Home > Miami Marlins > First The Miami Marlins Quit The Season, Then They Quit Showtime

First The Miami Marlins Quit The Season, Then They Quit Showtime

From left to right: traded; disappointing; disappointing; increasingly boring; hurt; good; hurt. The Franchise!

I enjoy “The Franchise,” Showtime’s version of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” but with baseball. I religiously watched the maiden season of the show last year, which documented the defending champion San Francisco Giants, and wrote about it every week on this here canvas.

This year’s edition about the Miami Marlins had the makings of a fantastic show. The personalities of Ozzie Guillen, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Heath Bell, Logan Morrison, Jose Reyes and others blending together, set against the backdrop of a glitzy beach city with a baseball team ready to make a splash. Not a bad pitch.

Much like the 2012 Marlins, expectations were high. Much like the 2012 Marlins, the plug has been pulled before the end of the season.

It was announced today that a mutual decision has been reached between Showtime and the Marlins to end the show one episode early, with this Wednesday’s episode, the seventh of the season, acting as the finale. The Marlins had originally agreed to eight episodes, but they will instead count a preview episode that aired in April to fulfill the contract.

Marlins president David Samson told the Palm Beach Post, “There was an option to do more but given the state of our season, it was decided that the original eight would suffice.”

My headline is unfair, because it was a joint decision. But this development sure does a nice job of putting Marlins’ dispair in a nutshell.

A new publicly funded stadium, new high-priced players, renewed buzz for baseball in Miami. Same ol’ Marlins. Samson and owner Jeffrey Loria talked a big game about how this was a different franchise. No more rebuilding; the Marlins are going to win now.

And then after less than four months, it wasn’t working so they blew it up. That why the “state of our season” looks the way it does.

Why the brass couldn’t at least let this crew go through one full year together, give it more time to jell and and then come back in 2013 has a lot to do with impatience and greed. Now the taxpayers that footed the bill for more than 80 percent of the stadium and whatever the hell that thing is in center field are left to once again root for a couple of good, young players and about 20 other “whodats.” I sure they love it.

Four months ago, this team was looking at first place in the NL East. Now it won’t be competitive for another three or four years.

The fall of “The Franchise” became collateral damage once the Marlins had completed their latest fire sa– … um, change of direction.

But Showtime isn’t absolved from blame. Especially in a season such as the one the Marlins are experiencing, it’s critical that the producers find good human-interest stories to keep the viewers entertained. Last year, Showtime chronicled the quirky lives of Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum; the amazing comeback story of Ryan Vogelsong; the struggles of phenom Buster Posey during his recovery from ankle surgery. And no matter what, you could always turn to Brian Wilson for some time-killing hilarity.

This season’s “Franchise” had a major weakness when it came to storytelling. Outside of last week’s emotional piece on Morrison and his father, the show really lacked depth.  The stories about Hanley Ramirez being a 2011 failure or of Heath Bell’s struggles didn’t tell us anything. Baseball fans know about that. The interviews with players were rather bland. Give us something we don’t know, something real.

While Guillen, like Wilson, was the show’s main comic relief, watching Ozzie curse three times per minute gets boring after a short while. And when that’s all you’ve got in your routine, you stop being funny.

All of those personalities didn’t really make for compelling television (read: They weren’t crazy enough!). That’s not Showtime’s fault. They just misjudged what they thought they had. We all did. We thought the Marlins would be good. But nope, they weren’t. Then they were gutted, and the show died with them. “The Franchise” basically turned into baseball most depressing 30 minutes each week.

HBO doesn’t have to deal with a lot of that, which is one of the reasons why “Hard Knocks” works so well. Other than the fact that people in this country would rather watch meaningless NFL football than our greatest athletic showcase, there is no stage for team failure with “Hard Knocks.” It all takes place during training camp and the preseason, a time when hope reigns supreme. The Miami Dolphins are going to be an atrocious team this season. But we can’t prove that in August. Who cares if they lose some exhibition games? “Hard Knocks” is based around what could be instead of what is. The thought that anything is possible keeps you intrigued on the team’s fate. Conversely, the Marlins’ fate had already been decided, and that hurt Showtime.

“Hard Knocks” also does a better job of making you care about players you would otherwise have no clue existed. Granted, they have 30 more minutes to play with each week, HBO does a superb job of filling that time with gripping human drama and solid biographical pieces. With “The Franchise,” you were just watching the Marlins lose over and over again. But at least you had nice seats.

I hope some other team signs up for “The Franchise” next year. I will watch. Even if the team stinks, I will watch. All Showtime has to do is find a quality team with some strange characters and people with a story to tell. As evidenced by this season, that’s harder to find than it seems.

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