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Batting Around: Picking between the Marlins or Rays in this Sunshine State conundrum

Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed Shane Bieber’s future. This week we’re going to pick between MLB’s two Florida franchises.

Which franchise history would you rather have: Marlins or Rays?

R.J. Anderson: Ultimately, this comparison cuts to the core of what you want from your baseball team: a few championships and a lot of mediocrity, or steady competitiveness (over the past 15ish years anyway) without a ring. While the goal is to win a World Series, I think I’d rather have the Rays’ history. Both have won two pennants, but the Rays have made the playoffs nine times versus the Marlins’ four. Flags fly forever, of course, and there’s no discounting or taking those titles away from the Marlins; I just think that I would become disengaged from a franchise that seldom reached the playoffs, even if they had won a couple of World Series a few decades prior. (I will add that there is a certain irony in me answering this way: I’m very much a lapsed Rays fan, having grown up in the Tampa Bay area — not because they didn’t win a World Series, but because of other parts of the franchise, including ownership prioritizing profits to pennants while taking the community for granted at every turn.)

Matt Snyder: Man, this is an incredibly tough question. As a Cubs fan, I know just how much a lifetime of never winning it all can crush you and then the experience of finally winning it makes everything worthwhile. Of course, the Marlins only waited five years for a title and then five more for a second and have been mostly terrible since. It’s hard to imagine any Marlins fan feeling how I felt as a Cubs fan before 1997 and/or 2003. The Rays have that element now of being a laughingstock for a decent stretch and then being competitive mostly ever since. But now it’s nine times in the playoffs since 2007 with zero World Series titles, so I’d feel the pain of any die-hard Rays fan. 

Ultimately, if we’re saying the book is complete, I’d rather have the Marlins history with the two championships. If this thing is still ongoing, right now I’d rather be the Rays because it’s possible a championship is coming soon and — aside from the titles 20+ years ago — the Rays success at this point absolutely dwarfs the Marlins. 

Mike Axisa: They play to win, right? I’m certain if you asked any MLB player, they’d take the Marlins, because they want rings. Our experience with the game is different as fans though. The Marlins have made their fans sit through a lot — A LOT — of bad baseball. Only seven winning seasons out of 31 completed (and they’re already 0-7 in 2024), and only four postseason trips. I think I would have checked out as a fan at some point during those 16 straight postseason-less seasons (and multiple firesales) from 2004-19. Life it too short to invest so much time in a team that doesn’t love you back. Loyalty is a two-way street. Teams should have to earn your fandom and work to keep it.

The Rays, at least since 2008, have been in contention just about every season, and they give their fans hope and a reason to stay engaged more than the Marlins have, historically. Winning in the regular season and losing in the postseason gets old, but I’d rather have the hope that maybe this is our year than long stretches of going into the season knowing it’s not going to happen for us, so why bother? You can always come back when the times get good again. That doesn’t make you a bad fan. It just means you have your priorities straight. Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal. For me personally, I’d rather invest my time in a team that’s competitive and entertaining more often than not.

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