Face it, folks. It's not just in a parallel universe where the Marlins are the National League East's team of tradition. Consider the senior circuit's ballpark seniority rankings in the wake of the intertwined events of September 28, 2008 and April 13, 2009:
1) Wrigley Field, built 1914, home of the Cubs since 1916
2) Dodger Stadium, built 1962
3) Shea Stadium, built 1964
3) Dolphin Stadium, built 1987, home of the Marlins since 1993
Look Who's No. 3! Joe Robbie Pro Player Whatever It's Called This Week Stadium (and I should probably go easy on the name-calling since I wouldn't necessarily bank on Citi Field being Citi Field forever). While everybody else but the Cubs and Dodgers have bullrushed the modern, the Marlins stay with the staid, try only the tried and remain acquiescent to their aqua playpen, at least until their new place is ready in a few years. Everywhere else we go on a regular basis, including the steakhouse Lonn Trost built come June, is relatively brand spanking new and emits a certain degree of unsettledness to the home viewer.
Not the Traditional Three. You know you're gonna get that ivy at Wrigley, those mountains backdropping Chavez Ravine and revolving home plate signage that stays with you from the Fish tank. Perhaps because South Florida, even in reasonably flush times, doesn't turn out many sponsors for its ballclub, you tend to see the same advertisements over and over in the course of a game. For years, there was a Publix ad I couldn't get out of my head (there was always a deal on Tropicana). More recently there's one for a hospital that uses a pineapple in its logo. How it got to Miami from Honolulu, or why a pineapple denotes sound Floridian medical care, I'm not sure, but it sure says Marlins to me.
Dolphin Stadium is the only ballpark I've seen with ads for the Spanish-language Univision network, which is understandable given the area's Latin-American demographics, yet a little mystifying since from what I can tell Univision doesn't broadcast any Marlins games. In fact, no over-the-air outlet broadcasts any Marlins games if I've read the team's Web site correctly; a whole bunch of their games are not even cablecast in South Florida (yet we grow a tad cranky if we have to go forty minutes relying solely on evidence of things not seen, a.k.a. Howie and Wayne).
Univision has two billboards that rotate through Marlins games. One is for the Miami affiliate, Channel 23, which was English-language and showed hour upon hour of cartoons when I was a kid and my family would hightail it to a Collins Avenue motel for Christmas week every year. My mother would remind me “we're not paying good money for you to sit in the room and watch TV, go out and get some sun!” but I was steadfastly fascinated that Channel 23 had the bizarre Brutus brand of Popeye while we in New York received the Bluto or “normal” version, so I stayed inside and pale. Channel 23's current accent is emphasized in its Dolphin Stadium billboard: NOTICIAS 23. As we steered toward a potential whitewashing of the men in teal, I kept thinking…
…though Mets 8 Marlins 4 will do just fine.
The other Univision advertisement seems designed to sell advertising to local businesses asking themselves about “A solution for growth today?” The answer provided: “It's right here in plain Spanish.”
Univision's message may be intended for the Greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale commerce community, but it describes pretty well how the Mets solved their challenges Saturday night. Simply, it was Livàn Hernandez, the Cuban pitcher you weren't necessarily expecting on the roster two months ago, and Luis Castillo, the Dominican second baseman you probably wanted no part of two seconds before he collected his fourth hit of the game. You might require a down payment of 400 hits before accepting you're saddled with Castillo, as unpopular as any regular in recent memory or any language, but he was nothing but a solution Saturday.
I watched Luis interviewed by Kevin Burkhardt after it was all over, following his reaching base five times, and I felt very good for he who has been despised and dismissed and probably will be again. He may not be much good in the long run, but he couldn't possibly be as bad as he's been almost every game he's played since becoming a Met in August 2007. He seems like a genuinely nice fellow lost in a horribly deep forest. His inner peace is not my responsibility, but I hope he gets a few more hits for his own good this afternoon so he can be greeted by nothing more virulent than silence Monday night. Boo the Padres, boo the prices, but don't boo Castillo on Citi Field's very first night of official existence. Wait 'til Wednesday, at any rate.
Hernandez, meanwhile, gave us the upside of Livàn. Like Luis, he's been around forever and is not a mystery. His jersey blouses out toward the belt, his pitches max out somewhere south of fast and he generally puts in a respectable night's work regardless of results. There will be Livàn starts when it seems possible the opposition might put up a tally in the low UHFs, but last night wasn't one of those nights, as he kept the Marlins on mute clear into the seventh. The bullpen could do with some tightening (it looked looser than Livàn's uniform top), but that's why big leads — thank you Jose, gracias Ryan — are such buenas noticias.
Ain't that good news? Hombre, ain't that news?
Available now, in English only for the time being: Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.