Uncommon, refreshing bravado from Dolphins: the new column; plus Fins Training Camp Primer, who Marlins got from Dodgers, Brady's legacy (w/ poll), 1 big reason to call Marlins' lost season a success, latest 'Weighing The Fish' & more
GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It is THURSDAY, JULY 30. No music but apparent mysterious farting sounds from the Marlins Park PA system greeted the Nationals as they took batting practice. An investigation supposedly is underway. #Fartgate. 2) Click here for a primer on, and videos of, the Robot World Cup. Love soccer? Love robots? You might still hate this. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins trust-the-buzz poll, Miami stamp on MLB under-25 list, Junior Seau, Al Golden's Car Wash & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.
Uncommon, refreshing bravado Dolphins as training camp opens: Fins owner Stephen Ross today called this Miami roster the team's best "in many, many years" and left no doubt he expects the Dolphins will make the playoffs and challenge to reach Super Bowl. Asked if his patience has run out and he's antsy to see results, Ross said, "Goddamn right!" Click on Refreshing Bravado to read my latest column, online a now shipping to Friday's inky pulp editions. Photo at right is from today's Ross media session. My favorite part: the guy in the background with the goofy hat and shades who looks an awful lot like me.
Marlins acquire 3 Dodgers pitchers for Latos, Morse: The Marlins today completed the trade of pitcher Mat Latos and first baseman Michael Morse to the Dodgers for three righty minor-league pitchers: Kevin Guzman (age 20), Jeff Brigham (23) and Victor Araujo (22), all Single-A bound. Guzman and Brigham are starters. Araujo, perhaps the best prospect of the three, is a reliever. The Marlins dealing Latos, a pending free agent, was expected. Getting rid of Morse was no shock, either, considering he had underperformed and lost his job to Justin Bour.
Dolphins' Top 50: Fans may vote for franchise's all-time 50 greatest players now through Sept. 15 at Dolphins.com, from among 100 finalists, as part of club's 50th anniversary activities. Click here for ballot.
DOLPHINS TRAINING CAMP PRIMER: TEN THINGS THAT SHOULD INTEREST YOU, FOR BETTER OR WORSE: The Dolphins' 50th anniversary season kicks off in a tangible way with today's first practice signalling the official start of training camp. Optimism is high (see poll result below). Hopes for a playoff season (at last) will be in the humid air as Dolfans flock to the club's Davie training center. Here are 10 things that should have a Dolfan's interest, as positives or concerns or shades in between:
1. Ndamukong Suh: Uncage the beast: Suh, pictured right, was the Dolphins' signature offseason acquisition, the state-of-the-art defensive tackle who by himself upgrades Miami's run-stopping and overall D to formidable. That's the idea, anyway.
2. New receiving corps: In like a gust of fresh air: Fins bring in top draft pick DeVante Parker, veteran Greg Jennings, young veteran Kenny Stills and tight end Jordan Cameron to augment second-year star Jarvis Landry and TE Dion Sims. On paper, an improvement to excite.
3. Ryan Tannehill: Now earn it: Entering his fourth season, Tannehill is newly enriched with the big contract ensuring financial and future stability. But that new deal, and the new receiving corps, increases the pressure on the QB to lead a playoff season.
4. DeVante Parker: How's the foot?: The foot injury that dogged Parker's senior year at Louisville continues to bother and limit him. Yesterday the club placed him on the PUP list, which suggests the No. 1 draft pick, pictured right, will likely miss training camp though team still hopes he'll be ready by start of regular season. Missing camp would be a blow, though. Parker needs to get in sync with Tannehill and with Bill Lazor's offense.
5. The guards: Can anybody play this position?: Dallas Thomas? Billy Turner? Lot of warm bodies out here. But will Miami find two of them hot enough to be capable, solid NFL starters?
6. Branden Albert: Get well soon: Albert can be the Richmond Webb/Jake Long-type left tackle pillar when healthy. But he's coming off major knee surgery. His complete recovery in time for the season opener remains in question but seems likely.
7. Running back: Will a battle materialize?: Ex-Cane Lamar Miller, entering the final year of his contract, is the guy. But rookie Jay Ajayi, pictured right, will get a big chance to impress and unseat Miller if he can. Ajayi could get the nod if it's too close to call, because he'd be cheaper to keep beyond this season.
8. The secondary: Big 2 and then...: Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and PB-quality safety Reshad Jones are rock-solid starters back there. Then there's a dropoff. Lots of depth, but which guys will step up to augment the Big 2.
9. The linebackers: How good?: Jelani Jenkins had a break-through season last year and Chris McCain shows much promise. If those two continue to develop and team can find a home for Koa Misi (middle? outside?), then Fins could have a solid nucleus. LBs still must prove, though, that they aren't the weak link of the three defensive groups.
10. Joe Philbin and overall pressure: This could be higher on our list. Much. Overriding everything this year is the onus on coach Joe Philbin, pictured right, to lead a playoff season. His job likely depends on it. The 50th anniversary events will call much attention to the franchise's storied past -- and heap that much more pressure on the '15 squad to create some new glory days.
Dolfan optimism running higher than usual: We asked, on the eve of training camp, about your optimism for this coming Dolphins season relative to how you feel most years, and almost 75 percent of readers called themselves either "slightly" (43.0 percent) or "much" (31.7%) more optimistic than usual. Another 13.7% said they feel about the same, and 11.6% were pessimistic and don't trust the buzz.
TOM BRADY AND THE DAMAGE DONE: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is making it harder and harder for anyone to buy his innocence in the Deflategate mess. Now the appeal of his four-game suspension is denied because he ordered his cellphone destroyed -- the phone with the incriminating texts. I say in my latest column -- click on Take The Loss, Brady to read in full -- that he should forget pursuing this further in federal court, instead swallowing his medicine and serving his four games to start the coming season. But let's look ahead, beyond Brady's playing career, to the weight this controversy will or should have on his legacy, on how he is remembered. As I write in the column, I don't think this rises to the level (or sinks to the depth) of what Watergate was to Nixon, but it's definitely a permanent stain. The question is, how big? How noticeable? Dolfans, I challenge you to be fair by imagining how you would feel if, say, Ryan Tannehill were embroiled in the very same controversy and accused of the same actions. Take a dip in our poll and say why.
ONE BIG REASON TO CALL THIS LOST MARLINS SEASON A SUCCESS: Two words. Jose Fernandez. That's where you start in assessing the Marlins 100 games in. Barring a sporting miracle the season will be an overall disappointment, with too many key injuries spelling no playoffs. The big salvation, though, is that Fernandez has done it. He has come back successfully --wonderfully -- from Tommy John surgery. That's something you can never be sure of until you see it. We are seeing it. In five starts he is 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 37 strikeouts (against only seven walks) in 32 innings. And that full recovery eases the sting of the overall losing. By the way, the team's premature managerial change through 100 games continued to have an eerily negligible effect. Fish were winning at a .421 clip (16-22) under Mike Redmond, and it's .419 (26-36) under Dan Jennings.
WEIGHING THE FISH (100 GAMES): We throw an occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this year we debuted a new Miami Marlins feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games cumulative ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Ten qualify for our latest ranking. WTF factors six offensive categories, serving as an ongoing de facto team MVP race -- a race drawn somewhat closer by Stanton's injury. The numbers below might not mean much by themselves, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best overall season or is hot/cold. Here's the WTF after 100 games (at 42-58):
1 Giancarlo Stanton 362.5 1
2 Dee Gordon 330.5 2
3 Adeiny Hechevarria 285.4 3
4 Jacob Realmuto 242.8 5
5 Christian Yelich 237.9 4
6 Martin Prado 229.4 6
7 Marcell Ozuna 215.6 7
8 Justin Bour 199.9 8
9 Ichiro Suzuki 161.6 9
10 Michael Morse 115.5 10
Note: Season WTFs leader-count is now Stanton 7, Gordon 2.
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