The team pictured on this card was the 2005 Florida Marlins. There were still plenty of faces from the team that won the World Series in 2003 on the squad.
This team was supposed to be different than the team that was dismantled after winning the 1997 World Series. And to the team’s credit, they looked like they were going to be a legit Wild Card contender.
Dontrelle Willis was still there. As was A. J. Burnett, who was injured during the 2003 post season. Josh Beckett gave them another solid starter. Todd Jones saved 40 to an ERA of 2.10, one of the best seasons of his long career.
Miguel Cabrera was maturing into one of the game’s premiere sluggers. Juan Encarnacion could mash and the team acquired Carlos Delgado to give them power at first base.
Was it enough to unseat the Braves? No. They would win the final division in their 14 straight trips to the post season streak.
But Jack McKeon’s squad got off to a fast start, winning 14 of their first 22 games. On May 25th, they were in first place by themselves. By June 3, they were tied for first.
But they slogged through a mediocre June and July where they finished a combined 1 game under .500. Mike Lowell was becoming an albatross and an expensive one at that. And the bullpen other than Jones was unreliable.
But by August 19th, they were only 1/2 game out of a Wild Card spot. They finished 19-22 however and found themselves displaced by hurricane season. They played a set of “Home Games” at US Cellular Field in Chicago down the stretch.
They finished with a winning record, 83-79. Dontrelle Willis was a 20 game winner and there was hope for the future. Manager Jack McKeon stepped down and highly coveted managerial prospect Joe Girardi took over.
Then the floor collapsed. Owner Jeffrey Loria gutted the team, slashing their payroll to a comically low floor. The Red Sox took on Mike Lowell’s contract in order to acquire Josh Beckett. Both would help Boston win it all in 2007.
Delgado and other veterans were booted out and after 2006, Miguel Cabrera was gone as well. Marlin fans never forgave the new management and the cynicism lasts to this day. They have been cheated before. They know to not trust management. They know their players are as good as gone.
Had the 2005 Marlins made the post season, would the core have been held together? Or would there have been more good will with the Beckett/Willis/Cabrera crew making multiple October trips?
We will never know. New Marlins management have a lot of wounds to repair. Many were opened after the 2005 season.