Almost a year ago, veteran pitcher and former Marlin Brad Penny quietly announced his retirement from the game of baseball after a successful 13 year career.
It might be a stretch to say that he belongs in the “Hall of Very Good,” but Penny had his time to shine, namely between 2000-2007 where he compiled the bulk of his career 26.8 fWAR, racking up almost 2,000 innings pitched. The man had nothing to be ashamed of when it was all said and done.
What went relatively unnoticed at the time of the announcement is that Penny’s retirement relegated a former teammate of his to a unique club of one:
Miguel Cabrera is the last active player from the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins.
I don’t suppose it’s much of a surprise if you really think about it. Cabrera couldn’t even legally consume an adult beverage when he debuted midway through the 2003 season, but the Marlins to their credit knew that this kid was ready to make an impact.
Look at fresh-faced Miggy rounding those bases. Seems like a lifetime ago...it practically was. We get reminders that 2003 was a long time ago all the time. Ivan Rodriguez’s recent Hall of Fame induction was one. Think back to where you were in life when the Marlins won their second World Series, it’s probably a very different place than where you’re at now. In October of 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger became the Governator. LeBron James put up 25 points in his first career game. MCI convinced a bankruptcy court that their recent reorganization had them on the upswing. Beyoncé had the number one song on the charts (ok, so not everything has changed).
A rudimentary search turned up 23 presently active ballplayers who played in 2003. These are players who will, at a minimum, start spring training in someone’s camp (25 if you include ancient loogys Randy Choate and Joe Beimel, who are presumably still looking for an invite). Interestingly, six of those players have played for the Marlins during the course of their careers. Choate and Cabrera are two of the six, and yes, I am going to make you guess the other four.
Now, here we are in 2017 and the surefire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is still doing his thing. Cabrera quickly put to bed the whispers that his injury-shortened 2015 season was the start of a real decline for him, as he mustered a 152 wRC+ on his way to a nearly five-win season in 2016. He’ll be 34 once this season gets underway, but there is no appreciable decline in his bat and no reason to believe he’s on the verge of slowing down anytime soon. There is a non-zero chance that he’ll be around for the 20th anniversary of that 2003 club, which would really be something.
We’re not quite there yet, though. This season, Fish Stripes will be celebrating the 1997 World Series Champions precisely because it is the 20th anniversary. Many of the links to that team can still be found around various organizations in baseball, as coaches or commentators, but I think it’s pretty cool to know that at least one ballplayer is still mashing baseballs who can rightfully say that he was an integral part in making the Marlins a two-time champion.