The last time the Marlins were in October, it was on the field of Yankee Stadium celebrating their World Series championship all the way back in 2003 and they were named the Florida Marlins. 17 years later, the Marlins have finally made their way back to the playoffs. It has not been easy for the Marlins since that 2003 championship run. Following their championship, many of their core key players left in free agency or were traded away. The Marlins were either at the bottom of the league or simply mediocre. Every time the Marlins showed signs of being competitive, they had a September collapse or traded players away. Some of the big-name stars to leave the Marlins include Miguel Cabrera, Dontre Willis, Josh Beckett, Ivan Rodriguez, Hanley Ramirez, AJ, Burnett, Anibal Sanchez, Juan Pierre, Andrew Miller, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcel Ozuna, Dee Gordon, JT Realmuto, and Ichiro Suzuki (and those are just players who were not prospects). Of those players, all have been all-stars and a few are Hall of Famers.
It seemed that the Marlins were in an eternal cycle of tanking and rebuilding for the past 17 years and by 2016, it seemed like the Marlins were finally ready to be competitive again. Giancarlo Stanton was mashing home runs farther than anyone could comprehend. Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna rounded out the outfield for a complete outfield of great hitters and gold glovers. JT Realmuto was one of the best catchers in baseball, Dee Gordon was one of the best leadoff hitters in the league, and Ichiro Suzuki was towards the end of his career and was already established as one of the greatest hitters of all time. The center of the team was star pitcher Jose Fernandez. Fernandez was the 2013 Rookie of the Year and was already a 2x All-Star in his career. Sadly, on September 25, 2016, Fernandez was killed in a boating accident. He was only 24. The loss devastated the Marlins and they went downhill from there. The team was sold to a new ownership group led by Hall of Famer Derek Jeter who blew up the team for a rebuild. Giancarlo Stanton went to the Yankees where he became part of a scary juggernaut of a team. Marcell Ozuna went to the Cardinals where he helped lead St. Louis to the 2019 playoffs and is now leading the NL in home runs for the Braves. Dee Gordon (now Strange-Gordon) went to Seattle where his career declined. J.T. Realmuto went to the Phillies where he became a key member of their success. Worst of all, Christian Yelich was traded to the Brewers and became the 2018 NL MVP, and nearly won the MVP in 2019.
In 2020, nobody gave the Marlins a chance. Everybody expected them to be in the basement of the East while every team that played them got an easy win. But the Marlins made a stand and shocked the league, their team motto the whole year was a simple one, “Why not us?”. The Marlins set out to prove that they would no longer be the laughing stock of the National League. With the newly expanded playoffs for the 2020 season and only 60 games to play, anything was possible. It didn’t look good at the beginning however, when the team suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 after only 3 games of play. That being said, after they were able to return, the Marlins played at an elite level early on.
The trades they made for their All-Star players were showing signs of success. For Ozuna, they got Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, and Zac Gallen all of whom became key parts of the Marlins 2020 success, with Alcantara being their team Ace. Gallen was traded to Arizona for Jazz Chisolm who is now a key player for the Marlins future. All four prospects they acquired for Yelich have been part of the Marlins 2020 success as well, Lewis Brinson, Jordan Yamamoto, Monte Harrison, and Isan Diaz. The biggest trade of all was JT Realmuto. For JT, they got Jorge Alfaro, who has been a great catcher, and top prospect Sixto Sanchez, who is in the running for NL rookie of the year.
On September 25, 2020, the 4 year anniversary of Jose Fernandez’s death, the Marlins returned to Yankee Stadium (the new one) with the chance to clinch a playoff spot with both a win and a Phillies loss. The Marlins took an early 3-0 lead on a home run by Garrett Cooper. The Yankees tied the game in the 8th and the game went to extra innings. Meanwhile back in Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays fell behind 4-0 to the Phillies but came back to win 6-4. The Marlins’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot was 1. In the 10th, the Marlins scored on a sacrifice fly by Jesus Aguilar. With a 4-3 lead and 3 outs to go, the Marlins turned to their closer Brandon Kintzler, who has been one of the most under-appreciated relievers in baseball this season. The Marlins allowed the Yankees to load the bases with one out and AL MVP candidate DJ Lemahieu was up to bat. Lemahieu grounded a ball to shortstop Martin Prado and Prado got a double play to win the game. The Marlins had done it. They had made it back to the playoffs in a year where they barely had a chance.
The Marlins actually have a perfect record in the postseason. In their first playoff appearance in 1997, which was their fourth year in existence, they won their first World Serie. They’ve made the playoffs only once since then in 2003 when they won the World Series yet again. Both years, the Marlins were second place in their division to the Atlanta Braves and the Marlins made the playoffs as a wild card team. In 2020, the Braves won the division, and the Marlins made it into the playoffs as the second team in their division. Needless to say, if the Marlins want to win the world series in 2020, they have a real shot at it.