It's been a week since we last visited the Fish Stripes All-Time Florida Marlins Team. Last week, we discussed the issue of corner outfielders, and what an issue it was. There was a logjam of four very legitimate contenders for the crown, but only two can make the starting lineup. Part of the voting will involve the Fish Stripes readership, and this week their voices have been heard. Their first vote for top Florida Marlins outfielder has been cast.
It seems the first choice for top outfielder by the fans is Gary Sheffield! Sheffield was one of the four names, and his top-notch 1996 season and contributions to the 1997 championship team were enough to put him over in the fan's eyes. Sheffield has accumulated more PA with the Marlins than any other team, and if he ever gets a shot at entering the Hall of Fame, you have to suspect that he will at least consider putting on the Marlins hat and becoming the team's first representative.
But now the question becomes: who else will join the readers ballot?Two Great Candidates Remain
The Marlins have had the pleasure of hosting two more great candidates for the second position. Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Conine both received a significant number of votes, with Cabrera edging Conine in this ballot. For that reason, we are running a run-off vote. Here are their profiles one more time:
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.
Player PA AVG OBP SLG fWAR rWAR Conine 3914 .290 .358 .455 18.0 14.9
They do not call Conine "Mr. Marlin" for nothing. The man most likely to receive the first jersey retiring in the future (and I have no idea whether or not anyone has used #18 or #19 since Conine, but it would not surprise me if there have not been any) has the biggest edge in terms of longevity with the Marlins. In two stints with the Fish, Niner did nothing but impress, batting a solid .290/.358/.455 (.354 wOBA) for his Marlins career. When he first came up with the Fish after a few cups of coffee with the Kansas City Royals, he was among the team's best players and a regular fixture in left field from the beginning of 1993 until the World Series season of 1997. When the Marlins were again making the run for the playoffs in 2003, the Fish acquired Conine late in the season and his play, while merely solid, solidified an empty spot in the lineup and again became the stuff of Marlins legends.
Conine only spent a third of his career playing first base for the Marlins, but because of the relative inconsistency of Marlins first basemen, he actually made the second most starts at first base in Marlins history. His "Mr. Marlin" reputation and longevity with the Fish make him something of a big figure among fans, and certainly the two rings from different championship teams don't hurt. However, it is easy to think Niner was overrated by a small franchise and its limite history, but he was a legitimately good player in his time. His first run with the Fish was among the best performances from outfielders or first basemen in Marlins history.
The decision is going to be a difficult one. Both players are quite deserving in their own ways. Jeff Conine contributed to two World Series victories, while Cabrera only took part in one. However, Cabrera's role in that World Series was an amazing performance, especially given his age. Conine has longevity on his side, but Cabrera had a peak offensive career with the Fish. You Fish Stripers will have to decide.
The other three candidates will also be present in the run-off, but it seems as if no one is interested in them. Cliff Floyd is the player I find particularly puzzling, because Floyd's accomplishments with the Fish were also very significant in terms of performance. Like Sheffield, he too spent seasons when he was hurt and unable to provide maximum production. Also like Sheffield, he had one season that was among the best in Marlins history. Unfortunately, the knock on him was timing, as he was a bench warmer for the 1997 team and was traded a season before the magical 2003 year.
Mike Stanton will be in the run-off, but it seems like readers are more interested in him as a future Miami Marlin rather than a true Florida Marlin. Nevertheless, he too will be present along with old-timer Kevin Millar in the run-off vote.
So cast your vote now! Who do you guys believe should be the second corner outfielder for the Fish Stripes All-Time Florida Marlins team?