Florida Marlins: Greatest All-Time Team

Miami Marlins (2012-Present)

Florida Marlins (1993-2011)

National League (1993-Present)

National League Champion: 1997, 2003

World Series Champion: 1997, 2003

The fate of the Miami Marlins is the best illustration of the changes in the dynamics of Major League Baseball caused by the restructuring of 1995. The Marlins are one of only two clubs that has never won a Division Title (The Colorado Rockies are the other). In their 27 years of existence they have had only six winning seasons. They have won 90 or more games only twice, and in those two years they finished 9 and ten games out of first place. Their overall record in their 27 years is 1,990-2,314, a .462 winning percentage. That’s worse than the Seattle Mariners, worse than the Tampa Bay Rays, worse than the Philadelphia Phillies, worse than the New York Mets. In fact, it’s the worst of all 30 Major League Franchises. 

However…. Their is also no expansion team, teams created after 1961, that have won more World Series Championships than these same Marlins. Twice, with a team that finished a distant second in their division. As a Wild Card team they captured the World Series Title. This was unheard of prior to 1995. The Wild Card has completely changed the way baseball pennant races are conducted. The Marlins proved that all you have to do is get in the playoffs, and you can win it all.

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 25: Ecstatic Florida Marlins celebrate after shutting out the New York Yankees, 2-0, in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium to win the World Series. (Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

It has always been an open question whether Florida had the fan base to support a Major League baseball team. The state probably wouldn’t have been selected if it hadn’t been for the pressure applied by United States Senator Connie Mack III. Yes, he was the grandson of the esteemed Connie Mack, who ran the Philadelphia Athletics for over 50 years. He also represented Florida in the U.S. Senate. 

Miami Dolphins’ Owner Wayne Huizenga purchased the first ever Florida franchise for the expansion price of $95 million. It was not a good investment. Huizenger announced after the 1997 World Championship season that the team lost $34 million that year. That’s the reason he gave for the shredding of payroll after the season that led to the team having the worst record in baseball in 1998. 

Huizenga sold the club to John Henry after the 1998 season. Henry only owned the club for two years before selling it to Montreal Expo owner Jeffrey Loria in order to buy the Boston Red Sox. This sequence set in motion the collapse of baseball in Montreal, as commissioner Bud Selig had Major League Baseball purchase the Expos from Loria. Many consider Loria the worst owner in sports, and he put the club up for sale in 2017. One of the prospective buyers was President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. That deal fell through, but Loria finally found a buyer in October of 2017. A group of investors led by former Yankee great Derek Jeter purchased the franchise . The product on the field has not improved.

The Marlins are probably the weakest franchise in all of baseball, both on and off the field. Despite their two World Series wins, their overall record as a franchise is the worst in baseball. Attendance is dismal, only once exceeding 2 million and down to 811,000 the last two years.  Miami-Dade County built them a ballpark in 2012 with one of the conditions being they had to change from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins. The future of this franchise in south Florida is very precarious.  

Catcher:

Charles Johnson (1994-1998, 2001-2002) was the catcher on the 1997 World Championship team. By the metrics we use he is narrowly behind J.T. Realmuto (2014-2018), but Realmuto was on teams that weren’t very good. Charles Johnson (1994-1998, 2001-2002) made the National League All-Star Team three times, while Realmuto only made the game once. Johnson was also a four time Gold Glove, an honor Realmuto never received. J.T. Realmuto was a slightly better offensive player. This is very close, but our subjective judgement is that the package Charles Johnson (1994-1998, 2001-2002) offered was a little more valuable. We’ll go with that. 

First Base

Derrek Lee (1998-2003) was the best Marlin, who’s primary position was first base.  Jeff Conine (1993-1997) was primarily an outfielder in Miami, but did spend about 30% of his time at first base. Conine was a more productive Marlin player than was Lee.   

Second Base

For a second baseman Dan Uggla (2006-2010) put up some pretty impressive numbers. Lots of walks and thirty-something home runs a season is tough to top.  Luis Castillo (1996-2005) offensive contributions were much different than Uggla’s. Not much power, but a much better batting average, with speed and better defense. Subjectively we lean towards Uggla, but the formula we use has Luis Castillo (1996-2005) clearly ahead. We’ll trust the formula. 

Third Base

Miguel Cabrera (2003-2007) was only in Miami for five years. His best seasons were with the Tigers after he turned 25. He did have 2 top five finishes in the MVP vote while splitting his time between first base and left field for the Marlins. We could put him at either one of the two positions. If we decide to put him in left, then the third baseman on the 2003 World Series Champion team, Mike Lowell (1999-2005) would be the choice. Lowell was a three time All-Star and the Gold Glove winner in 2005. He also was the World Series MVP in the Marlin’s shocking six game triumph over the New York Yankees in 2003. 

Shortstop

This one is easy. Hanley Ramirez (2006-2012) was a star in Florida, finishing as high as second in the MVP vote. He was not on either of the World Series teams, but a three time All-Star, who won a batting title in 2009. Defense at shortstop was only so-so, but a feared offensive force in the line-up.

Left Field

Cliff Floyd (1997-2002) is the choice in left field unless we move Miguel Cabrera (2003-2007) out there. So Floyd’s competition is third baseman Mike Lowell (1999-2005). Wish we could move Cabrera to first, but Miguel never played that position while in Miami. Lowell was a more valuable player than Floyd. That means Miguel Cabrera (2003-2007) is our left fielder.

Center Field

Christian Yelich (2013-2017) spent 420 games in left and 239 in center during his time in South Florida. Marcell Ozuna (2013-2017) also split his time in Florida between center and left but he played a few more games in center than left. Overall value is fairly close between the two, but Christian Yelich is ahead. If we put Cabrera in left, that leaves only one spot for Yelich, Ozuna, and Gary Sheffield. Sheffield played zero games in center for the Marlins and 476 in right. He’s not going to beat out Giancarlo Stanton in right, but center field is not an option for him, so he’s out. Ultimately we’ll go with Christian Yelich (2013-2017), because that’s what the formula says, and he showed he could handle center field. 

Right Field

Giancarlo Stanton (2010-2017) forces us to find another position for Gary Sheffield (1993-1998) and Christian Yelich (2013-2017). When healthy Stanton put up Hall of Fame numbers for the Marlins, leading the league in home runs twice, and slugging percentage three times. He was a four time All Star in Miami, and the recipient of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2017. This isn’t close.

Pitchers

The weakness of the Miami club can best be illustrated by the rating of the pitchers. What the four we rate have in common was, outstanding individual seasons, but no sustained excellence. Josh Johnson (2005-2012) is #1. His overall record in South Florida was only 58-45, but he did have three outstanding years before he blew out his arm at age 26.

National League pitcher Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins throws during the fourth inning of the All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 13, 2010, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAKJ150

In his rookie year in 2003, # 2 Dontrelle Willis (2003-2007) went 14-6 in the Marlins’ second World Championship season. He was even better in 2005, sporting a 22-10 record and finishing second in the Cy Young balloting. He never had another year to compare to those two. He left Miami two years later with a 72-69 career record for the Marlins.

#3 Kevin Brown (1996-1997) was a gypsy, pitching for six different teams in his 19 year career. He only spent two seasons in Miami, but what a two seasons they were. He led the league in both ERA and WHIP in 1998 and finished second in the Cy Young Award vote. The peak he reached in those two seasons is probably the highest of any Marlin pitcher.

#4 is the tragic Jose Fernandez (2013-2016). In just four short years Fernandez established himself as one of the finest pitchers in all of baseball. At the end of the 2016 season, while sporting a 16-8 record with a 2.86 ERA he killed himself in a boating accident while drunk. He was 24 years old and had a career record of 38-17, with a 2.58 ERA. 

Manager

Jack McKeon (2003-2005, 2011) and Jim Leyland (1997-1998) both led the Marlins to World Series victories. McKeon was in Miami for two full seasons and part of a third. Leyland was only there two years. Both were victimized by Marlin management player fire sales after their championship seasons. The Marlins went 54-108 for Leyland the season after they won the World Series. McKeon did better, leading the team to an 83-79 record in both 2004 and 2005, and then walked away. When “Trader” Jack quit his overall record in Miami was 241-215, while Leyland’s two year record was 148-178. Comparing their overall records is unfair to Leyland, because management made a conscience decision to sell off their best players and not field a competitive team. Ultimately we’ll go with “Trader” Jack McKeon (2003-2005) because he was in charge during three of the franchises six winning seasons.

MVP

This decision comes down to Giancarlo Stanton (2010-2017) and Hanley Ramirez (2006-2012). The formula we use has Stanton narrowly ahead. The two are significantly ahead of anyone else. The problem with choosing Stanton is that in his eight years in Miami the Marlins never had a winning record, while they did have a winning record in two of Ramirez’ seven seasons. Neither player was on one of the World Series Champions. Stanton did win an MVP Award while in Miami, something Ramirez never accomplished. Ramirez finished second in the vote in 2009, and in the top 11 two other times. Stanton also had a second place MVP finish in 2014, indicating that in two seasons he was considered one of the two best players in the National League. That’s an amazing achievement considering the teams he played for went 77-85 both seasons. It’s telling that Miami was unable to hold on to either player. They just couldn’t pay them. This is another toss-up.

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