'03 Marlins praise 'collective effort' in '20

Miami BBWAA announces Award winners; Brinson's hard work paying off

September 26th, 2020

On Oct. 25, 2003, Josh Beckett shut out the Yankees in Game 6 of the Fall Classic, and the Marlins celebrated their second World Series championship.

It took the Marlins exactly 16 years and 11 months to get back to the postseason.

To the next generation of Marlins fans, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, will be a benchmark day, because that’s when Miami beat the Yankees, 4-3, in 10 innings to clinch second place in the National League East and a place in the NL Wild Card Series.

As the current squad rejoices, voices from the 2003 team offered praises.

“If they play the way they've played of late, anything can happen,” said Jack McKeon, the manager of the 2003 club. “In the first round, you're talking about a three-game series. You throw a couple of kids out there, and maybe some of the clubs they play don't know their talent. That, to me, is a plus.”

McKeon, who will celebrate his 90th birthday on Nov. 23, knows about beating the odds. He was 72 when he inherited a youthful Miami team in 2003 that wasn’t expected to be a contender.

McKeon, now a special advisor with the Nationals, still closely follows the Marlins, and he has high praise for manager Don Mattingly.

"I think he's done a super job," McKeon said. "I follow them pretty closely. Watching the moves that he makes. He's done an exceptional job this year.”

Former Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre, who is still regularly around the current club, has been impressed by how selfless the 2020 team is.

“It's guys buying into what the staff and the organization is doing and not wanting to be the guy who messes up, or to be the limelight guy,” Pierre said. “It’s a collective effort.”

In that regard, this season is different for the Marlins, compared to those of the previous 16 years. Since 2003, the organization has celebrated mostly individual accomplishments over team rewards.

Hanley Ramirez was the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner, and he was the '09 NL batting champion. Chris Coghlan ('09) and José Fernández ('13) were NL ROY Award winners. Dee Strange-Gordon was the '15 NL batting champ, and Giancarlo Stanton was the NL Most Valuable Player Award winner in '17.

“It's always been one or two guys having outstanding seasons,” Pierre said. “That's what this team is all about.”

The key to moving on, Pierre said, is pitching.

“As long as the pitching is solid, you've got a chance,” he said.

Rookie Sixto Sánchez has helped energize the rotation and the roster.

“When you see Sixto doing his thing, making hitters look bad and getting W's, as a staff, you're like, 'All right, now it's my turn,’" Pierre said.

The roster has been a mix of young players who are being groomed by the veterans. Pierre was struck that rookies, like left-hander Daniel Castano talked about being “the next man up” after he made his MLB debut weeks ago.

“After his first big league start against the Mets, he was like, ‘I wanted to be the next guy up and perform.’ That was his comment,” Pierre said. “I was like, 'Wow! I would be like, 'I'm just happy.' I know, when I was playing, I was trying to play so I didn't get sent down.”

BBWAA Award winners
The annual Miami chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced its 2020 Award winners on Saturday:

Most Valuable Player: Jesús Aguilar
Rookie of the Year: Sixto Sánchez
Charlie Hough “Good Guy" Award: Pablo López
Jeff Conine “Heart & Professional” Award: Francisco Cervelli

The 2020 team overcame a COVID-19 outbreak that landed 18 players on the injured list. Aguilar was one of the few players who made it through the season from start to finish.

“It’s been tough,” Aguilar said on Saturday. “It’s been a crazy year for us. Losing guys with the COVID situation. We had to play with 18 new guys, and we still made it. It was amazing for us. So many people didn’t believe in us, and we made it.”

Brinson’s journey
After all the adversity Lewis Brinson has experienced, the 26-year-old is starting to see some rewards. Once regarded as one of the top prospects in the sport, Brinson has now become a contributor on a playoff team.

Granted, Brinson hasn’t established himself as a full-time starter, but he is making strides in that direction.

“I had to dig deep into myself, man,” Brinson said. “I had to look in the mirror and be honest with myself.”

Brinson has been starting mostly against left-handers, though he was in the starting lineup against Yanks righty Deivi García in Saturday's 11-4 loss at Yankee Stadium. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.

Brinson has also been inspired by people like Pierre, who have helped mentor him.

“I'm still not there, but I'm definitely closer than I once was,” he said. “To be a contributor on a playoff team, it means a lot, especially with all the stuff I had to go through and things I had to do to get to this moment. To come full circle, it feels amazing.”