The Miami Marlins, then known as the Florida Marlins, had their inaugural season as a franchise in 1993 as part of a two-team MLB expansion effort that also included the Colorado Rockies. Over the past 27 years, the Marlins have lost over 300 more games than they have won, and have produced only seven winning seasons. They also have had multiple stretches in which they have been considered one of the worst franchises in baseball, even to the point of frustrating fans and others around baseball with how they have conducted business.
Yet, I feel one could argue the majority of teams in baseball would trade their own franchise history for the Marlins track record since 1993. The reason beings is because Miami is one of only five teams since 1993 to have won multiple World Series titles, along with the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, and Cardinals.
Simply put, the Marlins have had more success than 25 other teams in the sport when it comes to the main reason MLB teams play this game. Though it certainly is fair to debate the true validity of that statement, it is also hard to deny the fact that when the Marlins have found a successful formula, they have been hard to beat. In fact, they have not been defeated in a playoff series in franchise history.
Strong talent development, smart additions through trades and free agency, and a little bit of luck (see one of the most notorious events in baseball history above) were key factors that contributed to the Marlins’ World Series wins in 1997 and 2003. Furthermore, the Marlins’ victories in the Fall Classic were not flukes either, as they defeated the highly talented mid-90’s Indians and early-2000’s Yankees for their titles.
Timely hitting certainly contributed to the Marlins success during both title runs. However, perhaps the most memorable parts their championships was the dominance of young right-handers Livan Hernandez and Josh Beckett. At the age of 22 in 1997, Hernandez won the MVP in both the NLCS and World Series as he put together one dominant start after another in helping the Marlins beat the Braves and Indians. At the age of 23 in 2003, Josh Beckett played a major role in each round of the playoffs, showing his dominant ceiling in route to winning World Series MVP.
Hernandez’s performance in the 1997 NLCS still feels like it was yesterday for many Braves fans. A repeat of the 1995 World Series was a very realistic possibility for the Braves and Indians in 1997. However, the Marlins had other ideas when they faced the Braves. The teams seemed evenly matched through the first four games, with the Marlins winning the first and third games, and Atlanta winning the second and fourth games.
However, Hernandez out dueling the legendary Greg Maddux to win Game 5 (thanks to a very kind strike zone from the late Eric Gregg), and four early runs off Tom Glavine in Game 6 simply proved to be to big of an obstacle for the Braves to overcome. For the second straight year, the Braves unexpectedly squandered a very good chance to win multiple World Series titles during their amazing run of success in the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Though the Marlins have certainly had success when they made the playoffs, they have not reached the postseason since 2003. As a result, their current overall roster does not feature a lot of experience when it comes to the postseason. However, a few notable names that the Marlins hope can be significant contributors this week have been on this stage before. Starling Marte has produced a .536 OPS in 39 career postseason at-bats, while former Braves Matt Joyce has a .471 OPS in 51 career postseason at-bats. Jesus Aguilar may be the bat that the Braves have to be the most wary of, as he has produced a .797 OPS over 50 career postseason at-bats, and proved to be a significant reason Miami won Game 1 of the NLWC series.
The same story remains true in regards to the Marlins’ pitching staff. Though they are immensely talented, this is the first postseason for the Marlins primary starters. While Miami has several veterans in the bullpen, only Yimi Garcia and Brandon Kintzler have previous playoff experience. Both Garcia and Kintzler had success in their limited appearances.
Once again, the Braves are going to have the experience edge when it comes to facing the Marlins this week. They also have the overall edge in talent. However, the Marlins are here for a reason, and with highly talented starters and a plethora of position players ready to deliver on the biggest stage of their careers to this point, they will be no easy obstacle to overcome. If the Braves pitching can continue its excellent support of an offense that has a good chance to be more consistent, Atlanta will have a good chance to advance to the NLCS.