There’s an establishment a couple blocks from my apartment called Assets. It’s on a corner lot of two busy streets in a gentrified neighborhood. It has an all black awning, a blacked out glass door, and no windows. There are no hours posted and no signage except a “Black Lives Matter” mural on one wall (just the matter-of-fact statement, not artsy), and the name “Assets” in big, bright pink script above the door. In a year of living here, I have only ever seen one person coming or going from this establishment: a content-looking 10-year-old boy walking out the door at around noon on what I think was a weekday.
I mention this because I think of Assets similarly to how I think about the MLB team whose games I see the fewest of, the Miami Marlins: it’s mostly a mystery, and I prefer to keep it that way. When I do imagine what’s going on there, sometimes it’s funny, and I enjoy that; but far more often, it’s macabre, and I’d rather not have those suspicions confirmed.
One of the things I do know about the Marlins is that, save for benefiting from the expanded 2020 playoff structure, they’ve got nearly as long a postseason drought as the Mariners do. They won the World Series off a Wild Card win in both 1997 and 2003 and each time engaged in an immediate fire sale. Over separate fire sales, they’ve ditched Kevin Brown, Miguel Cabrera, and Christian Yelich. This past offseason, Derek Jeter loudly left the organization, and heavily implied that the team was not committed to winning. It brought me no joy to grant some #RE2PECT where due.
And it’s a particular shame. Although I’ve personally only ever encountered cokehead scammers and wannabe Real Housewives in my own travels to South Florida, I’m assured that Miami really ought to be one of America’s great baseball towns. Much like Seattle, it may be a sleeping giant, a dormant baseball fandom waiting for a worthy team to present itself. Like Seattle, the 2022 team might just be it. But for myself, I’ve had enough after just one game.
If it wasn’t obvious, I’m Stalling like Jacob to avoid getting to the details of this particular game, which I’d prefer to leave a mystery like Assets. But at some point we’re going to have to discuss Matt Brash’s start. He began the game with a three-fastball, three-pitch, three-whiff strikeout of Jazz Chisholm. The good feelings would end there. Matt Brash came down to the Gulf to party, but had no idea that the party was Fyre Fest: Two batters later, Jorge Soler hit a 2-run bomb that I’m pretty sure still hasn’t landed yet. I’ll spare you embedding the video, but if you’re the self-loathing type, here’s a link. I guess the good news is that it vindicated Michael Ajeto, who’s had a bee in his bonnet lately about Brash throwing 77% fastballs in three-ball counts, as he did to Soler, effectively letting hitters know what’s coming. I’ll note, however, that in the next inning, Brash got Soler to 3-0 and threw a slider that hit the lower inside corner for a strike. Progress?
Brash’s two-run first was disappointing, but his real undoing came in the second, which he began by loading the bases with no outs. Jacob Stallings then hit a dribbler that was too weak to make an out, reloading the bases with the most pathetic RBI I’ve seen all year. Brash caught Chisholm on strikes again, and Jarred Kelenic threw out a runner for the second time this week (though a run did score).
Eventually, Brash made it out of the inning after Torrens and Frazier got Soler caught in a pickle between third and home for the Marlins’ second TOOTBLAN of the inning. Brash was then not allowed to go back out for the third. I would have liked to see him get a chance to try to bear down and right the ship when he was struggling. Pulled after two, I’m left wondering what have we learned here?
But once Brash was pulled and Matt Festa gave up another 2-run homer to bring the score to 8-3 in the third, the people began demanding Penn Murfee, which we would eventually get. We first had to endure two mediocre innings from Festa. We then had to sit through two acceptable innings from Wyatt Mills’ season debut. And though he looked like a pitcher who can only strike out other pitchers (my attempt at a Dexter reference), I pause here just to link to one of my favorite 40 in 25’s from this year, Lou’s poetic take on a pair of Wyatt Mills (Wyatt Millses?).
But for two innings tonight, we did get the MLB debut of Penn Murfee, three days before his 28th birthday, so old it’s seven years later than the enchantress gave Beast to get his act together. His very first pitch was perfect. Say hello to his little friend:
For tonight, we can give Murfee the grace of ignoring that he ended up hitting that first batter. Let’s instead focus on his two strikeouts. The first was less merciful than Tony Montana trying to get out of a refugee camp. And the second induced a swing from Joey Wendle that elicited more second-hand embarrassment than Brian De Palma’s choice to end Scarface with the hacky “The World Is Yours” inscription. Here’s to many more from friend of the site, hippie cowboy, official big leaguer Penn Murfee.
Mills and Murfee’s four scoreless allowed the Mariners to attempt a rally in the ninth, and for a minute, it had the feeling of a Mariners classic. JP led off with a 107-mph double to complement his earlier 106-mph single. Julio followed it up with a scorcher into right, to complement his earlier infield hit and stolen base. (Let me lay down the marker here that in 2023, Julio will have MLB’s first ever 50-50 season.) Jarred then laced an RBI double into right (thank God) to bring the score to 8-4 and chase Shawn Armstrong. Anthony Bender promptly gave up a sac fly to Torrens for the M’s fifth run, and Frazier then shot one up the middle, plating Kelenic to make it 8-6. But as scripture tells us, “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.” The 5-run deficit was just too much with only one inning to work with, and France’s groundball to the shortstop ended the game.
I’m just going to bury the worst news here and hope it doesn’t attract too much attention. In Mitch Haniger’s first at-bat after a 14-day absence, he rolled his ankle in the loanDepot batter’s box. He got a single on the next pitch, but immediately left the game. The X-rays were negative, and he’ll have an MRI tomorrow, with no news on how long he’ll be out. For now, they’re calling it a right high ankle sprain, and he’s been spotted in a walking boot. Presumably, we’ll get an update soon.
Thank you for being a friend
The easy winner of tonight’s Sun Hat Award is Luis Torrens, who had a great game defensively. The only ball he let get past him was after the runner had reached on a HBP to his shin, so he stayed at first base anyway. Torrens also had a couple fun dekes.
Between keeping the ball in front of him, two tags at the plate, and saving a run by snaring a wild pitch with a runner on third in the sixth, it was the first time in a while that Luis Torrens looked like a catcher. To top off his night with some cheesecake, he had four RBI.
If you dare to walk farther into baseball’s version of Assets and learn more about what the Marlins have going on, Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert may make it a slightly less uncomfortable experience tomorrow and Sunday.