Florida Marlins History: Theft Isn’t Always the Answer

It seems like a pretty good time to go over some incidents in Florida Marlins past.

With nothing live going on today, nor later on the schedule for the time being, we can ask ourselves an important life question.

Is stealing OK? We can mostly agree that stealing from a store or a bank is pretty much off limits. Can you steal from your friends? Not if you want to stay friends with them. Can you steal food from a supermarket to feed your starving family? That’s debatable, and a rabbit hole I’m not really supposed to dive into on such a “Marlins-centric” blog such as Marlin Maniac.

Stealing second base is pretty common though, third less so, and home is pretty rare. Is it an ethical practice? I guess that all depends on how often you get caught. Last year in the National League, players were caught 25.9 percent of the time, and 27.5 percent in the American League. For comparison’s sake, 32.8 percent of runners were caught in the N.L. in the steal-happy 1983 season. Is it ok? Put it up to an ethics committee, but the 2000 Marlins were certainly pretty fond of it.

of the Florida Marlins. (Getty Images)

On this date 20 years ago, the Florida Marlins faced the San Diego Padres with 7,832 on hand at Pro Player Stadium. A Thursday night game starting at 7:05 P.M. local, the Marlins started Alex Fernandez (4-3, 3.99) in what would prove to be his final major league appearance. Of course he didn’t know it at the time, but his recently surgically repaired shoulder and sore elbow ligament which allowed him to throw a cool 90 on that night wouldn’t hold up to further MLB action. He allowed three runs on nine hits and a walk, striking out five in as many innings.

The track meet got started early off Padres starter Stan Spencer (0-1, 2.57) who himself would only appear in another six major league games to cap off a three season career. Luis Castillo walked to lead off the first, promptly stole second, and scored on a Cliff Floyd single. Floyd then stole second, and took third on a ball four to Preston Wilson. Wilson stole second with two outs, but Brant Brown struck out swinging to end the Marlins first threat. Eric Owens hit a two-run single off Fernandez to stake the Padres to a 2-1 lead in the top of the second.

Florida Marlins

Florida Marlins’ Preston Wilson beats the tag by Atlanta Braves’ Quilvio Veras. (Photo by STEVE SCHAEFER / AFP)

The Florida Marlins went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. In the third, Mark Kotsay hit a one-out single to left, then stole second and third base. Wilson drew another walk and again stole second, but both Kotsay and Wilson were stranded when Kevin Millar grounded out to third to end the frame. So if you’re keeping count, that’s seven stolen bases in three innings, and only one run to show for it.

After a 1-2-3 fourth, Ryan Klesko put the Padres up by a 3-1 margin with a leadoff homer in the fifth. In the Marlins half, Castillo hit a one out single in the fifth then stole second. After a Kotsay fly out, Castillo stole third, and scored on a Floyd single get the Marlins back within a run. Floyd followed by stealing second, but Wilson struck out looking. The Marlins stole 10 bases in the first five innings, and had only two runs to trail San Diego by one.

Florida Marlins

KISSIMMEE, UNITED STATES: Florida Marlins outfielder Mark Kotsay. AFP PHOTO TONY RANZE

Spencer pitched another 1 1/3 innings and ended up with the win despite allowing eight baserunners and the 10 stolen bags, one short of a then-84-year-old record, held by the 1916 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1912 New York Giants. The Marlins couldn’t get any traction against the Padres bullpen, with appearances from Matt Whisenant, Donne Wall, and Trevor Hoffman.

Unbelievable. Team record don’t mean sh** when you don’t win. It’s just frustrating to let Spencer get off the hook like that. – Floyd, via David O’Brien at the Sun-Sentinel

Ruben Rivera later hit a two-run single off Vic Darensbourg in the eighth inning, and Phil Nevin added an RBI-triple in the ninth to seal the deal. The Padres, incidentally were two-for-three in taking a free base. The Marlins finished 10-for-10, for all the good it did them.

As for the four who took free bases against San Diego that night, Castillo finished the season with 62 in 84 tries to lead the N.L., Floyd had 24 with only three CS, Wilson was 36-for-50, and Kotsay had 19 in 28 tries. Florida’s 168 stolen bases in total led the N.L. by 20 over the next closest, the Atlanta Braves, and was 66 stolen bases greater than the league average.

Can the 2020 Miami Marlins make use of their speed to greater effect than the 2000 Marlins? Despite leading the N.L. by a wide margin in the metric, that version of the club finished at 79-82, well out of the playoff picture.

We’ll have to wait and see. Thanks for reading.

Next: Jon Berti's Speed