One question, hundreds of answers: Which Marlin had the greatest offensive season at his position?
Major League baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.
They are calling it MLB 9s.
How has Hanley Ramirez revolutionized shortstop? How many members of the 1997 and 2003 championship teams make the list? Was Preston Wilson's power more important than Juan Pierre's speed?
My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (2003)
Rodriguez had the best offensive year of any Marlins catcher when he hit 16 home runs, batted .297 and stole 10 bases in 2003.
Others—such as Charles Johnson in 1997 and Miguel Olivo in 2006—have had 16 or more homers. Others—such as Benito Santiago in 1993—have swiped 10 bags. Others—such as Paul LoDuca in 2005—have batted over .280.
But none of them combined the power, speed and average that Pudge did in that single season.
In his only year with the Marlins, Rodriguez hit 36 doubles, scored 90 runs, drove in 85, and had a .369 on-base percentage.
He may have been a long-way removed from his MVP season with the Rangers, but he still had the best offensive season of any Florida backstop.
Highlight Game: March 31, 2003 vs Philadelphia. In his first catching appearance on a National League team, Pudge hit a home run off of Kevin Millwood in the bottom of the sixth inning, with one on and two out. It was his first of 16 home runs that season.
Competition: Miguel Olivo and Charles Johnson are the likely runners-up. Johnson hit 19 home runs and knocked in 63 runs, while Olivo hit 16 homers, scored 52 runs and recorded 58 RBI.
First Base: Derrek Lee (2003)
Remember the time when the Marlins had Derrek Lee on their team? The year they beat the Yankees and won it all?
Lee was one of the linchpins of that championship team along with Mike Lowell and Juan Pierre.
Lee hit 31 home runs and stole 21 bases, batting .271 and leading the team with an .888 OPS.
Lee’s 31 home runs ranks third all-time among Marlins’ first basemen behind Carlos Delgado’s 33 and Mike Jacobs’ 32.
Highlight Game: April 12, 2003 vs Atlanta. In his first of three multi-home run games in the 2003 season, Lee went 2-for-5 with two jacks and five RBI.
He hit a two-run shot off of Russ Ortiz in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game at 3-3, and he legged out a three-run inside-the-park home run in the seventh off of Jason Marquis.
His second home run—the first inside-the-park home run of his career—gave the Marlins a 10-4 lead. They would win the game 12-5.
Competition: Lee stands out because of his speed. Without the 21 steals, his season would have been second to Delgado’s 2005 performance where he batted .301 with 33 home runs and 115 runs batted in—both records for a Florida first baseman.
Second Base: Luis Castillo (2000)
Castillo’s speed gets the nod over Dan Uggla’s power.
Castillo stole 62 bases—a National league high in 2000—and batted .334, scoring 101 runs at the top of the Marlins’ lineup.
He led the league with 158 singles, and his .418 on-base percentage was eighth best in the NL.
His .334 batting average is third all-time for a Florida shortstop behind Hanley Ramirez (.342) and Miguel Cabrera (.339).
Highlight Game: May 17, 2000 vs San Diego. Castillo ran wild against the Padres, stealing four bases in a 4-2 victory. He singled twice and walked three times, reaching base each of the five times he stepped to the plate.
He stole second base in the first, fourth, sixth and eighth inning, scoring once.
Competition: Dan Uggla hit 32 home runs in 2008, but he does not make the cut. While his RBI numbers (92) are impressive, his five steals and .260 batting average are the polar opposites of Castillo.
I am not saying Uggla had a bad year, or that he didn’t deserve to win this battle, it’s just my opinion that Castillo had the better year.
They are two very different players with completely different styles. Neither choice would be wrong.
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera (2007)
Cabrera took Mike Lowell’s solid 2003 campaign and added 54 points to his batting average to stand alone with the best single offensive season by a Marlins’ third baseman.
His 34 home runs rank second of any Marlin ever behind Gary Sheffield’s 42 in 1996, and his 119 RBI is third behind Preston Wilson’s 121 and Sheffield’s 120.
Cabrera was voted to his fourth consecutive All Star Game in 2007—his final season with the Marlins before being traded to the Tigers with Dontrelle Willis.
Cabrera also received a mention in my Baltimore Orioles MLB 9s article here.
Highlight Game: April 2, 2007 at Washington. Miggy got the Marlins off to the perfect start on Opening Day with a home run and four runs batted in against the Nationals.
Cabrera went 3-for-4 with a run and two walks, powering Florida past their NL East rivals 9-2.
The aforementioned Mike Lowell had set the standards for Marlins’ third basemen in 2003 with 32 home runs and 105 batted in.
He led the team in both categories on the way to the World Series victory, scoring 76 runs himself and batting .276. Cabrera blew him out of the water.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez (2007)
Hanley was a different class in ’07, producing a truly sparkling year as the Marlins’ shortstop.
He hit 29 home runs, stole 51 bases, and scored 125 runs while batting .332 with 81 RBI.
He had the second most hits in the National League with 212, his batting average ranked fifth, and his 83 extra base hits ranked fourth.
His 51 steals are the most by any Marlins’ shortstop in a single season, his 29 home runs stand second only to the 33 he hit a year later, and his .332 average was the best ever until he beat it himself by 10 points in 2009.
His 48 doubles is also a record for a Marlin shortstop, as is his .562 slugging percentage.
Highlight Game: June 22, 2007 vs Minnesota. Ramirez had a knack of hitting solo home runs in 2007. Of the 29 bombs he hit, 23 came with the bases empty. Eight of these were lead-off home runs.
Probably the most important homer of the 2007 season for Hanley came against Juan Rincon and the Twins. With the game tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning after the Marlins had blown a 4-2 lead in the top of the frame, Ramirez took a 2-1 pitch to deep left-center field for the go-ahead run.
The Marlins hung on and won the game 5-4.
Competition: Edgar Renteria had a decent season in 1997 with 90 runs and 32 steals, and Alex Gonzalez was good in 2003 with 18 home runs and 77 RBI, but neither come remotely close to what Ramirez accomplished in ’07.
Outfield: Gary Sheffield (1996)
Sheffield had a career year with the young Marlins back in 1996. His 42 home runs, .465 on-base percentage, .624 slugging percentage, 142 walks and 42 extra base hits are still franchise records some 13 years later.
The 19 home runs he hit at home and 23 homers he lashed on the road are also franchise highs.
In 1996, Sheffield’s .465 on-base percentage led the National League. He was voted to the All Star Game for the third time in his career and he won his second Silver Slugger award.
He finished sixth in the NL MVP voting behind Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Ellis Burks, Mike Piazza, and winner Ken Caminiti.
This is not the first time Sheffield appears on my MLB 9s list. Click here to read about his exploits in Detroit.
Highlight Game: August 10, 1996 vs New York Mets. Sheffield went 4-for-5 with a home run, double, three runs, and four batted in to help the Marlins beat the Mets 9-6.
The game marked one of two times he recorded four hits in a game, and one of seven times when he drove in four or more runs.
Outfield: Cliff Floyd (2001)
In his last full year with the Fish, Floyd hit 31 home runs, walked 59 times, and set career highs with 103 RBI and 123 runs scored.
He stole 18 bases and hit 44 doubles, batting .317 and earning his first and only All Star selection.
Highlight Game: June 9, 2001 at Toronto. Cliff Floyd made life tough on Chris Carpenter and the Blue Jays. He hit a three-run home run in the first inning and was then intentionally walked on three of his next four plate appearances. The final time he was walked, he stole second base and scored an insurance run on Mike Lowell’s double.
Juan Pierre (2003)
Juan Pierre was the speedy workhorse of the Marlins’ attack. 2003 was the first of five consecutive seasons when he never missed a game and over that time he stole more bases than any other player in baseball.
His 2003 season saw him steal a league-high 65 bases and record 204 base hits, including seven triples and a home run. He batted .305 and had a .361 on-base percentage.
Highlight Game: May 11, 2003 vs Colorado. The moral of this story is: “Don’t walk base-stealers.”
Pierre went 1-for-2 with three walks, three stolen bases and four runs. Every time he got on base, he ended up coming around to touch home plate. The Marlins won the game 7-2.
Competition: Jeff Conine batted .302 with 25 home runs and 105 RBI in 1995, Chuck Carr stole 58 bases in 1993, and Preston Wilson had 31 home runs, 121 batted in, and 36 stolen bases in 2000.
Wilson almost got my vote ahead of Pierre, but as hard as it is to ignore a franchise-high 121 RBI, his 187 strikeouts (also a Marlins record) absolutely killed him.
Pitcher: Dontrelle Willis (2007)
Asking which Marlins pitcher is the greatest with the bat is like asking which sexually-transmitted infection is the best for you.
There’s really no winners. But if you want an answer, I will say Dontrelle Willis and chlamydia.
Willis hit two home runs, two doubles and three triples, scoring 11 runs and batting in seven.
Competition: Chris Hammond wasn’t awful with the bat, as far as pitchers go, and both Alex Fernandez (1999) and Josh Johnson (2009) hit three home runs in a season. That said, it’s a tie, they all lose.
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