We're down to just four favorite Fish - one from each bracket. This is where it will either get really confusing or really fun. I'll try to set it up as well as I can so that it's fun. Today we'll choose one favorite from the non-champions edition and another from the championship clubs.
If you're just joining us, check out the entry from Day One, which gives something of an overview for the whole process.
Over the weekend we established "bracket" champions for each of our four categories. The champions are:
Teal (93-96) Years: Jeff Conine
1997 World Champions: Charles Johnson
Ugly (98-02) Years: Luis Castillo
2003 World Champions: Dontrelle Willis
Non-Champions Bracket (Teal Years vs. Ugly Years)
Early Years Champion Jeff Conine - Jeffrey Guy Conine earned the nickname of Mr. Marlin during the club's formative years, and that nickname sticks to this day. Sure, Conine departed South Florida for a few years. And yes, he's not statistically the best Marlin ever. But if you look back at nearly any (positive) memorable event in Marlins' history, Conine is right in the middle of it. He was particularly in the spotlight for the Fish in the early years. The former 58th-round draft pick became a two-time All-Star for the Fish in 1994 and 1995 (winning the All-Star Game MVP award in 1995. And at a time when the team was truly an expansion club, Niner gave Marlins' fans hope.
Ugly Years Champion Luis Castillo - Much like Conine in the early years, Castillo gave Marlins' fans hope during the team's post-(first) championship dark years. He provided speed and a great glove. While he was often maligned nationally for driving in very few runs (particuarly in 2000), that was more a factor of the lineup he was in than anything. What's often overlooked about Castillo is his relatively selective eye at the plate; he has maintained a .292 batting average and .368 onbase percentage for his career.
Championship Bracket (1997 Champs vs. 2003 Champs)
1997 Champs Champion Charles Johnson - As a local product (raised in Ft. Pierce and having attended college at the University of Miami), hopes were high for CJ. Since he was drafted before the team ever played its first major league game, many felt that he would soon become the franchise's marquee player. He was very good - particuarly defensively - for a stretch, but may have never quite lived up to the hype from his amateur career. In 1997, CJ had a slightly above average season at the plate (for him), but was more than stellar defensively. That he won the third of his four consecutive Gold Gloves in 1997 does not quite tell the tale of Johnson's defensive wizardry.
2003 Champs Champion Dontrelle Willis - A 14-6 record with a 3.30 ERA as a 21-year old is pretty compelling, but it fails to tell the story. You can make a good argument that Dontrelle Willis saved (or at least reinvigorated) the franchise in 2003. He provided a spark to the team and a buzz in the community. Walkup crowds for Willis's starts were huge. A special ticket package was created solely around Dontrelle to satisfy the demand. More than all of that, Dontrelle was fun to watch. He brought joy to the game and played with a youthful enthusiasm that is almost always left on the Little League field. Dontrelle has yet to lose that ability to find fun and excitement in just about anything, and many fans love him for it.
Who is your favorite Marlin?
Non-Champions Bracket: Jeff Conine vs. Luis Castillo
Championship Bracket: Dontrelle Willis vs. Charles Johnson
Vote today and we'll have the championship round, pitting a member of one of the Marlins championship teams against a non-championship era team.
Feel free to use this thread to discuss who you voted for, who you think others should vote for, etc. Or, if you'd prefer, you can create a separate diary too. You can also feel free to include any objections/suggestions/criticsm in the comments.