As well documented, the Florida Marlins are no more. We are now the Miami Marlins. Twenty, thirty, or fifty years from now, the nineteen years we spent as the Florida Marlins will lumped into one all inclusive era. When we look back on the Florida Marlins era, we'll probably be known just for being a bad small market team with an apathetic fan base that somehow popped up to win a random world series, times two. Of course we know there's more to it to that. There are a number of smaller eras that encompass the history of the Florida Marlins. In time, those will be forgotten, but let's take a quick time travel to revisit them.
As with pretty much any new sports team, the first few years were pretty rough in terms of results. The roster was assembled with castoffs from other teams, players who should've been playing in Triple-A, and the token several decent players that seemed like stars to us because of the circumstances. Of course fans loved them anyway. Much in the same way you love a new puppy, even though they pee everywhere.
An interesting bit about the Marlins franchise though, they got better every year. As simple and logical as that sounds, other recent expansion franchises did not encounter similar results. Perhaps it was blind luck, but we should give some credit to management those early years for consistent improvement, as slow as it may have seemed.
The question when defining this era, is what do we make of the 1997 World Series champion team? Was it the culmination of this era and building from bottom to top? Or was it simply a year that should stand by itself in the way the team was assembled and the one year wonder the success was? I would lean towards saying the former. As much as revisionist historians say the entire team was built after 1996 and broken up before 1998, that isn't entirely true. It had mainstays like Charles Johnson, Jeff Conine, and Gary Sheffield.Post Fire Sale
As quickly as the front office built a giant magical sand castle that won first prize, a tractor came by and bulldozed it beyond recognition. Even before the 1997 World Series trophy was won, Owner Wayne Huizenga was planning to dismantle the team, as they were losing lots of money very quickly. Most of the stars of that team were gone before Opening Day in 1998.
The 1998 team was the worst in franchise history, and also appears on some Worst Team Ever lists. When your team leader in WAR was Mark Kotsay, you have issues. The team was slightly better in 1999, ushering in the John Boles era as manager. Man, those were sad times. The turn of the century saw a couple of season where the team pushed .500 and fell a little short.
In retrospect, the 1998-2002 period could be considered the most Marlins era of them all. It was almost like a second expansion era.
In a polar opposite manner this period didn't build up to a World Series title, but began with it. The current ownership came in and did things a bit differently, including firing Jeff Torborg forty or so games into the 2003 season. That's what basically kicked off this era, hiring an old Jack McKeon to try and work some magic. We know the rest. Thousands of words have been written about the 2003 squad.
The couple of years following 2003 were some of the weirdest in Florida Marlins history. For the first time ever, they had a burden of expectations, because the team was largely the same. Alas, they couldn't quite get it done, missing the playoffs in 2004 and 2005. It was strange to have an 83 win team and be mad at them.
Extremely Low Budget
A second massive fire sale happened before 2006. Again the team was losing piles of money and there was even talk of relocation, if a stadium deal couldn't get done soon. The Marlins had low payrolls before, but the 2006 team was laughable. The 25-man roster made less than Alex Rodriguez did that year. The Yankees payroll was ten times what the Marlins was (Editor's note: Almost 13 times the Marlins' payroll actually. This figure is quite insane. - MJ).
A new crop of rookies came in and surprisingly did very well after a terrible start. Many fans would say this was one of the most fun years to be a Marlins fan. They have a great argument. The team set all sorts of records, many obscure but still noteworthy.
2007 through 2011 has been largely the same. The team has had a core from that 2006 crop and also done their usual signing and acquiring cheap talent that often doesn't work out. They've also done that thing again where the trade a superstar (Miguel Cabrera) so they don't have to pay them.
Still, they managed to win 80 or more games for three years in a row. In 2009 they posted their best non-playoffs year, winning 87 games and finishing five games out of the wild card (six in the division).
So what would you say is your favorite Marlins era of all time? I have a sneaking suspicion that the two that involved World Series titles will get all the votes.