The Marlins were an expansion franchise in 1993, along with the Colorado Rockies. When MLB announced in 1990 that it intended to add two teams to the National League, Wayne Huizenga (then CEO of Blockbuster Entertainment, 15% owner of the Miami Dolphins, and 50% owner of Joe Robbie Stadium), announced that he was going to aggressively pursue an expansion franchise. It was nearly a foregone conclusion that one of the NL’s new teams would be in the state of Florida, but Orlando and Tampa were also making an aggressive bid. After Miami won their franchise (and at least considered the name Florida Flamingoes – aren’t you glad that didn’t pan out?!), they began play in 1993, after an expansion draft at the end of the 1992 season.
The Marlins have 2 World Series titles already, in their only two playoff appearances. In both 1997 and 2003, they were the NL Wild Card team, and they went all the way to championships. On the flip side of that coin, they’ve also been known for the fact that after each of their World Series titles they’ve made fairly drastic changes to their roster, which eliminated a large amount of their payroll, in favor of younger, cheaper players. Over the last decade, this has become a growing trend for the Marlins, as they have traded away some of their best talent, in order to continue to remain toward the bottom of MLB in terms of payroll. This, and other factors, have played into the reasons why this franchise has never had an MVP-winner, or a Cy Young-winner, yet, they have had 4 different players win Rookie of the Year. These moves have also played a major role in the team finishing in last place (7 times) more often than they’ve even achieved a winning record (6 times). With all of this in mind, here are the five best Miami/Florida Marlins.
5. Josh Beckett (’01-’05) – something you will have to keep in mind as we go through all of these names is the fact that this list is not indicative of these players’ overall career. This is just ranking them based on their performances while with the Marlins. While in Miami, Beckett never led the league in anything, and never received a single vote for any award. But, that’s primarily because the Marlins traded him before he really hit his prime. But, in 2003, he was an integral part of the championship team. In that postseason, he started 5 games (pitched in 6), had a 2.11 ERA, and a 0.77 WHIP, while striking out 47 in just 42.2 innings. He won World Series MVP honors after the Marlins won it in 6 over the Yankees. And, in spite of his short time in Miami, he still ranks 2nd on the Marlins’ all-time ERA list (3.46), 8th in wins (41), 5th in win pct. (.547), 2nd in WHIP (1.24), 2nd in H/9 (7.82), 1st in K/9 (8.97), 7th in K’s (607), 2nd in K/BB ratio (2.72), and 2nd in ERA+ (118 – including the 9th best single season in team history in 2003, when he posted a 138).
4. Gary Sheffield (’93-’98) – Sheffield made one All-Star game appearance while with the Marlins – though, if they had kept him at least until the All-Star break in ’98 instead of trading him to the Dodgers, he would have made a second appearance for them. His best season in Miami was ’96, when he led the league in OBP and OPS, and finished 6th in MVP voting. In fact, the argument could be made that it was Sheffield’s best season of his career (42 HR, 120 RBI, .320/.465/.624/1.090). He was also an important part of the ’97 championship team, as he had a .943 OPS in the World Series with a home run and 5 RBI. On the Marlins’ all-time lists, he ranks 8th in batting (.288), 1st in OBP (.426), 1st in SLG (.543), 1st in OPS (.970), 6th in HR (122), 8th in RBI (380), 1st in OPS+ (156), and 8th in runs created (465 – though, no one ahead of him on the list produced them at a higher per-plate-apperance rate).
3. Josh Johnson (’05-’12) – it’s unfortunate that Johnson came to the Marlins organization when he did. Drafted in ’02, he wasn’t ready to be a part of the ’03 World Series team. From the time he came up in ’05 until he was traded to Toronto after the 2012 season, he saw as many last-place finishes as he did winning seasons. And, he never saw the team win more than 87 games, or reach the playoffs. But, in spite of some of the lousy teams he pitched for, he is definitely the best pitcher the Marlins have had (at least, while in Miami). He finished 4th in ROY voting, appeared in 2 All-Star games, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting when he led the league in 2010 with a 2.30 ERA. He probably would have finished a little higher if his team had managed to get him a record better than 11-6 out of his 28 starts. But, even with a consistent lack of support, Johnson performed well in Florida. He ranks 1st all-time on the team’s ERA list (3.15), 3rd in wins (56), 2nd in win pct. (.602), 1st in WHIP (1.23), 3rd in H/9 (8.07), 2nd in K/9 (8.17), 2nd in K’s (832), 3rd in K/BB ratio (2.70), and 1st in ERA+ (133 – including 2 of the top 7 ERA+ seasons in Marlins history).
2. Hanley Ramirez (’06-’12) – while playing for the Marlins, Ramirez won ROY in 2006, he was the starting shortstop in 3 consecutive All-Star games, and finished runner-up in the MVP voting in 2009, when he won the batting title (.342). He also received MVP votes each of the previous two seasons, finishing 10th & 11th respectively. He led the team in stolen bases 5 consecutive years from ’06-’10, which included back-to-back 50-stolen base campaigns in ’06 & ’07 (when he finished 3rd in the NL both years). On the Marlins’ all-time lists, he ranks 2nd in batting (.300), 3rd in OBP (.374), 6th in SLG (.499), 5th in OPS (.873), 2nd in runs scored (666), 2nd in hits (1103), 1st in total bases (1831), 2nd in doubles (232), 3rd in triples (26), 2nd in HR (148), 4th in RBI (482), 2nd in stolen bases (230), 5th in OPS+ (129), and 1st in runs created (711).
1. Miguel Cabrera (’03-’07) – In just 5 years with the Marlins, Cabrera finished 5th in ROY voting, appeared in 4 All-Star games, had back-to-back top-5 MVP finishes, and won two Silver Sluggers (one in the OF, and one at 3B). His average full season in Miami was 32 HR, 115 RBI, and a .318/.396/.551/.947 stat line. He owns 3 of the top 8 batting average seasons in Marlins history, 3 of the top 9 SLG seasons, 2 of the top 6 OPS seasons, 3 of the top 6 HR seasons, and 4 of the top 8 RBI seasons. And, he only played there for essentially 4 and a half seasons (only played 87 games his rookie year – at the age of 20). On their all-time list, Cabrera ranks 1st in batting (.313), 2nd in OBP (.388), 2nd in SLG (.542), 2nd in OPS (.929), 5th in runs scored (449), 5th in hits (842), 3rd in doubles (183), 4th in HR (138), 3rd in RBI (523), 2nd in OPS+ (143), and 5th in runs created (556).