As we’re witnessing the beginning of Spring Training, we’re also continuing the All-Time Marlins Countdown until Opening Day Eve.
Players are ranked in ascending bWAR divided by PA/BF accumulated while with the franchise. Every player in the final 128 have at least 800.
Quick sidebar — I hesitated with the ranking system for two reasons. One was Ivan Rodriguez (who would have been number two on our list if I had lowered the PA threshold), and the other was Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine. There are those who will think that the immortal Mr. Marlin should rank higher, but the numbers don’t lie. For those who are really into the nuts and bolts of the “system,” Conine placed just a sliver above teammate Bret Barberie, his partner in today’s countdown, by .00350 to .00349 bWAR per PA.
37. Bret Barberie
As far as utility infielders go, there have been few as efficient as Bret Barberie. A five-foot-11 switch-hitter from Long Beach, California, Barberie was drafted a total of four times, but didn’t sign until the Montreal Expos took him in round seven of the 1988 draft.
Barberie made his major league debut with the Expos in 1991, and did enough to finish fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting, with a .353/.435/.515 slashline in 57 games. His sophomore effort paled next to that performance, with a .232/.354/.281 line in 111 contests. The blush, as they say, was off the rose, and Montreal left him unprotected for the expansion draft.
Although Barberie had plenty of playing time at third base and at shortstop, for the Marlins he played exclusively at second base. He was the starter at the position on Florida’s first ever Opening Day in 1993, and was the first Marlins player to collect a base hit, with a first-inning single in the 6-3 Florida win over Orel Hershiser and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Through the season, Barberie collected multiple hits in 35 of his 96 starts, slashing a .277/.344/.371 line. Although the results were near identical in 1994, with multi-hit games in 35 of 98 starts, his slashline improved to .301/.356/.406. He totaled 10 homers and 64 RBI in his two seasons for Florida. On June 19 of that season, he hit the first-ever Marlins inside-the-park home run.
Defensively, Barberie graded out as an above-average second baseman, with a .979 fielding percentage. In 1705 1⁄3 innings, he was worth six runs better than average. Following the 1994 season, the Marlins traded him to the Baltimore Orioles for Jay Powell. He played 90 games for them, then 15 for the Chicago Cubs in 1996. After a season in independent ball, the Texas Rangers took a flyer on him in 1998, but he failed to rise above the Triple-A level.
36. Jeff Conine
Jeff Conine is a 17-season major league veteran who started and ended his big league career with teams other than the Marlins. He played eight of those seasons for Florida, and thus earned the moniker, “Mr. Marlin.”
Conine, a right-handed left fielder and first baseman, is a six-foot-one native of Tacoma, Washington. In 1987, the Kansas City Royals burned a 58th round pick on him, and he signed. He got to the majors with them in 1990, and appeared in 37 games with the parent club over two seasons. Like Barberie, Conine was taken in the expansion draft.
Although Conine didn’t collect the first ever Marlins base hit, he did go four-for-four on that Opening Day victory. He followed that by getting multiple hits in his next three games as well, finishing his first week with a .500 average (11-for-22). Conine played in all 162 contests for Florida, notching multiple hits 54 times and posting a .292/.351/.403 slashline with a dozen homers and 79 RBI.
Conine’s first stretch with the Fish lasted five seasons, during which he slashed a .291/.360/.467 line with 98 homers and 422 RBI. After playing a season for the Royals and five with the Orioles, Conine returned for an encore performance with Florida in 2003 as a trade-deadline acquisition. He played two-and-a-half more years with them, and slashed .290/.353/.421 with another 22 homers and 131 more RBI.
In total, Conine ranks second on Florida’s all-time leaderboard with 1,014 games played, eighth with 120 jacks, third with 553 RBI, and sixth with 180 doubles. He made the All Star team for the club in 1994 and in 1995, and added a .304/.365/.382 slashline in Florida’s first 32 postseason appearances, spanning two World Series Title runs.
Conine rejoined the Orioles in 2006, and later also played for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cincinnati Reds, and the New York Mets. Although he didn’t play in 2008, he did sign a one-day contract to retire as a Marlin. He remains the all-time leader in franchise history with six Grand Slams, and is the only one to contribute significantly to both of Florida’s championships. (Luis Castillo was on the 1997 team in the regular season, but not after July).