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Jack talks about the Patriots


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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Like millions of other Americans, Marlins manager Jack McKeon was glued to the Super Bowl on television.


With admiration, McKeon watched the New England Patriots defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, to successfully defend their NFL championship.


As a manager of a professional sports team, McKeon knows how difficult it is to repeat. The Marlins found themselves trying to do so in 2004.


After winning the 2003 World Series, the Marlins of last season had high hopes of achieving what the Patriots did.


It didn't happen. The Marlins finished out of playoff contention, winding up third in the National League East with an 83-79 record.


So it remains that no National League team has won back-to-back World Series titles since Cincinnati's Big Red Machine clubs of 1975-76.


"Football is a little bit different than our situation in baseball," McKeon said during a Caravan autograph stop this week. "In baseball, you get a little more of those premium free agents out there. In football, some of those free agents don't cost you as much [as baseball]. On the other hand, it's always a difficult job trying to get those guys to repeat."


The Marlins are in the midst of a week-long caravan tour through South Florida. Each day, representatives of the team make stops at various locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The caravan concludes on Friday, setting the stage for the annual FanFest from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET on Saturday at Dolphins Stadium.


Saturday marks the first day individual Marlins game tickets go on sale. Tickets can be purchased at floridamarlins.com and MLB.com.


Speaking about what it takes to win, McKeon gives high praises to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has won three Super Bowl titles in four seasons.


But the 74-year-old Marlins manager also points out players ultimately dictate who wins and loses.


"You've got to give him credit because they were very prepared," McKeon said of Belichick. "I think some of the newcomers he acquired during the offseason certainly benefited him, especially Corey Dillon.


"When you look at the Patriots, they went out and made some big moves. They picked up Corey Dillon, didn't they? That makes a big difference when you pick up additional players. A lot of times, it's the players themselves. It's up to the players."


McKeon is a big believer in tweaking rosters from year to year. He's been around long enough to know that teams that seek to repeat with exactly the same lineups often fall short of expectations.


For the Patriots, bringing in a powerful running back like Dillon re-energized the offense. The Marlins are hopeful the signing of slugger Carlos Delgado provides the necessary punch to get them back to the postseason.


"You can't do it," McKeon says of winning again without making some changes. "What you're hoping is that everybody has great years. In order to win a World Series or a pennant, the club that has the most guys having their best years is going to win it."


Aside from performances, teams seeking successive titles deal with a number of distractions. Greater demands for their time are requested for everything from autograph sessions to speaking engagements to guest appearances.


As the Marlins discovered after winning the 2003 title, the hysteria lasted way into Spring Training and the early part of the season.


McKeon knows how difficult it is to keep everything focused when the spotlight of winning is upon you.


"You've got to guard against the optimism that develops during the offseason," McKeon said. "People say, 'It will be easy [to repeat] because you did it before.' To win it, those guys have to have the same type of years, and it doesn't always happen."



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