Well Marlins fans, last week we took a trip down memory lane, all the way back to the halcyon days of the 2003 Florida Marlins, a second world championship, and a Walkman-wearing embodiment of what it means to be Cursed.
But to have a second world championship, you need a first. Which brings us to the 1997 Marlins squad, and why you should be cheering for the title-starved franchise they triumphed over- the Cleveland Indians.
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The 1997 Marlins are an interesting case, criticized both for winning, as well as not defending. If 2003 was the championship won by chance, 1997 was the championship that was just flat out bought. Former owner Wayne Huizenga broke open the piggy bank big time, adding on to a corp that already featured pricey pieces Gary Sheffield and Kevin Brown with free agents Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, and manager Jim Leyland.
In 1997, only four teams in baseball had a higher payroll than the Marlins.
They were 20th overall in 1996, and would plummet to 27th by the end of 1998. Of course, the Yankees routinely bought titles. The Dodgers and Mets routinely tried. But only the Marlins committed the egregious sin of not trying twice in a row, and when South Florida fans called Huizenga’s bluff of blowing up the roster if attendance didn’t rise, the resulting blowing up of the roster infuriated the whole of baseball-dom. There should have been a South Florida All-Star Game back in 2000- the ’97 firesale looms large on the list of reasons why this was scrapped.
Just the other night, mention was made of that 1997 Indians team, one that came so close to glory…without even mentioning the opponent. And this wasn’t local access in Cleveland, but national programming. A similar case, albeit one not nearly as neglected, would be the 1995 Fall Classic. The Indians lost that one as well, to a faceless Atlanta Braves team. Baseball fans outside Atlanta know that the Braves won a World Series, at some point during the 1990s, but would struggle to land on the year.
The story was the Indians losing, again- not that another team realized their dream of a World Series title.
Cleveland finally reaching the Promised Land could, much like a Cubs title would do for the 2003 club, finally help change that narrative.
Beyond that, there’s little reason to cheer the Tribe. I suppose you could argue that a Cubs failure would lead them to cast off some pretty good parts in the hopes of signing one more superstar to bring them over the hump, and that the Marlins could make a run for those discards.
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Or does David Ross retiring, and Kyle Schwarber‘s injury history, put the Cubs in the market for an All-Star catcher to ensure that Cubs nation only has to wait one more year? And would the Cubs move a starting pitcher to do it? Any member of the 2016 starting rotation for Chicago arguably becomes the ace for the 2017 Marlins.
Or perhaps your loathing for Jeffrey Loria is so extreme that you relish seeing Andrew Miller succeed in ways the Marlins never figured out that he would?
Possibilities all. As the thirty-seventh Game 7 in Series history starts tonight, Marlins fans will simply have to choose which championship team- ’97 or ’03- they want to see receive a bit more credit.