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Florida Marlins: Contenders in 2009

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Florida Marlins: Contenders in 2009
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

A lot has been said about the six degrees of separation between a person and Kevin Bacon.

Does anyone know if he's a Marlins fan because every six years we've seen the Marlins do what they are doing this year.

In 1997, the Florida Marlins won their first World Series in franchise history behind an offseason spending spree which landed them the likes of Alex Fernandez, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, and Cliff Floyd. This heavily veteran-laden team also included stalwarts Al Leiter and Kevin Brown, both of whom were seasoned vets themselves.

While this group was largely seen, and criticized as a  mercenary team, they were able to win 92 games and the Wild Card, before winning the World Series.

The 1997-98 "1st Fire Sale"

 

1998 season

The 1998 Florida Marlins went on to lose a putrid 108 games en route to a 54-108, a much-deserved last place record.

Exactly six years later, the Marlins won another World Series, as the NL Wild Card team no less, this time defeating the big bad, heavily-favored, New York Yankees in six games behind a dominating game six performance by young stud Josh Beckett. This similarly energetic and exciting team wasn't nearly as veteran-laden but its "stars" included Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo (from the original World Series), Juan Pierre, Brad Penny, and Alex Gonzales, to complement the youth component of Beckett, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis.

 

2003-04 "2nd fire sale" (this time not as harsh and the subsequent win drop off easn't as bad-83)

  • Lost starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez to free agency (Tigers)
  • lost pitcher Ugeth "Uggy" Urbina to free agency
  • traded Derrek Lee to Chicago Cubs for 1B Hee-Seop Choi, and Mike Namini. (don't worry it won't be on the test)

The thing that made it easier to swallow was the fact the club successfully re-signed Lowell and had some pieces in place like Willis for another run.

 

Setting the pieces up for the latest run: 2005-2008 3rd "fire sale"

  • 2005 Beckett, Guillermo Mota, and Lowell traded to Boston Red Sox in package centered around stud prospect Hanley Ramirez who was handed the starting shortstop spot.
  •  2B Dan Uggla added via the Rule V draft from Arizona, forming a young, SS-2B tandem reminiscent of the Edgar Rentiria-Castillo one of past success on the original 1997 championship team.
  • Juan Pierre traded to Cubs in package which landed pitching prospect, Ricky Nolasco in South Beach.

2008: Willis and Cabrera traded to Detroit which cleaned their farm system dry as the Marlins received six-highly touted prospects from a variety of positions including pitcher Andrew Miller, the #1 pick from the previous draft, and CF Cameron Maybin who has yet to live up to potential.

 

2009 Outlook:

Sitting just four games out of both the division, and the Wild Card, the pesky Marlins appear to be in prime position for another postseason run-right on schedule. Once they clinch the Wild Card, because they don't do it any other way, as I predicted in February, the fun can really begin. I also gave them plenty of love too by giving them the NL Manager of the Year in Fredi Gonsalez too, so keep note of that....

NL East:

Philadelphia 48-38

Florida        46-44  4 GB

Atlanta       43-45  6 GB

NY Mets      42-45  6.5 GB

Nats           26-61  26.5 GB

The pieces are setting up favorably.

Rotation:                                                     1997                                             2003

Johnson (ace)           8-2 2.74           Kevin Brown 16-8 2.69 ERA   Willis 14-6 3.30

Nolsaco                    6-7 5.76 ERA    Fernandez 17-12 3.69 ERA     Penny 14-10 4.13

Chris Volstad             6-8 4.44 ERA    Al Leiter   11-9 4.34 ERA     Beckett 9-8 5.29

Miller                       3-4 4.50 ERA   Livan Herandez 9-3 3.18 ERA  Carl Pavano 12-13

West                       3-4 4.91 ERA   Pat Rapp 4-6 4.47 ERA    Mark Redman 14-9 3.59

total:                      26-24 don't worry so much about the numbers.

When it comes to the "Miracle Marlins" throw logic and statistics out the window as sometimes it just doesn't make sense, and it doesn't have to.....

Lineup:

Present                                                   1997                                                2003

CF Cody Ross                                Devon White                            Juan Pierre

1B Jorge Cantu                                Jeff Conine                              Derrek Lee

2B Dan Uggla                                  Castillo                                     Castillo

SS Hanley Ramirez                           Edgar Renteria                         Alex Gonsalez

3B Emelio Bonafaccio                        Bobby Bonilla                            Mike Lowell

LF Chris Coglahan                            Moises Alou                      Todd Hollandsworth

RF Jeremy Hermida                        Gary Sheffield                      Juan Encarnaccion

C John Baker                               Charles Johnson                  Ivan Rodriguez

 

2009 Marlins strengths:

CF Ross upgrade over the 1997 team but below the 2003 team

1B upgrade over 1997 Conine but downgrade over 2003 Lee

2B upgrade over 1997 and 2003 Castillo

SS Ramirez big upgrade over Renteria 1997 and 2003 Gonsalez

 

Pick 'em

RF Hermida tremendous downgrade over 1997 Sheffield but about even over Encarnaccion at worst (I'm a Hermida fan).

 

weaknesses

3B Bonafaccio downgrade over 1997 Bonilla and 2003 Lowell but he does the same role as a Pierre or Castillo (table setting) so you need his speed aspect there)

LF Cogalan big downgrade over 1997 Alou but slight downgrade over 2003 Hollingsworth

C Baker downgrade over either Johnson 1997 or Rodriguez 2003 but lesser in 1997

  • In sum: 2009 team has 4 upgrades over 1997 team but also 3 downgrades and 1 pick 'em.
  • 2009 team has 2 upgrades over 2003 team and 5 downgrades with one pick 'em.
  • The rotation in 2009 is much weaker than 1997 but compares favorably to 2003. This is where the Wild Card (no pun intended comes into play). If they can improve here, this is where they sneak in as described above).
  • Maybe they swing a deal at the trade deadline for some veteran bullpen help as its often seen as the last sign of a truly contending team, shoring up the weak spots. This would also help offset the current lack of experience and wins out of this rotation.
  • I also see a huge gap in LF that needs to be addressed. More proven power needs to be brought in to help balance out the team and erase some of these glaring disadvantages from years past and this position I see as exhibit A.

Its beginning to look a lot like 2003, exactly six years since their last title run and twelve years after the first.

Hmmmm...

With a new stadium scheduled in 2012 for Miami, we should be spared a 4th fire sale and the core should actually be allowed to continue to grow together and finish what they started.

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