The Fish Stripes All-Time Florida Marlins Team voting rolls on this week, with the latest edition discussing perhaps the most controversial voting to date: the topic of corner outfielders. Last season, the Marlins started three players in their starting outfield who have earned time in a corner position, with Chris Coghlan having played the most outfield games with 278 total by the end of 2011. The Marlins have seven players with corner outfield experience that earned more starts than Coghlan's 278 games. And of those names, at least four are worthy contenders to the two spots on the Fish Stripes All-Time Florida Marlins Team. So this vote will perhaps be the most difficult that Fish Stripers will have to face.
Here are the nominees for the corner outfield voting, from which Fish Stripers can select two players.
Here's what I mentioned last time about Miguel Cabrera.
Player PA AVG OBP SLG fWAR rWAR Cabrera 3072 .313 .388 .542 22.1 18.7
Like Jeff Conine before him, Miguel Cabrera is another player that qualifies for two different positions on the Marlins. Unlike Conine, there is a major difference in the two player's playing skills. Until 2009, Cabrera held the exalted position of "Best Marlin Ever" by having the most Wins Above Replacement of any player on the team. His accomplishments as a Marlin are undeniable. His career .313/.388/.542 line puts him second only to Gary Sheffield among Marlins with at least 1000 PA in OPS+. His five-year stay with the Fish was the most prolific offensive stretch in the team's history, as he brought in around 170 runs above average during his time as a Marlin. He owns 138 home runs as a Marlin, which stands as third all-time on the team behind only Dan Uggla and Mike Lowell.
The only thing that stood in Cabrera's way for most of his career was defense. He was a very bad defender in the outfield, and he clearly got worse and worse at third base. It is not surprising that the Detroit Tigers moved him from third base to his more rightful position of first base after only 14 games. The Marlins never had a chance to do this even though the team only once had a legitimate, good first baseman during that time period. Cabrera cost 29 to 42 runs on defense during that time period compared to the average player at his position.
Of course, that only takes away some luster from the otherwise excellent Marlins career Cabrera put together. Topping off the statistical accomplishments are Cabrera's accomplishments during the 2003 playoffs. He got a chance to bat cleanup for the Marlins during the National League Championship and World Series run, went toe to toe with Roger Clemens and other top New York Yankees starters, and succeeded more than anyone could have imagined.
In short, Cabrera was very, very good.
Here's what I previously had to say about Jeff Conine
Player PA AVG OBP SLG fWAR rWAR Conine 3914 .290 .358 .455 18.0 14.9
In short, Conine was very, very good too.
It is easy to forget Cliff Floyd's contributions to the Florida Marlins of the past. The reason why it is so easy to forget is because Floyd dominated as a Marlin during the worst era of the team's history, the post-World Series fire sale era. Floyd was one of the young players left on the Marlins in the wake of the team's dismantling, and he was far and away the best remaining remnant of the 1997 team. While young players like Luis Castillo and Derrek Lee struggled to start, Floyd carried the Marlins' offensively with an emerging, premier bat. During his five-plus seasons with the Fish, he compiled an impressive .294/.374/.523 slash line, good for a .381 wOBA. Only one other Marlin could ever compete offensively with Floyd during that era, and that was fellow corner outfielder Kevin Millar.
Defensively, Floyd was an acceptable corner outfielder with plenty of speed, as partly evidenced by his solid stolen base numbers as well. All-in-all, Floyd produced like few other hitters in Marlins history. He also put in one of the singular best seasons in Marlins history, a season I ranked as fourth-best in the previous decade. Floyd's 2001 season was a campaign deserving of recognition, but because the Marlins did not compete in 2001, his 6.6 fWAR campaign gave him just an All-Star berth (the only one of his career, might I add) and a 22nd-place showing in the MVP voting.
Floyd's numbers compare favorably to a good majority of Marlins hitters. He stands neck and neck with Conine in the FanGraphs WAR leaderboards, and yet no one would claim that Floyd was "better" than Conine in terms of Marlins lore. Part of the reason is that Conine has since been lionized as "Mr. Marlin," but part of it is also that Floyd dominated in a time period that Fish fans did not care much about. When excitement finally returned to south Florida, Floyd was a year removed from a Marlins jersey and donning a New York Mets jersey no less. His string of great seasons has a simple problem of bad timing; had he come up just a year after his initial debut, perhaps he would have been as big a part of the 2003 World Series team that Derrek Lee was. We saw that Lee was well-revered and shared a similar time frame as Floyd, but because Lee was a part of the 2003 World Series team, he gets a lot of praise that Floyd does not.
Sheffield was the first Marlins to truly be a "star player." He was the first Marlin to ever have a monster season as a position player, as his 1996 campaign remains among the best individual Marlins seasons in team history. That year, Sheffield continued the pace he set for himself in an injury-shortened 1995 by batting .314/.465/.624 (.459 wOBA) with a Marlins single-season record 41 home runs. That season was worth 6.5 FanGraphs WAR and was only undone by his poor defense (15 runs worse than average in the outfield). To this date, Sheffield's career batting line as a Marlin stands as the best OPS+ of any player with at least 1000 PA with the team, besting Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Cliff Floyd, and all the rest of the team's top hitters. Of course, Sheffield's defense was never much to talk about, but since his memorable seasons were such monstrous offensive entities, it was hard to complain about his limited outfield mobility. Sheffield finished parts of six seasons with the Fish, departing in that farcical Los Angeles Dodgers trade that sent Mike Piazza to the Marlins for ten days.
If there was one problem in Gary Sheffield's Marlins career, it was injuries. In his four "full seasons" with the Fish (his other two partial seasons came with midseason trades), he only twice topped 500 PA. The remaining seasons were spent being brilliant but injured, and that took away from what Sheffield could have done for the Marlins. In 1994 and 1995, Sheffield was on pace 3.6 and 5.5 fWAR respectively had he gotten to 600 PA, but health issues prevented him from racking up numbers at the solid rate he had been threatening until 1996. Imagine how much more revered he would have been if he and his legendary bat speed and stance had been able to stay on the field more often.
Millar was a poor man's version of Cliff Floyd. His time as a Marlin also coincided with the era of disinterest in Marlins baseball, so not many fans noticed that he hit a cool .296/.367/.504 (.374 wOBA) for the team during his stint between 1999 and 2002. The Marlins also dealt Millar after the 2002 season, thus depriving him of a shot at a World Series the following season. Much like Floyd, because he fell not under the 2003 core nor was he affiliated with the 1997 World Series team (Floyd was a bench player in that season), he became one of the "lost Marlins" who disappeared during that era between World Series victories.
I've mentioned more than enough about Mike Stanton in the past here, so I will not bore you with more awesome details. But consider this: in less than 1000 PA, Stanton has accomplished more with a Marlins jersey than Josh Willingham, Mark Kotsay, and Jeremy Hermida while each accrued over 1650 PA as Marlins. It's unlikely that Stanton qualifies as a man who will win the vote this season, but he certainly has the opportunity to become an all-time Marlins great by the end of his career here.
So Fish Stripers, you are faced with the toughest decision in the voting so far. Which two outfielders will you select for the corner outfield of the Fish Stripes All-Time Florida Marlins Team?
Who were the two best corner outfielders in Marlins history?
Miguel Cabrera (20 votes)
Jeff Conine (14 votes)
Cliff Floyd (7 votes)
Kevin Millar (1 vote)
Gary Sheffield (24 votes)
Mike Stanton (7 votes)
73 total votes