This Wednesday night, the National Baseball Hall of Fame selected three new members for induction to Cooperstown. And as Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez prepare to take their place with the greats of the game, I can without question tell you there has never been a class selected that’s been more relevant more fans of the Miami Marlins.
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Heretofore, the Marlins blips on the Hall of Fame radar screen have ranged from interesting footnote to comical connection. Nothing of consequence to really get excited about. Andre Dawson did spend his last two seasons in Miami, but with scarcely over 300 at bats and just a .267 combined average to show for it. The club enjoys the talents of two Hall of Fame broadcasters in Felo Ramirez and Dave Van Horne. They did get that half season of managing out of Tony Perez, but the Reds legend made it in with his bat, not his interim coaching a year after his induction.
All that capped off, of course, by Mike Piazza‘s infamous five games with the Marlins in 1998. That .278 average he had in that span tops Dawson, and stands as an immortal reminder of the “firesale” that followed the 1997 championship. Needless to say, retapping that well of good feeling during last summer’s induction ceremonies was just a joy to write about.
But this time, with two players in one class having suited up for the Fish? Different story entirely.
Alright, sure, Tim Raines played in 93 more games than Piazza and only knocked in two more RBIs. He batted under .200 during that 2002 season, and his most memorable moment in a Marlins uniform was hitting that game winning sac fly that also ended the greatest hitting streak in team history as Luis Castillo watched from the on deck circle. On stats alone, another punchline.
As a clubhouse guy, though? A veteran to teach some lessons to a developing squad of young talent? It was special to watch. Considering what happened the following year, some of those lessons might just have been worthwhile too. Speaking of that following year…
Pudge is in the Hall of Fame.
And now we’re talking. Pudge too spent a short time in a Marlins uniform. One season, that’s it. Dawson had two. Didn’t even make the All-Star Game, one of only two years he didn’t in a sixteen year stretch.
Of course, none of that matters, because Pudge was here for that second championship run. A crucial member of 2003 champs, he batted .297 with 16 HR and 85 RBI. In the playoffs, he was awesome. That catch at home plate to tag out J.T. Snow to end the NLDS? His performance against the Cubs in the next round? All he did was get named NLCS MVP- Dusty Baker still has nightmares about that .321 average he put up against his sterling rotation. Kept hitting over .300 in the Series too.
Is he going in as a Marlin? Almost certainly not. He retired with the Rangers on one of those one-day deals all legends end on, and he should go in with them, even if he did win his only ring with the Marlins. Raines will go in as an Expo- heck, with the former owner having just bought the team, he probably considered that 2002 season to count as Montreal service time.
Someday we’ll get our first hat-wearing Marlin. The magic of Wednesday night was bringing us as close as we’ve come yet to connecting to the most hallowed Hall of Fame in sports. Canton is replete with Dolphins, and the Heat have more than made their mark as well. If Jaromir Jagr ever retires, he’ll give us the same thrill Ichiro will one day, assuming he ever retires either. Roberto Luongo could make it, but that won’t change the fact even NHL fans don’t really care about the Hockey Hall of Fame (it is in Canada).
It’ll be awhile yet. Only one other player on that 2003 team will even be making the Hall, and it’s gonna sting when he goes in with that Tigers cap on. Pudge making it though? Somehow makes it feel a little more possible we’ll get our chance to party in Cooperstown one day.