Josh Gad didn’t grow up a baseball fan – born in South Florida in 1981, he didn’t even have a team to root for until 1993, when the Marlins came to town as an expansion franchise. Since then, he’s witnessed two World Series wins, three fire sales and more “rebuilding years” than he can possibly count.
But he’s stuck with the Fish through thick and thin, and with Opening Day one week away, he’s actually optimistic that the team can make a postseason push. And that’s good, because in his upcoming series “The Comedians” – premiering April 9 at 10 p.m. ET on FX – he shares the screen with noted New York Yankees aficionado Billy Crystal, and he’s getting tired of hearing all about those 27 championships. Here’s Gad’s take on the 2015 Miami Marlins.
Growing up, I was a huge football fan – living in South Florida you’re born into being a Dolphins fan – and the only baseball I was familiar with was Spring Training Yankees games. So when the Marlins came into town, I remember being really excited, but not quite understanding the significance of it. I really came into it as a bandwagon fan, when they had that insane run to the World Series in 1997, and I fell in love with the team. Then Wayne Huizenga, our owner, sold the team, and I was devastated. But I was still going to the games. And then 2003 comes along, and once again we went on an incredible run to the World Series, and then, once again, we got rid of everybody right after that. There have been lots of ups and downs.
But the Marlins are also responsible for one of my fondest memories: Right after college, when John Henry owned the team, me and a group of friends went to a game, and we didn’t have any money, so we bought tickets in the upper deck. And, of course, there’s nobody else up there. And John Henry sees us, he goes, “Come with me, boys,” and took us to his owner’s box, bought us all this food, let us watch the game from his box. To this day I still can’t believe he did that.
A couple of years ago, we brought in all these high-priced players – Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle – only to give up and ship them out to Toronto. I had a hard time with that, and I sort of went through this crisis where I was like, “You know, I’ve always been a Marlins fan, for better or worse, but now I’ve got two little girls who I’m bringing up in Los Angeles – should I raise them as Dodgers fans?'” But it’s in my DNA; I stuck with the Marlins, and for all of [Jeffrey] Loria’s flaws of ownership, and his history with Montreal, I’m very impressed by all the moves he and David Samson have made during this offseason.
Any team that has Giancarlo Stanton on it is going to be a contender for the Wild Card, as long as he doesn’t get smashed in the face again. I can’t tell you how much re-signing him rejuvenated not only my joy for the team, but every fan in South Florida. That was a very different offseason statement than what this team has made in recent years, and it caught people’s attention. To have Stanton is not only something to build on, but to feed off of right now.
And then have Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Ichiro – who is kind of like the least-significant part of this team but will be a veteran leader on a team that’s pretty young. I like [Adeiny] Hechavarria at shortstop, I like [Marcell] Ozuna and I’m really interested in Gordon, because I’ve always been a huge Juan Pierre fan, and I think they’re cut from the same cloth. I know they’re friends, and I hope Juan is giving him some advice on stealing bases, because I get the feeling this is the kind of team that’s going to need to run a lot.
And so long as Jose Fernandez comes back healthy, we’re going to have a solid rotation. I think [Henderson] Alvarez is a stud; do I think we have an amazing pitching staff? No. Do I think we have a really good one that can be amazing once Jose Fernandez comes back? Absolutely. For me, the bullpen is a bit of an unknown, outside of [Steve] Cishek. But based on last season, I don’t have an amazing amount of confidence in them.
Having said that, this is a team that can only go up; if you look at their history, their reputation around the league after we got this new stadium built, I don’t believe they can do anything but improve. The only opportunity now is to build. This year feels different. Famous last words.
Famous Fan Fearless Forecast: OK, I think the Marlins win around 85 games, I think they get in as Wild Card and – here’s the thing I will say about Florida: when a Florida team gets into the playoffs, people show up – so I will foolishly say that they win their first posteason series, and then lose in the Division Series.