What the Chicago Cubs Can Learn From the 2003 Florida Marlins

Keith DeVoreContributor IJuly 3, 2009

MIAMI - APRIL 10:  (L-R) Dontrelle Willis #35, Manager Jack McKeon #15, Miguel Cabrera #24, Jeff Conine #18 and Alex Gonzalez #11 of the Florida Marlins smile and acknowledge the fans after receiving their 2003 World Series Championship rings prior to the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Pro Player Stadium on April 10, 2004 in Miami, Florida. The Marlins won 5-3.  (Photo by Victor Baldizon/Getty Images)

The 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins lineup consisted of Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, Pudge Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell, Derrek Lee, Alex Gonzalez, and Edwin Encarnacion.  This was the same team that infamously beat the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 World Series, and claimed their second championship in six years. 

The Cubs should have been taking notes. 

The construction of every major league baseball team from that point forward should have been to copy the Marlins recipe for success.  This is how you build winning baseball.  They had a nasty rotation of Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano, Dontrelle Willis (although he was brutal in the playoffs), and Brad Penny.  Sure there were other guys, but these guys carried the load.

The Marlins knew that the proper construction of modern baseball athletes can lead to success.  With Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo creating havoc upfront, taking walks, getting hit by pitches (which is a lost art; just ask Craig Biggio), slapping singles the opposite direction, jiving on the base paths, and even swiping a few bases, pitchers were not comfortable from the get go. 

Then the thumpers came in and took over.  Pudge Rodriguez had a career year and was just awesome—back when steroids were good, clean, and fair.  Miguel Cabrera was all of 19 and was even more of a stud than he thinks he was.  Mike Lowell was a solid 5-hitter, and Derrek is about as good of a 6-hitter as a team can find. 

Sure their rotation was lethal, and pitching is supposedly everything, but this is a copycat lineup that every baseball GM in the majors should try to reincarnate. 

This is what the 2007, 2008, and especially the 2009 Cubs lineups, are missing: the ability to create havoc with their 1 and 2 hitters.  Alfonso Soriano is more than a disaster as a lead off hitter.  For three years now I have been president of the "leave Soriano in the lead off hitter role."  He is a wild card—if he hits, he hits. When he hits he can carry a squad no matter where he is batting.  I have recently been impeached. 

My theory does not hold water and here is why: Soriano does nothing right but go on two or three week hitting benders and pad his numbers.  He is a rally killer.  He is a stop sign on a rural road, out of place.  The pure stubbornness of the Cubs brass will haunt them this year.  It has haunted them over the course of the last two years, and they will once again fall short of a World Series championship. 

It is the construction of the house that leads to collapse, not the way the house performs in a given year.  This Cubs team is constructed poorly. 

Their is an unreliability at the top of the order. Milton Bradley is a disaster, so is Kosuke Fukudome, and Mike Fontenot and Soriano are once again the gum of the lineup instead of the glue, they just gum things up. 

This Cubs team has enough pitching to win the whole damn thing, thank you very much Tom Berringer.  But they lack the fielding, the speed, the clutch hitting, and the proper major league construction.  Until they seek that formula, drop Soriano to fifth in the order, and set the lineup at Sam Fuld, Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geo Soto, and a combo of Mike Fontenot and Andres Blanco.

Pitching apparently isn't everything, once and a while, hitters have to hit.  It looks like the 2003 Florida Marlins did more than teach the Cubs that it isn't cool to wear turquoise turtle necks and stick your hands where they don't belong. They taught them how they should construct a championship baseball team.  My only hope is that Jim Hendry and the Cubs can learn from history. 


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