The Miami Marlins entered the All-Star break in mid-July with a 53-39 record, their highest win total at the break in franchise history. The team was outperforming expectations in multiple facets and entrenched in a wild card spot. First-year manager Skip Schumaker and his coaching staff were at the forefront of this drastic turnaround from last year in which the Marlins finished 69-93.
Coming out of the break, though, the Marlins lost a season-high eight consecutive games. Suddenly, everyone was panicking as Miami seemingly turned back into a pumpkin.
Well, everyone outside the clubhouse was panicking about the streak. Not so much internally.
“It was just a little more attention to detail, a little more energy in the dugout, whatever little thing we could do to help get us back on track,” Jon Berti told Fish On First prior to Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers. “But there was no panic ever amongst the players, amongst the coaching staff, amongst anyone in here.”
That even-keeled nature of the clubhouse paid off, with Miami having snapped their streak on July 23 against the Colorado Rockies. The Marlins proceeded to win four of their last six games going into their pivotal series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.
During that losing streak, Schumaker, who was on the radar for NL Manager of the Year going into the All-Star break, was faced with his biggest obstacle of his young managerial career. One of the keys he mentioned was giving guys a reason to smile when they come into the ballpark every day.
“There’s different things you try in the clubhouse,” Schumaker said on Saturday. “I think you just don’t want monotony. You want to be excited to come in if you’re a coach or a player, and you want to have fun coming to work.”
The streak was a combination of bad luck, playing down to offensive slumps, and blown late leads.
“I think when you’re going through that, you kind of find out who you are as a player, manager, coach, whatever it is,” Schumaker said. “I think the last thing you want is to tell guys, ‘you need to try harder, you need to have a little sense of urgency’ when you have a clubhouse like that. It’s one thing if they weren’t going about it the right way. But these guys are going about it the right way. There’s a care factor.”
The Marlins brought in seven new coaches prior to the season, including hitting coaches Brant Brown and John Mabry. The new culture Schumaker and his assistant coaches have instilled has been noted as a factor in their successful season by several players, including sixth-year player Garrett Cooper.
“I think the coaching staff has done a great job this year, regardless of wins and losses, to have the same attitude every day in the hitters meetings,” Cooper said Saturday. “I don’t think there was too much of a panic even though maybe the fans and social media had a little bit of a panic.”
At no point did the Marlins fall more than one game outside of playoff position. After their win on Sunday, they find themselves eight games above .500 and tied for the final NL wild card spot.
Berti, in his fifth season with the Marlins, said the players and coaches have gelled together and have trust amongst each other that they “maybe didn’t have in the past.” That camaraderie is what kept the streak from spiraling out of control.
“I think it just comes back to us enjoying each other as teammates,” Berti said. “It makes it a fun atmosphere for us to want to come to the ballpark and see our teammates. It just makes it that much easier and doesn’t make the losing hurt as bad or last as long.”