Craig Counsell’s leap onto home plate with arms raised in triumph to deliver the 1997 World Series title to the then-Florida Marlins is still arguably the franchise’s most iconic moment.
It remains one of Counsell’s fondest baseball memories of what he called “a fun ride” to the majors.
“It was a crazy three or four months for me,” said Counsell, who is in his fourth season managing the Brewers. “I went from being in Colorado Springs as a Triple A player to finding out I’m going to the big leagues to a team competing for the playoffs and I stay until October and play in a World Series. It happened really, really fast but it was a fun ride. It was four months of excitement every day.”
But Counsell also remembers the other end of the spectrum that came the next season when that team was gradually dismantled in what would become the first of multiple teardowns over the next two decades.
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The Marlins are starting over once again under new ownership, which has publicly declared its intentions to put together a sustainable contending club in the long term.
But this week’s series against Counsell’s Milwaukee Brewers has shown more of the growing pains teams in the initial stages of such a process have to deal with.
Counsell, who was a young player in his third major league season in 1998, empathized with what some of the current Marlins’ young core is going through this season.
“I was still so new in my big league career that it wasn’t hard,” Counsell said. “I still felt like I was two months into a big league career and nothing was given to you because you had to earn it all. Nothing really changed from my perspective but for some players it can be difficult, there’s no question. One time you’re on this team and then the team turns directions and changes pretty dramatically. That team, more so than the Marlins this year, changed directions when you think about where that team finished in 1997.”
The 1998 Marlins finished a franchise-worst 54-108, lost 11 in a row after winning on Opening Day, and sunk to 56 games under-.500 at one point in September. That team’s longest win streak was four. This year’s Marlins have yet to win back-to-back games.
Counsell played 107 games for the Marlins in 1998 and opened the 1999 season with the team before being traded to the Dodgers.
“That team underwent massive changes [in 1998] and we weren’t very good,” Counsell said. “But it’s still your job to compete and go out there and that’s how I handled it all.”
Losses like Saturday’s 6-5 defeat — in which the Marlins let an early four-run lead slip away and made a costly mistake when Derek Dietrich missed a pop fly in the outfield that could have ended the eighth inning — can be deflating.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly spoke Sunday morning about keeping a positive mindset through the team’s struggles.
“Guys are pretty adept at showing up again knowing you have another game the next day,” Mattingly said. “They’ve been through the minor leagues. They’ve been through a lot of games even though they haven’t been here necessarily. They’ve had those kinds of losses at the minor-league level also. You got to bounce back and come ready to play. You have to look at each day like it’s the first day of the rest of our season and maybe today we can get on a roll.”
-Wei-Yin Chen (left elbow strain) struck out seven and gave up two hits in five innings in his latest rehab start in Jupiter.
Monday: Miami Marlins LHP Jarlin Garcia (1-0, 0.86 ERA) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Walker Buehler (1-0, 7.71 in 2017), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.
Tuesday: Marlins LHP Dillon Peters (2-2, 6.98) vs. Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda (2-1, 3.77), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.