The 2000 Miami Marlins- Transitioning Aces
Coming in at number five are the 2000 model of the Miami Marlins, the inclusion of which should underscore for Marlin’s diehards just how rare an occurrence these 2017 circumstances are.
The 2000 group was headlined by Alex Fernandez, who after winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year award in the previous season, was unquestionably the most trusted pitcher in the rotation that broke camp in Vierra that spring.
Beloved son of the South Florida community, he was Mike Lowell before Mike Lowell regarding local appeal and was a driving force behind the 1997 World Championship team.
But he did suffer that famous injury in that 1997 postseason, did miss all of 1998, and did have to get shut down in September to rehab his refashioned shoulder. While Fernandez seemed confident, fears remained about well his arm could hold up. fears that proved too well founded when Fernandez was shut down in May, initially for two weeks, but for what would go on to the be the end of his career.
Fears that proved to well founded when Fernandez was shutdown in May, initially for two weeks, but for what would go on to be the end of his career.
Even his Opening Day start was marred by unwelcome news from Tallahassee, as yet another effort to solve the revenue problem that led to the dismantling of the 1997 champs was scuttled.
He would get the win that Opening Day start, though, and in one of my favorite bits of obscure Marlin’s trivia, ended up winning consecutive Opening Day starts against former 1997 rotation mates. Fernandez beat Al Leiter and the Mets to kick off 1999 and dispatched the recently traded Livan Hernandez and the Giants to start 2000.
The rest of the rotation projected to be a group of middling to poor also-rans like Vladimir Nunez or Jesus Sanchez, uninspiring journeymen like Reid Cornelius, with relatively to entirely untested prospects like A.J. Burnett and Brad Penny waiting in the wings. Paired with another abysmal overall record in 1999 and the trade of former World Series MVP Hernandez the previous July, confidence in this group wasn’t particularly high.
Names of note so far excluded from this rundown are Ryan Dempster and Chuck Smith. Dempster would represent the Marlins in the 2000 All-Star Game, the one that was supposed to be played at Pro Player Stadium, and the completely unheralded Smith would go on to garner NL Rookie of the Year consideration.
However, it could be argued that Dempster’s performance was even more surprising. After all, he’d tallied double-digit starts in 1998 and 1999, with borderline-terrible results. Nobody was predicting a campaign that would break Kevin Brown’s franchise record for strikeouts in a season, a 209 K effort that would stand until this past August when Jose Fernandez claimed the title.
By season’s end, the Marlins had their ace for the foreseeable future. But at the start? Only a bevy of question marks, led by a wing and a prayer hopeful.