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Coughlan needs consistent at-bats now

By Andrew Polin

Yes, Chris Coughlan is in a bad slump. But there have been signs of Coughlan’s bat coming alive.

At least twice this week, Coughlan stroked the ball well just to have defending outfielders making diving catches. They are out, of course, but three weeks ago Coughlan looked lost at the plate. Now he doesn’t.

Which is why Manager Fredi Gonzalez’s decision to platoon Coughlan with either Brett Carroll or newbie Bryan Peterson comes at the wrong time.

Coughlan needs consistent at-bats to get through the slump. This day on, day off will just frustrate his ability to get back on track.

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Volstead making gains as starter

By Andrew Polin

Chris Volstead is pitching another gem against the Washington Nationals. In his last start, the young starter pitched a complete game wine against the Nats.

If Volstead becomes consistent then the Marlins will have three solid starters along with Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. I still expect Anibel Sanchez to be a solid contributor. If Sanchez stays health, he is the type of pitcher who will get into a groove for a few months.

All this solid pitching will mean nothing if the Marlins’ defense stays wretched, and the  bullpen inconsistent.

Is there a Sandy Koufax out there?

By Andrew Polin

It was a proud moment in American Jewish history when Sandy Koufax refused to play in game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

So the question, I ask today,  is whether any professional and amateur athlete will take a social or political stand against Arizona’s immigration law that allows law enforcement officials to stop anyone they “think” could be an illegal alien. How the police will do that without racial profiling is beyond me.

So, I have to go back to my original question: Will any athlete refuse to play in Arizona? Will high school athletes spurn Arizona colleges? Will professional baseball, football and basketball players refuse to travel to Arizona to play? Will Arizona’s professional teams have a harder time signing free agents from athletes who may fear getting stopped on the streets and deported to Mexico?

I hope the answer is yes.

Who will stand up to racism? Whether our athletes like it or not, they are role models. They can have an impact on society if they so choose.

First, before going further, I want to say that many of our athletes do good in society. Many set up foundations, donate to charities and make a difference. They are active in their communities. But I always believe that donating money, though something that is good, is the easiest way to support social change, especially if you have a lot of money. Taking a stand that will divide your fans takes courage, not money. A funny thing happens once you take a stand on any issue. There will be a lot of people who will disagree with you. Will these people not buy the products that athletes sell in ads?

The great Michael Jordan has been criticized because he stayed apolitical, some would say to avoid controversy because he was a spokesperson for many corporate entities. Tiger Woods has been attacked for the same issue. So was Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, as well as the white golf establishment, in the 1950s-60s who played tournaments at golf courses that did not have a welcome mat out for minorities.

What would have happened if Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus refused to play at a location that was discriminatory? Would they have facilitated a more open-door policy in society at-large? We will never know.

The only athletes I can remember taking a stand was the larger than life Muhammad Ali and the great NFL running back, Jim Brown. (If anyone can provide names of other athletes who have taken stands, please post them on my blog. I’m sure there are more examples). Ali lost many years of his career because he refused to serve in Viet Nam because of his religious beliefs. He lost at least six years of his professional career, but “the Greatest” took a stand.

If anyone questions the impact that one person can have on society all you need to look to is Kirk Douglas, not an athlete but an actor. Douglas single-handedly ended the Hollywood blacklist when making the movie Spartacus. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer at the time. Instead of taking credit for the screenplay, a common practice at the time, Douglas insisted that Trumbo be given credit in the opening and ending credits of the movie, thus standing up to the blacklist.

Arizona lawmakers could use a role model. Are they any Ali’s or Browns out there?  It’s obvious they need one.

Default to Diamondbacks and fight racism in Arizona

By Andrew Polin

A friend of mine said he heard that the Arizona Diamondbacks should not expect to host an All-Star game in the foreseeable future — at least as long as Arizona will racially profile possible illegal aliens. Why? Because baseball is rather diverse with a large number of  Hispanic ballplayers.

So, what if we take this a step further. What if the ballplayers on all the teams — let’s hope all the players agree to his rather than just the Hispanic players — refuse to play in Arizona. Well, of course, these teams would default their games to Arizona. If limited just to the games in Arizona, then the Diamondbacks would have an easy 81 wins. Even if the Diamondbacks played .500 ball in their 81 away games, the team would still finish with more than 120 victories, making it the most successful team in baseball history. With home field advantage in the playoffs, the team would win all the playoffs. If they happen to have homefield advantage, well, you get the idea.

Now, I don’t expect baseball players to go to this extreme, but all athletes and all people should take a stand against Arizona’s immigration law which will allow police to stop people if they think they could be illegal aliens.

Last week, when blonde-hair Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation and took questions from the press, I had hoped someone would ask her how many blonde-hair people would be stopped by the police on the chance that they could be illegal aliens from Sweden.

But that’s just my take on what I consider to be an unconstitutional law, one that smacks of racism.

Is Josh Johnson still Josh Johnson?

There is a belief by many in baseball that if a young pitcher’s innings count increases dramatically from one year to the next, you can expect a drop-off in production. Obviously, Josh Johnson’s innings count increased dramatically in the past two years since he came back from Tommy John surgery in 2008 to pitch about half a season, followed by 2009 when he pitched the entire season.

Last year, Johnson ranked third in fastball speed at about 95 mph. This year, in watching his games on TV, it looks as if his average fastball is 93-94 mph with a few topping 95-96 mph.

So, one must wonder, if the increased pitch count and innings in 2009 is hurting him this year. It’s too early to tell, but one article today that I read reports that in Johnson’s past 13 starts, he has only pitched into the seventh inning once, has a mediocre 4-4 record and an ERA above 4.00.

Let’s hope this is an anomaly, and Johnson finds his groove. Without a stellar Johnson it will be difficult for the Marlins to compete this year.

Errors will doom the Marlins’ season

By Andrew Polin

The Marlins make too many errors. Period. The miscues will sabotage any improvement the team gets from their pitchers.  Compare the Marlins to the Yankees this season. The Yanks have not made an error in the past 11 games. I don’t think I have enough fingers to count the errors the Marlins have made.

The most comical example was last week when Burke Badenhop was pitching with a man on first. He got three balls hit right back to him. The first time, Badenhop threw the ball away. The second time Hanley Ramirz and Dan Uggla did not cover the base. The third time they got it.

This can’t continue. I have to wonder if the Marlins spend enough time on the fundamentals of defense, as well as if there is any emphasis on defense in their minor league affiliates.

If you want to see a team that emphasizes defense, look at the Seattle Mariners. They increased their win total by about 24 games last year all the while putting a major emphasis on defense. When the Mariners traded one of their starters to the Tigers at mid-season, the pitcher suffered as a result of the Tigers’ defense.

Let starters start

By Andrew Polin

Last night Chris Volstead pitched effectively. He didn’t have his A-game, but he gutted out six decent innings. By the time he was lifted from the game, he thrown about 90+ pitches.
In the seventh, Freddi Gonzalez brought in Tim Wood.
Now, who would you rather have pitch — a former No. 1 draft pick or Tim Wood.
In Texas, Nolan Ryan has dictated that a quality start is seven innings, not six.
He’s got it right. How do you expect your starters grow into pictchers such as Roy Halliday or C.C. Sabathia if you yank them after six innings every game unless you’re pitching a gem.
It’s no wonder that the Marlins starters had trouble getting through five innings the first week of the season. They’re weren’t prepared to pitch seven-plus innings.