Today’s chapter of our offseason-long countdown features four more on the road to number one.
In total, 630 players have taken the field for the Florida and Miami Marlins in a regular season game through their first 28 major league seasons. Including today, we’ve talked about 480 of them.
Players are first sorted into brackets dictated by meeting certain thresholds of plate transactions—that is, plate appearances plus batters faced.
After the preliminary sort, players are then ordered by ascending brWAR divided by BF/PA. Today’s group is near the top of the 250-to-799 bracket.
154. Matt Mantei
Matt Mantei is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Tampa, Florida. In 1991, he was a 25th round selection of the Seattle Mariners out of River Valley HS, in Three Oaks, Michigan. During his subsequent rise through the minors, he was named to the Northwest League All-Star team in 1993 and the Midwest League All-Star team in 1994. Following the 1994 season, the Marlins selected Mantei in the rule 5 draft.
Mantei made his major league debut with the Marlins in 1995, and played a total of 26 games between then and his 1996 season without spending his rookie eligibility. He struck out 40 in only 31 2⁄3 innings, but also allowed 20 earned runs for an unsavory 5.68 ERA. Although he only gave up 25 hits, he also walked 34 during the same stretch.
Mantei boasted a four pitch mix, including two fastballs. His four-finger occasionally hit 100 on the gun, which he mixed with an average slider and a sharply breaking curveball. Mantei was also known to have tried out the knuckler early in his career.
Mantei only managed to appear in nine minor league games in 1997, between the High-A Brevard County Manatees and the Double-A Charlotte Knights. In 1998, Mantei finally played his “official” rookie season.
Mantei came out of the bullpen 42 times for the Marlins that year, striking out 63 in 54 2⁄3 innings, while also displaying a much better understanding of the strike zone. This is evidenced by his rock-solid 1.12 WHIP, a 2.96 ERA, and a 2.72 FIP, along with an opposing slashline of .203/.308/.289. He got 62 percent of his pitches over the plate, and stranded 29 percent of his 31 inherited baserunners.
Mantei went 3-4 in 1998, and led the Marlins with nine saves (the team only won 54 games). On June 10, Mantei came in to relieve in the seventh inning with one out, the bases loaded, and a 3-3 tie score against the Toronto Blue Jays. He struck out Jose Canseco and Carlos Delgado to end the threat, then worked a perfect eighth to keep the Marlins in it. Florida eventually dropped 4-3 in 10 innings.
Mantei appeared in 35 games for the slightly-improved Marlins through the first half of the 1999 season, saving 10 of them. He struck out 50 in 36 1⁄3 innings, and held opponents to a 1.349 WHIP, a 2.72 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, and a .186/.325/.302 slashline. He plated 61 percent of his offerings and allowed only one (of four) inherited runners to score. On May 24, he earned his only win of the season when he struck out four over two hitless innings in a 7-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Early in July, the Marlins traded Mantei to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three players, including Brad Penny. Mantei struck out another 49 batters in only 29 frames for the D-Backs, and actually earned a few National League Most Valuable Player Award votes after the season.
Mantei played for Arizona for the next five years before spending the 2005 campaign with the Boston Red Sox. He retired with a 4.07 career ERA, 93 saves, and 396 K’s in 322 2⁄3 innings.
According to Wikiwand, Mantei and his family later appeared on Counting Cars, restoring a 1953 Chevy truck on the History Channel. In 2018, he pled no contest to domestic abuse, and avoided jail time by paying $635 in court fees.
153. Kevin Orie
West Chester, Pennsylvania native Kevin Orie is a six-foot-four third baseman. In 1993, he was a first round choice of the Chicago Cubs, with the 29th overall selection off the board out of Indiana University.
Orie started the 1994 season as the Cubs number four overall prospect, according to Baseball America. Although he missed all but six High-A games due to injury, he opened the following season as their number three.
In 1997, Orie made his major league debut with Chicago, and appeared in 114 games. He slashed .275/.350/.431 with eight round-trippers and 44 RBI, good enough to earn some National League Rookie of the Year votes (he finished 11th).
Through the first 64 games of 1998, Orie regressed to a .181/.253/.279 slashline for the Cubs. At the deadline, they sent him with Justin Speier and minor leaguer Todd Noel to Florida for Felix Heredia and minor leaguer Steve Hoff. After the change of scenery, Orie responded by slashing .263/.335/.423 through the remainder of the season, 48 games. In 414 innings at the hot corner for the Marlins, Orie posted a .939 fielding percentage and was eight total zone fielding runs below the National League’s “average” third baseman.
On September 18, Orie was batting sixth for the Marlins against the New York Mets, and hit a solo home run in the second inning. He added a single in the seventh, and a leadoff single down by two runs in the ninth. He later came around to score one of three ninth-inning runs for Florida, then Mantei came in and shut the door. Serendipity.
In 1999, Orie slashed .254/.322/.396 in 77 games for the Marlins with six homers and 29 RBI. He flipped the story on the defensive side of things, with a .961 fielding percentage through 528 2⁄3 innings. He was nine total zone fielding runs above the NL average.
In the seven seasons following his time with the Marlins, Orie appeared in the minor league systems of the Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago Cubs, the Houston Astros, the Cleveland Indians, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Washington Nationals. In 2002, he appeared in 13 games at the major league level for the Cubs, in what would be his last major league exposure.
152. Dan Haren
Dan Haren is a six-foot-five starting pitcher from Monterey Park, California. In 2001, he was a second round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Pepperdine.
Haren was a man-out-of-time as a starting pitcher. He played for a total of eight teams from 2003 through 2015, and from July 27, 2004 through his final start 11 years later only missed two turns in the rotation.
Haren was a three-time All Star prior to joining the Marlins, making the American League squad in 2007 for the Oakland Athletics and in 2008 and 2009 for the National League team for the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2009, he also led the majors with a 1.00 WHIP, and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award vote. He was also a three-time league leader in K/BB, with a career-best 5.87 in 2009.
After the 2014 season, Haren was packaged with Dee Strange-Gordon and Miguel Rojas for Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher, Andrew Heaney, and Kiké Hernández.
Haren made 21 rotational turns for the Marlins, and went 7-7 with a 3.42 ERA. He struck out 88 in 129 innings, but only walked 25. Haren also put up a 1.093 WHIP and held the opposition to a .241/.286/.434 slashline, while putting 65 percent of his pitches over the plate.
On May 23, Haren earned no decision, striking out six in six shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles (Miami eventually won, 1-0). In his “best” start for the Marlins, on June 9, he again earned no decision. He struck out seven in as many innings, and allowed two runs on three hits and zero walks in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Haren never walked more than three batters in a Marlins start, and walked zero in nine of those starts. At the trade deadline, the Marlins swapped him to the Cubs for Elliot Soto and minor leaguer Ivan Pineyro.
Granted free agency following the season, Haren retired while still on top of his game and still relatively young (35-years-old). He was 153-131 with a career 3.75 ERA and more than four strikeouts per walk. He did that last part despite never really being known as a strikeout pitcher. He faced just over 10,000 batters through his career, and struck out 2013 of them.
151. Craig Counsell
Before he was the manager for the Milwaukee Brewers, (five years and counting), Craig Counsell was a pretty good baseball player for 16 major league seasons.
Counsell was a six-foot infielder from South Bend, Indiana. In 1992, he was an 11th round draft pick for the Colorado Rockies out of the University of Notre Dame. He made his major league debut with the Rockies in 1995, going 0-for-1 with a walk in three appearances.
After not making another appearance in the bigs for the Rockies in 1996 or in 1997, the Rockies traded Counsell to the Marlins near the trade deadline for Mark Hutton. Counsell did not make a minor league appearance for the Marlins, appearing in 195 regular season games over the next three seasons for Florida.
Counsell slashed .253/.346/.356 with five jacks and 58 RBI with Florida. Defensively for the Marlins, he played exclusively at second base, playing 1407 1⁄3 innings and making nine errors for a .990 overall fielding percentage.
During the Marlins 1997 World Series run, Counsell appeared in 15 of Florida’s 16 postseason games. He went 12-for-41 with two doubles and five RBI in total. In game seven of the deciding World Series game against the Cleveland Indians, Counsell scored the winning run on Edgar Renteria’s 11th inning walk-off single.
After Counsell’s time with the Marlins, he went on to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Brewers.