The Florida Marlins have it all figured out.
Laugh if you must. But if you can get passed the awful record and microscopic payroll, please realize the Marlins are right on schedule.
I have these tricky Marlins all figured out. While large market giants like the Yankees
and Red Sox
continue to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll each year, only to fail to accomplish the ultimate goal more often than not.
The Marlins stay steady to their organizational plan—compete for a championship every six years.
If you remember back in 1997, the Marlins defeated the Indians
in the World Series with a roster that was completely loaded with talent. On the mound they featured Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Livan Hernandez and Robb Nen.
In their everyday lineup they sent out studs like Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou, Edgar Renteria, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff Conine and Devon White. Almost reads like an all-star team.
After the ’97 title, the Marlins promptly gutted the team. By Opening Day 1999, only Hernandez and Renteria remained from the aforementioned group. Those two would be shipped out that season.
The same grumblings could be heard then that we hear now. How the Marlins bought a championship. How they are cheating the fans and rumors of moving the franchise were rampant.
Then came 2003.
With a new stockpile of young talent including Josh Beckett and Juan Pierre, mixed with a few veteran acquisitions, the Marlins were once again crowned World Champs. It was the second time in the franchise’s 10-year existence. At the time, they had accomplished twice in a decade what the big-money Red Sox had been striving for all of 86 years.
After 2003, the same thing.
Gone are Beckett, Brad Penny, Ivan Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and Pierre. But in their place is yet another impressive core of young talent. Guys like the dynamic 22-year-old Hanley Ramirez, who is hitting .331 while playing a solid shortstop.
Second basemen Dan Uggla, 26, is hitting .312 and center fielder Reggie Abercrombie has displayed outstanding speed and athleticism.
On the mound, the Marlins have nine pitchers aged 24 or younger. Leading the way is Dontrelle Willis, one of the few holdovers from the 2003 squad. Another holdover is all-star Miguel Cabrera; himself only 23.
Had the Marlins hung onto the five players just mentioned from the 2003 team, Beckett, Penny, Pudge, Lee and Pierre, they would be paying them a combined $35.3 million based on their 2006 salaries.
As it is, the Marlins total payroll is a hair under $15 million for the entire roster, and while the won-loss record doesn’t show it yet, they are getting better.
So laugh at the Marlins now. Crack jokes about their payroll or place in the standings. But remember, this franchise is designed to strike every six years. Dontrelle Willis will be 27 when he starts game one of the 2009 World Series.
The baseball world has anointed teams like the Oakland Athletics
and Minnesota Twins
as prototypes for small-market success, yet I don’t see those two with any recent titles.
Maybe the Marlins didn’t invent sabermetrics, but their method, as unconventional as it is, is netting rings; and is that not, after all, the ultimate goal?