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Marlins Year in Review


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from floridamarlins.com...enjoy!

MIAMI -- At this time last year, Marlins management marveled at how the Anaheim Angels, a team with modest means, could pull off a stunning World Series championship.

As optimistic as the front office was of being competitive in 2003, no one in the organization could imagine that the Marlins would duplicate Anaheim's success.


But for those who believe in miracles, or at least miraculous stories, the Marlins did the unthinkable. They won it all.


Built on speed, pitching and defense (plus some unexpected power), the Marlins proved that underdogs can become the top dogs in Major League Baseball.


It was a long, grinding and exhilarating ride for a franchise that beat the odds, and overcame a managerial change and a 19-29 record, to win the Wild Card and eventually the franchise's second World Series title in its 11th season.


Here's how it all unfolded:



The year started with a bang. Active early in the month, general manager Admin Beinfest made a run at acquiring right-hander Bartolo Colon from the Expos. When nothing could be worked out, Beinfest countered quickly by trading three minor leaguers to Detroit for left-handed veteran Mark Redman. But the biggest noise was made later in the month, when 10-time All-Star and Gold Glove catcher Ivan Rodriguez signed a one-year, $10 million contract, giving the team instant star power plus a bona fide defender and hitter. On the day Pudge was introduced to the media, he predicted that 2003 would be the Year of the Marlin. As it turned out, he was right.



Enthusiasm for the new season started at the first leg of the Marlins annual caravan, which started rolling at the team's Spring Training facility in Jupiter. The Marlins reported for Spring Training in the middle of the month with manager Jeff Torborg beaming with optimism. Newly acquired center fielder Juan Pierre quickly established himself as a team leader with a strong work ethic. His work habits were unmatched, as he arrived before 8 a.m. each day.



As Grapefruit League action games were heating up, projected Opening Day starter A.J. Burnett experienced tightness in his right forearm. His health became a major concern the entire month. He was placed on the DL on March 29. As the starting pitching was ailing, right-hander Braden Looper was being groomed for the closer's spot. With Burnett out and Brad Penny suspended for his involvement in a Spring Training brawl with Vladimir Guerrero and the Expos, the Marlins turned to Josh Beckett as their Opening Day starter. Before a large crowd at Pro Player Stadium, the Marlins got off to a shaky start, committing three errors early and losing 8-5 to the Phillies.



Inconsistent play resulted in the Marlins going 14-15 in April. The offense enjoyed a breakout game, however, on April 5 in a 17-1 rout of the Braves at Turner Field. And on April 12, Derrek Lee homered twice in a 12-5 win over the Braves. On April 27, history was made in a 20-inning, 7-6 loss to the Cardinals in the longest game in team history. The next day, team morale suffered another blow when Burnett learned he needed Tommy John surgery.



The Marlins took some more lumps in May, as Beckett sprained his elbow in a loss to the Giants. A few days later, rookie left-hander Dontrelle Willis made his first big league start. The 21-year-old was called up after just six Double-A starts. When the team fell to 16-22 after a loss on May 10, Torborg was dismissed, and the next day, Jack McKeon was hired to take over. The Marlins replaced pitching coach Brad Arnsberg with Wayne Rosenthal, and Doug Davis became the next bench coach. The Marlins won McKeon's first game, 7-2, over the Rockies. On May 22 the Marlins' season reached rock bottom, as the team fell 10 games under .500 following a loss at Montreal. From that point the team's fortunes were about to dramatically turn.



From the day he was hired, McKeon urged the team to relax and have fun. Willis best exemplified the youthful exuberance McKeon was seeking. The lefty turned in the most dominant start of the regular season, blanking the Mets 1-0 on a one-hit shutout. Rodriguez's homer off Tom Glavine produced the game's only run. The Marlins went 16-11 in the month, and received another boost from a youngster. On June 20, 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera was called up from Double-A to provide some punch to the lineup. It was a memorable debut: Cabrera's first hit was a walk-off two-run homer in the 11th inning to beat the Devil Rays. Willis would be named Rookie of the Month.



Continuing to make up ground, the Marlins gained momentum with a sweep at Philadelphia (July 4-7). With the Wild Card within striking distance, the Marlins acquired reliever Ugueth Urbina for three minor leaguers in a trade with Texas on July 11. Also that day, Willis was named to the All-Star Game as a replacement for the injured Kevin Brown. The rookie joined teammates Mike Lowell and Luis Castillo among the NL stars. After the All-Star Game, Lowell had a scare, thinking he may have had a relapse with cancer. Fortunately, medical tests revealed that the third baseman was cancer-free, and he homered in his first game back.



Early in the month, Cabrera was named Rookie of the Month for July. And not to be outdone, Willis had an impressive outing against the Cardinals, improving to 11-2 with a 7-3 win at St. Louis on Aug. 6. August, however, was a tough month, as the Marlins went 14-14, which was respectable considering they lost eight of nine in a road swing through Colorado, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Florida's postseason hopes nearly were dashed on Aug. 30, when Lowell suffered a broken bone in his left hand after being hit by a pitch. The next day, Jeff Conine, a hero on the 1997 World Series team, was acquired in a trade with Baltimore. Conine helped picked up the slack after Lowell was lost for four weeks.



In the final month, the Marlins completed a four-game sweep of the Expos to claim a one-game lead in the Wild Card race. Florida moved 2 1/2 games up in the Wild Card standings after they beat the Braves, 8-3, for their season-high seventh straight win.. A grueling season reached its high point when the Marlins clinched the Wild Card title on Sept. 26. McKeon had worked his magic and become the oldest manager to reach the postseason. The Marlins became the ninth team in history to reach the playoffs after being as far as 10 games below .500.



As it turned out, inexperience meant little in the postseason as the Marlins upset the Giants in the Division Series. The series ended with Rodriguez tagging out J.T. Snow at the plate. In the NLCS, against the Cubs, the Marlins faced elimination after being down 3-1. After Beckett tossed a two-hit shutout in Game 5, the series went back to Wrigley Field, where the Marlins resurrected curses and helped create new ones. In an unforgettable Game 6, Florida scored eight runs in the eighth and stunned the Cubs in a game that featured a controversial foul ball. Beckett and Rodriguez stood tall in the decisive Game 7. Rodriguez was the NLCS MVP.


Still, the best was yet to come.


Taking on the storied Yankees, the Marlins rallied from being 2-1 down in the series, and behind Alex Gonzalez's walk-off homer in the 12th inning of Game 4, they evened the series. Three nights later the champagne was flowing as Beckett tossed one of the greatest clinching games in World Series history, a complete-game, five-hit, nine-strikeout, 2-0 shutout.



Shortly after the Marlins finished dousing themselves with champagne, individual honors became pouring in. Willis was named Rookie of the Year after going 14-6 (3.30 ERA). McKeon, who was 75-49 since taking over the team, was honored as Manager of the Year. Defensive standouts Lee and Castillo were awarded Gold Gloves, and Lowell took the Silver Slugger Award for third basemen. But Lee's tenure with the club came to a close on Nov. 25, when he was traded to the Cubs for first baseman Hee Seop Choi.



Re-signing Lowell and Castillo became a priority. Both are returning after inking multiyear contracts. But Rodriguez is moving on. The Marlins and the 10-time All-Star catcher couldn't reach agreement on a deal by a Dec. 7 deadline. The refining of the roster continued, as outfielder Juan Encarnacion was traded to the Dodgers and left-handed pitcher Mark Redman was dealt to the A's. Beinfest noted that he was sad to see some established players go, but on the flip side, he was excited about the opportunities presented to new players. That formula of making daring moves paid off this year with a World Series title.


Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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the only bad news i can think of is i doubt it can ever get better than 03. of all the improbable teams of our generation that suposedly had no chance to even compete and end up as world series champions to me the Marlins of 03 are at the top...

True. Very true. No matter how we do in 2004, it won't compare to 2003.

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Marlins 03 team was the Pats 02 team.....


who Xpected it?????


i mean we as fans thought we had a chance cuz we thought we had solid players..... which we did.... I thought Hollandsworth was gonna be a sleeper......


we did it thats all that matters......


and yes that jan was sweeeeeet cuz i knew about redman with the tigers and i was happy to get him...... and than i remember i was out one night i came home aroudn 10.48 pm that night and realiezd that sports report with decues rodgers on fox was gonna come on at 10.50 so i put on and the 1st story he said is the Marlins signed pudge i went crazy.... i coulldnt believe it.......


it was a Magical year for us......

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