Wait, These Guys Were Marlins?!?
It was an easy choice which team to pick for our second in our series of “wait, these guys were…”. There is perhaps no franchise outside of the one in South Florida known for a “catch and release” style front office management. Before unloading the current crop of Stantons, Ozunas, Yelichs, and Gordons, the Marlins have befuddled baseball in its 25 year history, by only twice making the playoffs as a Wild Card, then twice returning with a World Series trophy in hand, and twice practically selling off its whole squad the very next season. This is a remarkable run for a team that has only existed in a “Wild Card era” when making the playoffs has never been easier and winning it all once you get there has never been harder. My partner-in-crime Jeremy, had an interesting article all about this a couple of weeks ago.
Following their first title, in 1997, four of their returning champions, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and notably, Bobby Bonilla and Gary Sheffield, were amongst those shipped in a May deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers for one Mike Piazza (and Todd Zeile, recently passed by Ryan Zimmerman for most home runs by a “Z” name in baseball history, a ridiculously obscure fact that even Tim Kurkjian himself could not recently recall.) The greatest hitting catcher in baseball history was on an expiring contract, so it was a perfect way for the Marlins to unload all their champions in pursuit of saving a buck. Piazza drove in a run on the very first pitch he saw, ended up with five RBIs in six games, and as an amazing historical footnote, hit one of his only 8 triples while spending just a week of his storied career with the club. He was then sent to the Mets for, get this, Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz. And well, what happened next was…
Of course, Piazza is not alone in getting a plaque in Cooperstown that does not have a Marlins logo on it (the team has never been represented there, and, well, I think it’s still going to be a while.) Just last year, this guy was on the dais…
First of all, dude is 42 in this picture. Way to get those good genes, Tim Raines. He spent his final season, in 2002, with the Marlins, and for a man who stole over 800 bases, alas, it was his only year where he failed to swipe a bag. Which means, yes, he was still stealing bases into his 40s prior to that, which for this writer, who usually pulls both hamstrings trying to run to first base, is still pretty freaking impressive.
And not last, but certainly first, there’s the fact that the Marlins were an expansion franchise in 1993, and therefore participated in an expansion draft. While the other franchise, the Colorado Rockies drew headlines for going after major league ready players, the South Florida team mostly stuck to tradition and chose prospects. Amongst those was their 8th pick, a Reds minor leaguer who had pitched to a middling 7-6 record with a 3.41 ERA combined in AA and AAA. That year he managed 2 saves for the new major league franchise. When he was traded following the season for, amongst others, future World Series champion Gary Sheffield, he would go on to close out 599 more games. And he will be joining Raines and Piazza in the Hall this year.
Which all brings us back to the present.
“I didn’t think it was handled professionally or the right way. First of all, you gotta know what you’re signing up for and if you’re gonna do that, you handle baseball people the right way. You stand up to them and you do it yourself to their face. You don’t let someone else make a phone call for you.”
That’s Expos and Cubs legend (and now employee of the latter) and Miami restaurant owner Andre Dawson about his briefly former boss, Derek Jeter, after he was fired over the phone by the franchise he had spent 17 years working for following spending his final two seasons there in 1995 and 1996.
The Miami/Florida Marlins. Unloading legends, even in retirement. Bravo. You made this article so easy!