects they acquired from trading the outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees) and Christian Yelich (Brewers). The trades of J.T. Realmuto (to Philadelphia) and Marcell Ozuna (to St. Louis) have worked better so far, but mainly the Marlins have chosen wisely among low-priced veterans in free agency.

Dickerson, first baseman Jesus Aguilar and outfielder Matt Joyce have all helped, and the rebuilt bullpen has been the biggest separator between Miami and the Phillies, whose relief corps has been one of the worst in major league history. The Marlins’ Brandon Kintzler has 11 saves in 13 chances, and three relievers acquired to fill out the roster during the team’s coronavirus outbreak — Richard Bleier, James Hoyt and Nick Vincent — have thrived.

“We really had talked about, ‘Hey, the team that can get over all the testing and the masks and protocols and no fans and all that stuff — and could get down to business on the field — is the team that’s going to have a better chance to move forward,” Mattingly said. “They were able to keep the focus, and the front office did a nice job bringing in some pieces to hold down the fort with guys that are still a part of the equation.”

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