As we continue our countdown of All-Time Marlins with our 95th chapter, we take a look at two former World Champions from the past and one of our Miami Marlins contemporaries.
Let’s get started with...
138. Rick Helling
Rick Helling’s first stint with the Florida Marlins began in September of the 1996 season. He was named as the PTBNL (player to be named later) in a trade agreed upon August 8 that sent the Florida pitcher Josh Burkett to add some firepower to the Texas Rangers playoff push in return for prospect Ryan Dempster—more on him later in this series—and a PTBNL.
Rick Helling was originally drafted by the New York Mets in the 50th round of the 1990 MLB draft out of Kishwaukee College. He declined their offer and elected to attend Stanford University and his performance there inspired the Texas Rangers to pick him in the 1st round (22nd overall) in the 1992 draft. He would go on to make his MLB debut in April 1994 after striking out 225 batters in 208 minor league innings.
This 1995 scouting report deemed Rick a ML relief pitcher and potential spot started with a solid enough slurvy breaking ball to make batters swing and miss. While possessing an average enough fastball and strong mental skills that could make him reach that potential.
Down the stretch in 1996, Rick was deployed primarily as a starting pitcher and performed to the tune of a 1.95 ERA in 27 2⁄3 innings across 5 games (4 starts). A promising start with his new club.
As a Marlin during the 1997 World Series championship season, Rick pitched 31 games for Florida including 8 starts and did not maintain his stellar performance from his 1996 cameo. This made him expendable as the Marlins had solidified their rotation with Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Alex Fernandez and rookies Tony Saunders and Livan Hernandez as they polished their roster for a playoff push of their own Rick Helling was traded back to the Texas Rangers for the 35-year-old veteran reliever Ed Vosberg.
Interestingly, Rick received one down-ballot MVP vote in 1998 as he led the American league in wins with 20. Rick would go on to make multiple playoff appearances with the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks before finding himself back in South Florida in August 2003 having been released by the Baltimore Orioles and presenting his availability to the baseball world the Marlins brought him back.
In 2003, Rick made appearances in 11 regular season games as he played well and helped Florida back to the playoffs where he would pitch against the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees on Florida’s road to a second World Series trophy and Helling’s second World Series ring.
In his career, Rick Helling would pitch 1526 1⁄3 innings across 301 games of which he is credited with 93 wins across 12 years in the bigs. His role with the Marlins as a member of both WS title teams has locked him in at #138 in our countdown.
137. Jon Berti
At #137 we have current Miami Marlin Jonathan David Berti. Known better as simply Jon Berti, he was acquired as a free agent on December 3, 2018 on a day the Marlins announced 8 other players as non-roster invitees to spring training (most of whom aren’t even in our countdown because they never contributed during the regular season).
The Blue Jays drafted and signed Berti out of Bowling Green State University in 18th round of the 2011 MLB draft. During the 2018 season, he had 15 plate appearances of big league experience with the Toronto Blue Jays where his bat hit to the nearly major league average OPS of .733. Overall, he had already amassed 4,186 plate appearances as a professional across 993 games prior to joining the Fish.
Until the Miami Marlins picked him up, Berti had not been given much of a shot at the Majors. Then came the winter of 2018-19 and a subsequent career as a Miami Marlin where he has made a name for himself as a disciplined hitter—our own Juan Páez made note of his “off-the-charts” selectivity—who can get on-base and steal his way into scoring position. Don Mattingly can reasonably position him nearly anywhere on the diamond as an experienced middle infielder, outfielder and occasional third baseman.
That’s a valuable player who is not eligible for free agency until 2026. It’s important to note the future because if we were to run this same series in 2026, we might be looking at Jon Berti as an all-time elite Marlin slotting far ahead of this #137.
Even as we examine Marlin history as it exists, Jon Berti was an indispensable member of the 2020 team that broke the playoff drought in South Florida that spanned 17 years, 2 logos, a name change, a new stadium and a new ownership and went all the way back to the days of Rick Helling.
Look at this:
As a Marlin, Jon Berti has played in 112 games, recording 101 hits and stolen 26 bases. All, while playing solid, average defense all around the field. This is not your typical “all-time great” where you think of the slugger sort of archetype—this is Jon Berti and his foundation is in his thousands of professional at-bats and ability as an athlete and his traits that are distinct to a ballplayer.
136. Moises Alou
Moises Alou is perhaps best known to the baseball world as a member of some quality baseball teams on the north side of Chicago from 2002-2004, especially his role with the 2003 Chicago Cubs who lost to the Florida Marlins in the NLCS. There’s certainly an argument to be made that this was his most iconic moment.
By that point, he had already been at the peak of baseball for quite some time. He had collected a few accolades with 4 All-Star appearances, 2 Silver Sluggers and 6 years as an MVP candidate, finishing as high as 3rd, an accomplishment that comes without a trophy, but he finished 3rd twice and was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1992. He had even won a World Series in 1997...as a Marlin.
Before all of that, Moises Alou began his career as a 1st round draft pick (2nd overall) in the MLB draft selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates who he would debut for in 1990.
As a Pirate, Alou played in 2 games and got his first hit before he was sent off to the Montreal Expos as the PTBNL to complete the Pirates acquisition of the solid veteran pitcher Zane Smith. Pittsburgh was looking to maximize their chances to win now and Montreal was looking to have special team in the near-future.
As an Expo, Moises was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1992 and was an All-Star during the strike-shortened 1994 season that unjustly put an end to the Montreal Expos best season in their history. At the time, they had other great players like Larry Walker, Cliff Floyd and future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez.
When Alou reached free agency in the winter of 1996-97, the Florida Marlins made a call and signed him to a five-year contract ahead a successful ‘97 season that would be his only outing as a Marlin.
In his first game, he hit what would prove to be the game-deciding home run against the Chicago Cubs. This Florida squad would go on to win the National League Wild Card thanks, in part, to the contributions of their new left fielder who’s statline included 115 RBIs, 157 hits and 23 home runs as well as 50 games where he stepped up the defensive spectrum and manned center field.
This National League-winning Marlins team faced the American League champion Cleveland in the World Series where Moises Alou’s 3 home runs and 9 RBI would help seal the first World Series win for the Florida Marlins.
In his lone season with the Fish, Moises Alou provided All-Star production and brought home the only championship of his illustrious career. In a different context, one can imagine what his five-year contract might have brought had he been allowed to finish it and not been traded out of town in the winter of 1997-98 when the Marlins sent away the bulk of their championship talent in an effort to cut the payroll of their unsustainably built roster.
But as fans of the Marlins we still got 1997, a glimpse of the great Moises Alou and that single year was enough to put him at #136 in our countdown.
Join us tomorrow as we continue with Chapter 96 and take a closer look at an All-Star closer!