Happy birthday Mr. Marlin! (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
Miami MarlinsThis Day In Marlins History
On this day in Marlins history, June 27, 1966, Mr. Marlin himself Jeff Conine was born!
Jeff Conine was not born Mr. Marlin of course, but life just turned out that way for the man who is now a special adviser for the Marlins front office. Once upon a time, Conine was a 58th-round selection by the Kansas City Royals in the 1987 MLB Draft. That was a long way down the prospect totem pole, but he climbed quickly; before 1991, following a .320/.425/.522 season in Double-A Memphis in the Southern League, he was the 45th ranked prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. By 1992, Conine had made it to the big leagues for an extended look following a strong Triple-A season.
Then, the fates intervened.
Conine was left unprotected for the 1992 Expansion Draft, the Marlins selected him, and the rest was Marlins history.Conine went on to be the fourth-best player in that draft by Baseball-Reference WAR, and given how badly Carl Everett acquitted himself in the final seasons of his career, Conine could at least be argued as better than him. Conine also was the second-best player for the drafting team in terms of wins produced for that team; only longtime Colorado Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla did better for his team than Niner did for the Marlins. Niner's first stint with the Fish included a third-place Rookie of the Year finisher in 1993, being a two-time All-Star in 1994 and 1995, and hitting a home run in the 1994 All-Star Game that turned out the be the game winner.
At the end of the day, Conine was one of the greatest Marlins in team history. He was a career .290/.358/.455 hitter for the Marlins, and that in and of itself was a great accomplishment. But Conine will forever be associated with the team's brightest moments, its two World Series championships. He was one of two players who were members of both teams, with Luis Castillo being the other player. Conine played a significant role in 1997 but had much of his role supplanted by midseason acquisition Darren Daulton.
In 2003, he was the midseason acquisition, famously acquired at the waiver trade deadline from the Baltimore Orioles for Don Levinski and Denny Bautista. Conine manned left field while then-rookie Miguel Cabrera moved back to the infield to third base in place of the injured Mike Lowell, and Conine did well, batting .238/.337/.452 (.342 wOBA). He tallied 22 hits in 71 PA in the playoffs that year and was a crucial part of the 2003 cog that once again won a World Series.
Sure, Conine was a lifetime .290/.358/.455 hitter for the team, and sure he had something between 12 and 18 wins for the team in his two stints with the club. But what made Conine "Mr. Marlin" was the association with the two championships and his great All-Star start with the team. And for today, Fish Stripes wishes Jeff "Mr. Marlin" Conine the happiest of birthdays!