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NEW YORK -- Even before the Marlins attempted to become the first visiting team since the '81 Dodgers to drink champagne at Yankee Stadium, and before they took on the ghosts that Derek Jeter hears, Game 6 loomed as a fascinating, if flawed, contrast between teams coming from distinctively different cultures. Five thoughts:

 

1. If owner Jeffrey Loria gets a stadium deal in place before Christmas, as he privately thinks he can, the Marlins will have the wherewithal to keep the heart of this team intact. And, if all the postseason scrambling doesn't result in a long line at Dr. James Andrews' office, the Marlins' heart, their young pitching, can keep them in contention for years to come. Josh Beckett can be special. While he has disturbed many with his lack of respect during this postseason and doesn't seem to understand that winning more than nine games is a requisite requirement for greatness, he does have great stuff, apparent tough makeup and a chance to be a No. 1. Brad Penny, who really wants to be good, has learned a lot and showed a ton in the postseason. Carl Pavano, overcoming years of injuries and setbacks, has learned to locate his fastball underneath left-handed hitters' hands and use the rest of the plate. A.J. Burnett, who may be the best of them all, thinks he can be back from injury early next season.

 

The problem is signing them all. They project to nearly $13 million next year. Then, Pavano is a free agent at the end of the season, as are Burnett and Penny at the end of 2005. The Phish can find solutions to a lot of their payroll issues: Let Luis Castillo and Ugueth Urbina walk, trade Derrek Lee, trade Juan Encarnacion, try to sign Pudge Rodriguez, try to sign Mike Lowell long-term. But if this is going to be a viable franchise long-term, the Marlins must keep their young pitchers. In contrast, the Yankees already have $107.5 million committed for 2005, including $42.75 million to four pitchers: Mike Mussina, Jose Contreras, Steve Karsay and Jeff Weaver.

 

Incidentally, if then-owner Wayne Huizenga hadn't dumped payroll in 1998, the Marlins wouldn't have Beckett; he was going to go in the top three of the '99 draft, and Florida had to finish last to get him.

 

The payroll look:

 

SIGNED

Conine, OF $4.686M

Pierre, OF $2.4M

 

FREE AGENTS

Rodriguez, C $9.6M

Urbina, P $4M

Castillo, 2b $4.85M

 

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

Lee: 5 years of service; $4.25M in 2003; $7.25M projected for 2004

Lowell: 5; $3.7M; $7.5M

Encarnacion: 5; $3.45M; $6.5M

Pavano: 5; $1.5M; $3.5M

Burnett: 4; $2.5M; $3.5M

Looper: 5; $1.5M; $2.5M

Gonzalez: 5; $1.7M; $3.5M

Penny: 4; $1.875M; $3.5M

Redman: 3; $2.15M; $3.75M

 

Beckett isn't arbitration eligible, but he made $1.725M and likely won't be cut.

 

2. Luis Castillo's free agent value has taken a dive this postseason. The Mets, Yanks and Red Sox had interest, but now have serious questions about his ability to play in one of those two markets.

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NEW YORK -- Even before the Marlins attempted to become the first visiting team since the '81 Dodgers to drink champagne at Yankee Stadium, and before they took on the ghosts that Derek Jeter hears, Game 6 loomed as a fascinating, if flawed, contrast between teams coming from distinctively different cultures. Five thoughts:

 

1. If owner Jeffrey Loria gets a stadium deal in place before Christmas, as he privately thinks he can, the Marlins will have the wherewithal to keep the heart of this team intact. And, if all the postseason scrambling doesn't result in a long line at Dr. James Andrews' office, the Marlins' heart, their young pitching, can keep them in contention for years to come. Josh Beckett can be special. While he has disturbed many with his lack of respect during this postseason and doesn't seem to understand that winning more than nine games is a requisite requirement for greatness, he does have great stuff, apparent tough makeup and a chance to be a No. 1. Brad Penny, who really wants to be good, has learned a lot and showed a ton in the postseason. Carl Pavano, overcoming years of injuries and setbacks, has learned to locate his fastball underneath left-handed hitters' hands and use the rest of the plate. A.J. Burnett, who may be the best of them all, thinks he can be back from injury early next season.

 

The problem is signing them all. They project to nearly $13 million next year. Then, Pavano is a free agent at the end of the season, as are Burnett and Penny at the end of 2005. The Phish can find solutions to a lot of their payroll issues: Let Luis Castillo and Ugueth Urbina walk, trade Derrek Lee, trade Juan Encarnacion, try to sign Pudge Rodriguez, try to sign Mike Lowell long-term. But if this is going to be a viable franchise long-term, the Marlins must keep their young pitchers. In contrast, the Yankees already have $107.5 million committed for 2005, including $42.75 million to four pitchers: Mike Mussina, Jose Contreras, Steve Karsay and Jeff Weaver.

 

Incidentally, if then-owner Wayne Huizenga hadn't dumped payroll in 1998, the Marlins wouldn't have Beckett; he was going to go in the top three of the '99 draft, and Florida had to finish last to get him.

 

The payroll look:

 

SIGNED

Conine, OF $4.686M

Pierre, OF $2.4M

 

FREE AGENTS

Rodriguez, C $9.6M

Urbina, P $4M

Castillo, 2b $4.85M

 

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

Lee: 5 years of service; $4.25M in 2003; $7.25M projected for 2004

Lowell: 5; $3.7M; $7.5M

Encarnacion: 5; $3.45M; $6.5M

Pavano: 5; $1.5M; $3.5M

Burnett: 4; $2.5M; $3.5M

Looper: 5; $1.5M; $2.5M

Gonzalez: 5; $1.7M; $3.5M

Penny: 4; $1.875M; $3.5M

Redman: 3; $2.15M; $3.75M

 

Beckett isn't arbitration eligible, but he made $1.725M and likely won't be cut.

 

2. Luis Castillo's free agent value has taken a dive this postseason. The Mets, Yanks and Red Sox had interest, but now have serious questions about his ability to play in one of those two markets.

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