It was Team USA vs. Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic title.
And it was also one former Marlins manager against another in late Wednesday night’s showdown between the countries.
“Coming into this event, I didn’t really want to talk about the fact that the United States has never won it [and] they’ve never gone to the finals,” Team USA manager Jim Leyland said. “I didn’t think that was a big deal. I wanted this, for the players, to be a memory.”
The U.S. was bidding for its first WBC title. So was Puerto Rico, managed by Edwin Rodriguez.
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Both Leyland and Rodriguez managed the Marlins at one time.
Team USA reached the final by virtue of its 2-1 victory over Japan late Tuesday while Puerto Rico reached the championship game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles by defeating the Netherlands on Monday night.
“Make a memory,” Leyland said he’s instructed U.S. players, which include Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. “Hopefully, it’s a real good one, regardless of the results [on Wednesday]. I know it is for me. It’s been an absolute honor.”
There have been 15 Marlins managers, a list that includes Cookie Rojas and Brandon Hyde, each of whom managed the team for just one game.
Now, two of them have a chance to win the WBC.
While Leyland helped bring the Marlins their first World Series championship in 1997, he was saddled with the dreadful ’98 team that lost 108 games. As a result, Leyland’s two-year record with the Marlins of 146-178 actually ranks lower — at least in terms of winning percentage — than Rodriguez’s overall mark of 78-85.
Rodriguez managed the Marlins in 2010 and ’11 before abruptly resigning in midseason.