The Rays Haven't Even Won Anything. What About Florida's Other Team?
Only three teams have won multiple World Series championships in the last fifteen years. It's hard to forget the dynasty that Joe Torre, Derek Jeter and company built for the Yankees and we can't seem to talk baseball without hearing about Jonathan Papelbon, Tito Francona and the boys from Beantown, but there's a third wheel joining us for this date.
Not good enough of a media market, not enough stability within the organization to establish a good farm system, heck, they can't even go a couple of seasons without the customary fire sale. These things aren't exactly a fitting description of a World Champion. But this is what the Florida Marlins are.
Off to a blistering 7-1 start, the Marlins look to recapture the magic of 97 and 03 to push them to a third title, granted no players on this roster were on either championship team. But the similarities are striking.
Hanley Ramirez has as much potential as Miguel Cabrera did when he was called up for the Marlins postseason push. In 97, Gary Sheffield was regarded as one of the most talented youngsters when he came to the organization from the San Diego Padres, Ramirez is as true a "5 tool" player as I've ever seen and shows as much all-around game is Sheffield did.
While the season is still young, the fish have gotten good run production and leadership out of slugger Dan Uggla and Ramirez while receiving some unexpected production from youngsters (keep in mind the oldest person in their starting line up is 29; Cody Ross) Emilio Bonifacio and Cameron Maybin.
But there's something else about this Marlins team that keeps bringing me back to those championship teams, specifically the 03 team. That is timely pitching from a relatively unknown staff. This year's version of the fireballing Josh Beckett is another Josh, in second year pro Josh Johnson. Ricky Nolasco has assumed the same role as Brad Penny did that year as a steady presence and the leader of younger staff.
While Dontrelle Willis came out of nowhere during his rookie season, much was the same for Anibal Sanchez during the his rookie year in 2006 (10-3, 2.83 ERA). But two years of arm trouble slowed his progress, and this year much is expected from the 25 year old.
The staff is rounded out by one time can't miss Detroit Tiger prospect Andrew Miller and Chris Volstad. Though Miller has been inconsistent and Volstad is rather green around the edges, considering he is only 22; the bottom of the staff has shown flashes of being aces.
Sure, there are too many questions to crown the Marlins their 3rd title this early in the season. The most important of which is their bullpen. Matt Lidstrom is closing for the first time in his career. The hardest thrower, Taylor Tankersley, might never play baseball again because of an elbow injury. Renyel Pinto had a solid 07, but is off to a rough start. As is Leo Nunez.
The addition of veterans Kiko Calero and Scott Proctor could give the Marlins some viable 7th and 8th inning options. But Proctor, who is on the DL, has had to push his return date back to the middle of May. Calero has been mediocre since coming on the scene with the St. Louis Cardinals, a few years back.
As mentioned earlier, this team is young. No starters are over 30 years old. Both championship years, the fish relied on a collection of veterans, proven players and young studs to push them through. But the upside of their youth is that Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu are at or entering their primes.
The Marlins will have the rest of the season to prove that they can recapture the Magic of 97 and 03, but signs are pointing this young team in the right direction.
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