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Leiter: Marlins can win it all again


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JUPITER, Fla. -- Even in the lean years, the young Marlins players had a certain attitude. A cockiness, if you will.

Al Leiter saw it back in 1998, when the youthful Marlins dropped 108 games.


A pivotal performer on the 1997 World Series championship team, Leiter was dealt to the Mets in 1998. Even then, the lefty saw a confidence in the demeanor of those developing Marlins who endured losing seemingly every night.


"They've always had it, a cocky swagger," Leiter said. "Even in '98 and '99. But that's good. You don't want to stop that."


Now in his second tenure as a Marlin, Leiter rejoins the team he helped win a title eight years ago.


At 39, Leiter is fully aware of what championship teams look like. He's played on three title teams and appeared in four World Series.


After seven seasons with the Mets, Leiter returns to the Marlins. When he steps into the Spring Training clubhouse every day, he sees the makeup of a big-time winner.


"Having been on playoff teams, and world championship teams, you can pretty much tell the attitude of a room with the way in which guys go about their work," Leiter said. "With the way they are excited about what they're doing. There is a little bit different step, pace."


The loosely-knit Marlins fit the mold.


"Aside from the obvious, there are some very talented players," Leiter says. "There is an attitude that I think this team has always expressed -- in some ways, in a young way -- a cocky swagger, which is how they grew up together."


The additions of Leiter and slugger Carlos Delgado, along with upgrading the depth and experience in the bullpen, have the Marlins brimming with confidence.


After going 83-79 a year ago, the Marlins are eager to get back into postseason.


Leiter knows firsthand that talent alone won't guarantee a playoff spot.


"I see an excellent combination of younger and older players that will hopefully mesh in a unit that will jell together," he said. "You see that with some teams. I experienced that in New York with some teams that had big-name guys who were talented, and we didn't go anywhere."


A main reason the Marlins targeted Leiter in free agency is because of his pitching savvy, smarts and statistics. A proven veteran with a 155-120 record and a 3.65 ERA, the left-hander is being looked upon as a seasoned influence for promising pitchers Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett and Dontrelle Willis.


In the offseason, the Marlins were looking to bring in as established starter. Initially, the team was hopeful of re-signing Carl Pavano, the 18-game winner from a year ago who signed with the Yankees. Also strongly targeted was free agent Derek Lowe, who left the Red Sox for the Dodgers.


Landing Leiter gave the Marlins a veteran starter, easing the loss of Pavano.


Marlins manager Jack McKeon has long respected Leiter for his professionalism and talents. In 1999, McKeon's Reds were bumped out of Wild Card contention. Pitching the one-game tiebreaker to determine which team reached the playoffs, Leiter led the Mets to a two-hit, 5-0 shutout at Cincinnati.


"I admire him because he beat me all the time," McKeon said. "I admired him for the fact when he pitched against you, he looked like he was totally prepared to beat you. It didn't happen all the time. But it happened a majority of the time. In '99, he killed us. I would have had a chance to go to the postseason if it wasn't for him. He beat us a couple of times in crucial situations. You could see what kind of pitcher he was. The way he focused and the way he prepared to handle situations."


Now on the same side as McKeon, Leiter shares the optimism so many have of the Marlins.


Obviously, a number of teams are feeling good about their chances this spring. Leiter points out that there is more parity in the game than in years past.


If the Marlins indeed have an edge, it is in their balance of young and veteran talent, and the fact the franchise has a successful track record the past few years.


While the younger pitchers are picking Leiter's brain, he doesn't profess to have any magical answers.


"Two years ago, these guys were world champs," Leiter said. "It wasn't a fluke. They are a good team. It's just continuing for them. The good thing about what these guys experienced a couple of years ago is they have a reference point to go back to.


"What makes this game difficult is you have got 181 days and 162 games, and it's hard to maintain that consistency for a lot of reasons. But if you don't have a reference to go back to, to not remember when you were dominant, you have no reference to remember that feeling of jumping around like a little kid when you were winning. Some other teams don't really know where that point is. But these guys know. It's a matter of just keeping the big ol' ship moving in the right direction."





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its awsome we have Leiter back in the rotation. Hr has so much experience and hopefully Beckett and Burnett will learn from him. No one can deny the Marlins are a great team now, with the players we already had and the great additions. Delgado helps the lineup and Leiter takes care of pitching. These guys are good and theyll shape the Marlins into the team they were 2 yrs ago..or better.

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Marlins manager Jack McKeon has long respected Leiter for his professionalism and talents. In 1999, McKeon's Reds were bumped out of Wild Card contention. Pitching the one-game tiebreaker to determine which team reached the playoffs, Leiter led the Mets to a two-hit, 5-0 shutout at Cincinnati.



Damn I hated Leiter for that. What made things worse was I think the Reds had to fly back from Milwaukee well past midnight because of a looong rain delay the night before, arrived in Cincy in the morning & then faced Leiter that next afternoon all because idiot Selig wouldn't even delay the 1-game playoff one stinking day. He really kicked the Reds asses that day. :banghead

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