Florida Marlins History: Appreciating Left Fielder Josh Willingham

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Josh Willingham #14 of the Florida Marlins poses during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium February 22, 2008 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Josh Willingham #14 of the Florida Marlins poses during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium February 22, 2008 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) /
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Over the past 27 Major League Baseball seasons, the Florida and Miami Marlins had a total of 590 players take the field for at least one plate appearance on one side of the ball or the other.

Josh Willingham was the 246th player to take the field in a regular season game for the Florida Marlins, making his debut on July 6th, 2004 in a 6-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He batted fifth and went 0-for-three with a strikeout before getting lifted in the top of the seventh for Abraham Nunez. He was more successful in his second appearance, the next day, when he went two-for-two with two walks in a 4-3 loss to the Bucs.

Willingham was a six-foot-three, 230 lb. left fielder from Florence, AL. Born on this date 41 years ago, he joined the Florida Marlins after getting chosen in the 17h round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, with the 491st overall selection off the board out of the University of North Alabama.

Willingham went on to appear in a total of 12 games for the Marlins that season, going five-for-25 with a home run and four walks. Still ensconced in Florida’s upper minor leagues for the majority of the 2005 season, he was seven-for-23 in 16 games at the major league level with Florida.

Florida Marlins
MIAMI – JUNE 12: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Florida Marlins. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) /

2006 would see Willingham begin and end the campaign as the Florida Marlins everyday left fielder. Of his 142 appearances in total, he started 132 of them in left. He ranked tied for second on the club with 26 home runs and earned enough notoriety to finish ninth in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting, slashing .277/.356/.496 with 74 RBI. His 249 total bases for the season would remain the best mark of his career until 2012, when he totaled 272 and won the American League Silver Slugger for the Minnesota Twins.

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In 2007, Willingham was again a fixture for the Florida Marlins in left field, with 137 starts at the position of his 144 overall appearances. He hit .265/.364/.463 with 21 jacks and 89 RBI. 2008 started well for Willingham. Through the first 25 games of the season, he slashed out a .341/.406/.637 line with six homers and 16 RBI. A back injury put a stop to it, and he spent the next two months on the injured list.

Upon his return, Willingham struggled to maintain the pace he had set for himself earlier in the season. He appeared in 77 games for the Marlins from his return through the end of the campaign, and hit just .223/.350/.412 with nine home runs and 35 RBI. After the season came to a close, the Marlins traded him and Scott Olsen to the Washington Nationals for Emilio Bonifacio, P.J. Dean, and Jake Smolinski.

After two seasons with the Nats, Willingham played one year with the Oakland Athletics, two-and-a-half seasons with the Twins, and 24 games to close out the 2014 season with the Kansas City Royals. In 1147 overall games, he slashed .253/.358/.465 with 195 home runs and 632 RBI between the five clubs. For the Marlins, he hit .266 with 63 shots and 219 RBI along with 13 stolen bases in 16 attempts.

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