The Miami Marlins are somewhat relevant, and not in that empty "spoiler" way, code for "Who cares, we're done." Few believed the Marlins would be so, and probably more than a few rooted against it, given the way the owner conducts his business.

But, well, here they are, at .500 in late August, an intriguing three games back in the wild card, 11 months after they lost 100 games and nearly four since Jose Fernandez threw his last pitch. They're one imprecise or unlucky week from irrelevance, a couple bad weeks from their fifth consecutive losing season, and yet they've nearly reached September and the games still feel important.

They're here for three and then they'll play the Atlanta Braves six times in 10 games, at the end of which we should know better if the Marlins will carry some life into the final few weeks, whether owner Jeffrey Loria deserves such gentle fortune or not.

The Marlins may indeed be average, but they've worked themselves hard to be average, come a long way for it, and the National League is forgiving, if not so forgiving that it's easy for any team, particularly one on a $46 million budget. So, it would be unkind to ignore where they've come from, and what they've done with what they have and, of course, what they've done considering what they lost.

That is why Giancarlo Stanton chose his words so carefully Monday afternoon. Above all else, he must honor a team gutted and sent back out there, a team that might've lost another 100 games but won't, a team that wins 11 times on walk-offs and 32 times by one run, and that hasn't given up anything yet.

The question was whether the events of this season had altered his top-down view of the organization. He'd raised his eyes, thinking.

"Five months," he said, "doesn't change five years."

The men in this clubhouse, the manager, the general manager, it seems they're in this thing – whatever it is, whatever comes of it – together. In a small, kind of spirited way, they've made something of it, too. They didn't roll over. The lowest payroll in the National League has wrought the smallest attendance in the National League, though Marlins Park is three years old, is quite comfortable and convenient, and happens to house perhaps the Most Valuable Player in the National League. That being Stanton, 6-foot-6 inches and 240 pounds of archetypal ballplayer, at just 24 years old. He hit his 33rd home run Thursday night, a one-iron stinger to left-center that accounted for RBIs Nos. 95 through 97.