The All Time Marlins

Miami, Florida – Throughout the 28-year history of the franchise, fans have been blessed with seeing some of the best talents and greatest personalities. It’s time to choose the all-time Marlins lineup. Many enter. Few are chosen. A plethora of players caused us to cry out in joy, pump our fists in triumph, and on many occasions enraged us into wanting to chuck the tv out the window. With so much lore it got me thinking, who would I pick? Using a combination of stats, the eye test, and fond memories I’ve assembled a roster filling out each position with my favorites.

It wasn’t easy. Several players were unfortunately left out. This will likely stir up some debate but that’s fine, baseball fans love to discuss who their favorite guys are. It’s our pastime after all. I put a minor handicap: current players cannot be selected. So without further ado, I present to all of you the all-time list by position. While taking a trip down memory lane give your own selections some thought.

First Base – Derrek Lee

Years in Marlins: 1998-2003

Career Stats: .281/.365/.495, 331 HR, 1078 RBI, WAR: 34.5

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 2x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

This is the guy I imitated back in my days of little league. I use to play outfield but my younger self found the position incredibly boring. So much so that dad caught me sucking my thumb behind the glove. Having none of it the old man spoke to the coach and moved me over to first. Best decision ever. It’s the spot where all the action is at and I actually had someone to learn from. Looking up at Derrek Lee I imitated his moves as best I could, becoming a pretty solid first baseman. The hitting was another matter entirely.

Honorable Mention: Justin Bour

Second Base – Luis Castillo

Years in Marlins: 1996-2005

Career Stats: .290/.368/.351, 28 HR, 443 RBI, 1001 R, 370 SB, WAR; 29.1

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 3x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 2x NL Stolen Base Leader

Mark this guy down as one of the best in franchise history. Luis Castillo was a huge favorite in the family. In the late 90s and deep into the 2000s he was in every conversation concerning the Marlins. He stole bases like nobody’s business, flashed a great glove, turned beautiful double plays, and holds the franchise record of a 35-game hitting streak. Castillo is one of the big reasons the team won it all in 2003. To top it all off he’s a switch hitter. As a holder of several franchise records (hits, walks, runs, games, singles, triples, and stolen bases to name a few) how many guys can top all that?

Honorable Mention: Dee Gordon

Shortstop – Alex Gonzalez

Years in Marlins: 1998-2005

Career Stats: .245/.290/.395, 157 HR, 690 RBI, WAR: 9.4

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 1x All-Star

He wasn’t much of a hitter but Alex Gonzalez more than made up for it with his outstanding glove. It’s the main reason I always wanted him in the lineup no matter how bad the slump. A superb defense that few could match or surpass. Speaking of, you can make the argument he hit when it counted. Gonzalez delivered the walk-off home run in the 12th inning of game four of the 2003 world series. Honestly, when I watched him come up to the plate, it seemed like another easy out. Boy did he prove me and Jeff Weaver wrong. I thought it would twist foul but to everyone’s amazement, it stayed fair and disappeared just over the wall. I was sitting there in the living room while everyone else was celebrating utterly shocked. With a brilliant swing of the bat, the series was tied. Clutch baby.

Honorable Mention: Edgar Renteria

Third Base – Miguel Cabrera

Years in Marlins: 2003-2007

Career Stats: .311/.389/.535, 492 HR, 1755 RBI, 1476 R, WAR: 68.5

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 2x MVP, Triple Crown, 11x All-Star, 7x Silver Slugger

I remember the day Miguel Cabrera made his MLB debut. It was June 20, 2003, versus the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Pro Player Stadium. Watching the game I had no idea who Cabrera was, ignorant of our entire farm system and all the prospects within. So there he was coming up to the dish in the ninth making his first-ever plate appearance. And what did he do? Crushed one straight into center field for the walk-off home run. That’s pretty legendary, the kind of thing you’d expect from guys like Babe Ruth himself man. It was at that moment Cabrera won me over. I figured he was going to be a good player. I was wrong, he became a great player. Shame he didn’t get to stay with us, the things the ballclub could’ve achieved.

Honorable Mention: Mike Lowell

Catcher – Charles Johnson

Years in Marlins: 1994-1998, 2001-2002

Career Stats: .245/.330/.433, 167 HR, 570 RBI, 465 R, WAR: 22.6

Accolades: 1997 World Series Champion, 2x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove

Of course, a former Miami Hurricanes player was going to make this list. Similar to Alex Gonzalez, Charles Johnson was known for his terrific defense. In fact, CJ played in 123 games without committing a single error in 1997 setting a Major League record. This position was difficult to choose from because there are at least two other guys worthy of this spot.

He was the Marlins’ first-round pick in the 1992 MLB Draft (was also drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1989 but went to UM instead) and as fate willed it, was present for the club’s first three no-hitters. Johnson was behind the plate for Al Leiter’s (1996), Kevin Brown’s (1997), and A.J. Burnett’s (2001) no-no. Did I mention he won four straight Gold Glove Awards? He was a beast. CJ was a big reason why I wanted to be a catcher during little league but since I’m a lefty, it never happened.

Honorable Mention: Iván Rodríguez, J.T. Realmuto

Left Field – Jeff Conine

Years in Marlins: 1993-1997, 2003-2005

Career Stats: .285/.347/.443, 214 HR, 1071 RBI, 870 R, WAR: 19.5

Accolades: 1997 & 2003 World Series Champion, 2x All-Star, ASG MVP

You know where I’m going with this one. Mr. Marlin himself! The play everyone thinks of is him gunning down JT Snow at home plate to win the 2003 NLDS versus the San Francisco Giants. It’s a story I’ve mentioned before and it never gets old. My father took me to my first-ever playoff game that day. We sat all the way up on the third level at the first-row third-base side. With a clear view of the field, I saw the play from a great angle.

When Jeff Conine scooped up the ball and fired it home I witnessed one of the best moments in franchise history. Conine’s one-hopper cannon shot made it to Ivan Rodriguez’s glove just in time as Snow collided with him knocking Pudge over. There was a loud roar of the crowd, cheering in triumph. I kid you not it felt like the entire stadium was shaking. Thanks to Mr. Marlin the Fish got the final out to advance to the NLCS, ultimately winning the world series.

Center Field – Juan Pierre

Years in Marlins: 2003-2005, 2013

Career Stats: .295/.343/.361, 517 RBI, 1075 R, 614 SB, WAR: 17.3

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 3x Stolen Base Leader

I loved this guy when he was a youngster. Juan Pierre hit for contact and when he was on the base paths, watch out man. This speedster was a menace to opposing teams. As an integral part of our small-ball attack, I remember when Pierre laid down a bunt against David Wells in game 1 of the 2003 world series. Instead of going left where Aaron Boone moved in, he pulled it to the right side legging out a leadoff base hit. This set the tone for the series. JP was a symbol of the team’s youth and speed. He always had a radiant smile on his face.

Honorable Mention: Christian Yelich

Right Field – Ichiro Suzuki

Years in Marlins: 2015-2017

Career Stats (MLB): .311/.355/.402, 117 HR, 780 RBI, 1420 R, 509 SB, WAR: 60

Accolades: MVP, Rookie of the Year, 10x All-Star, ASG MVP, 10x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 2x AL Batting Champion, AL Stolen Base Leader

I really deviated on this one. Few individuals could have predicted this selection considering who I pretty much just snubbed. Mea culpa. When Ichiro Suzuki came onto the scene he was one of the most anticipated MLB debuts. His monument of achievements in Japan turned heads but there was skepticism on whether Ichiro could cut it in the big show. He proved the naysayers wrong including his own manager, Lou Piniella.

Debuting on April 2, 2001, Suzuki went on to become the first Japanese position player to play overseas in the US. In his first season alone he won Rookie of the Year, became an All-Star, was awarded AL MVP, and much more. I loved this guy when he was in the Seattle Mariners. Imagine my excitement when he came to the Marlins. Sure, Suzuki was well past his prime but he’s a living legend not only in MLB but over in Japan. And to think, he never won a ring.

Honorable Mention: Gary Sheffield, Cliff Floyd

Starting Pitcher – Jose Fernandez

Years in Marlins: 2013-2016

Career Stats: 38-17, 2.58 ERA, 471.1 IP, 76 GS, 589 K, 1.054 WHIP, WAR: 14.2

Accolades: Rookie of the Year, 2x All-Star

A what-if question marred in unthinkable tragedy. If there was an ace in this rotation, hands down for me I’d turn to Jose Fernandez. Whether with us or in another organization, I am convinced Fernandez would have won at least one ring. If he didn’t stay in Miami I could easily see him wearing a theoretical Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, even Astros jersey. Certainly, a big market team that spends huge amounts of money to secure his talents. Given his tremendous popularity with the community, it’s not out of the question for Fernandez to have become a lifer. Rest in peace, sir.

Starting Pitcher – Josh Beckett

Years in Marlins: 2001-2005

Career Stats: 138-106, 3.88 ERA, 2051 IP, 332 GS, 1901 K, 1.232 WHIP, WAR: 35.7

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 2007 World Series Champion, 3x All-Star, WS MVP (2003), ALCS MVP

I’m pretty sure Josh Beckett is on the list for many. In this rotation, he’d definitely be the next man up. Beckett was an incredible workhorse in the 2003 postseason. Making his playoff debut he went head-to-head with San Francisco’s Jason Schmidt in game one of the NLDS. He allowed one run in seven innings, picking up the loss since Schmidt tossed a complete-game shutout. He struggled against the Cubs in game one of the NLCS but made up for it during game five with a complete-game shutout of his own. These were some of his standout appearances, culminating in two outstanding performances on three days’ rest against the New York Yankees to win the world series. He did so much for the Marlins in the playoffs, he’s a rare breed.

Starting Pitcher – Dontrelle Willis

Years in Marlins: 2003-2007

Career Stats: 72-69, 4.17 ERA, 1221.2 IP, 202 GS, 896 K, 1.433 WHIP, WAR: 19.7

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, Rookie of the Year, 2x All-Star

When I think of Dontrelle Willis the first thing that comes to mind is that kick. He loved being on the mound. No matter how big of a pickle he found himself in, good luck prying him off. D-Train was also one of the first pitchers I ever saw hit a homerun. When I realized how rare it was for a hurler to hit a dinger, it made things even more magical. Willis was an electric player and one of the most exciting guys to watch in every start.

Starting Pitcher – Josh Johnson

Years in Marlins: 2005-2012

Career Stats: 58-45, 3.40 ERA, 998 IP, 160 GS, 915 K, 1.268 WHIP, WAR: 24.3

Accolades: 2x All-Star, NL ERA Leader (2010)

Josh Johnson is one of the few on this list who is not a world series champion. Who cares. JJ was a great pitcher on the mound placing fourth for National League Rookie of the Year. In 2010 he was selected for his second straight all-star game pitching two flawless innings striking out BOTH Ichiro and Derek Jeter. He finished the season leading the National League in ERA (2.30), second only to Félix Hernández in the majors. Injuries held him back at times but JJ is still a guy you would want in your rotation.

Starting Pitcher – Brad Penny

Years in Marlins: 2000-2004, 2014

Career Stats: 121-101, 4.29 ERA, 1925 IP, 319 GS, 1273 K, 1.376 WHIP, WAR: 18.9

Accolades: 2003 World Series Champion, 2x All-Star, NL Wins Leader (2006)

Another flame thrower to round out the starting rotation. For the fifth and final spot, there were several worthy individuals making this another tough decision. I went with Brad Penny. After struggling in 2002 partially due to injury, he bounced back in 2003 helping to lead the Marlins towards the postseason. Penny had his moments against the Chicago Cubs, pitching very well in the world series going 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA. Some guys might not have him in their rotation but there was something about the righty that if you needed power pitching, he’d be a good choice. Just don’t have him pitch to Sammy Sosa.

Honorable Mentions: Liván Hernández, Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett, Al Leiter, Alex Fernandez

Closer – Robb Nen

Years in Marlins: 1993-1997

Career Stats: 45-42, 2.98 ERA, 715 IP, 643 G, 4 GS, 314 Saves, 793 K, 1.213 WHIP, WAR: 15.0

Accolades: 1997 World Series Champion, 3x All-Star

In the beginning, the Marlins had two very good closers. I was too young to really remember Bryan Harvey but right behind him came Robb Nen. He was very lights out and as the history of the franchise unfolded in the later years, I really started to appreciate his contributions. No doubt others will turn to Harvey but I’d throw in with Nen. In fact, if we had a guy like him in modern times folks would see a noticeable improvement in the team’s overall season records year in and year out.

Honorable Mention: Antonio Alfonseca

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, my own personal All-Time Marlins roster. So who’d you pick?

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Gabriel Garcia
Just an avid sports fan who happens to have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with his local teams be it collegiate or professional and also happens to be a news junkie. Mix in outstanding optimism with cold realism and you've got yourself a balanced cocktail perfect for champions.

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