11 years ago, the Marlins found themselves on life support awaiting Major League Baseball’s word on whether they would be contracted or not. This coming four years after their miraculous World Series title and then owner Wayne Huizenga‘s famous fire sale which took the Marlins from the crown jewel of the baseball world to a plunge in the deepest, darkest depths of baseball’s cruel cellar.
Perhaps an exaggeration but nevertheless it was a trying time for the Marlins back over a decade ago when this franchise was essentially in a “Great Baseball Depression”. Through the tough times of the player’s strike and fire sale, the Marlins had one bright spot among their brain trust.
General manager Dave Dombrowski who served with the Marlins from 1991-2001 has been one of baseball’s best kept secrets in a league where the Billy Beane’s, Brian Cashman’s and Theo Epstein’s have gotten most of the GM publicity over the years. Now with the Tigers, Dombrowski, 56, will embark of his third World Series experience (second with Detroit) which puts him in firm position to someday make it to Cooperstown as an executive.
One of baseball’s storied franchises, the Detroit Tigers hit a rough patch throughout the nineties and have since crept out of the black hole. When Dombrowski arrived in Detroit, the Tigers were in a difficult position themselves. Attendance problems mimicked his former employer’s (Marlins) and the team was one of the worst in their respective league. In fact, during his first two campaign’s in overseeing the Detroit Tigers, they were a combined 98-202 which is the true definition of rock bottom.
Flash forward to 2006, Dombrowski made it back to the World Series after nearly 10 years when he made it with the Marlins, with the same manager Jim Leyland. The result wasn’t identical as the Tigers fell in 5 games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Now in 2012, Dombrowski will get a second crack at trying to bring a World Series trophy to the “Motor City” but in an unusual way he is doing with the help of the Marlins.
When the Marlins won the World Series in 2003, they did it with new ownership Jeffrey Loria, manager Jack McKeon, and front office led by President David Samson and GM Larry Beinfest. They inherited a core of Derrek Lee, Miguel Cabrera, Luis Castillo, Alex Gonzalez, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Brad Penny. This core was built as an offspring mainly stemming from the fire sale after the first championship in 1997 and under the direction of Dave Dombrowski.
In late 2001, with the Florida Marlins franchise in limbo and with two years remaining on a 5 year, $5 million contract as GM, Dave Dombrowski was allowed to leave the franchise by then owner John W. Henry, now owner of the Boston Red Sox. Without him, 1997 wouldn’t have happened and the same with 2003 even as he wasn’t in Miami. So while his résumé is already extensive, it will always be missing 2003 which should probably have an asterisk if he included it.
Yet you can’t deny that the current regime of the Marlins has picked up the pieces in the wake of Dombrowski’s departure since after all they are the one’s who brokered trades for Dontrelle Willis, Carl Pavano, Ugueth Urbina and Juan Pierre, all critical pieces of the 2003 championship team. But since then, the Marlins haven’t had the same string of good luck and grit that the franchise was known for under the direction of Dave Dombrowski.
Call him a Marlin magnet by nature, Dombrowski is on his way to possibly winning a second championship with a built at its core with former Marlins and would-be Marlins. You can’t forget the 2006 run which he did with ex-Marlin closer Todd Jones or catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
But in the present day, slugger Prince Fielder could have been a Marlin this past season, if not for David Samson’s insistence against Loria and assistant GM Dan Jennings’ wishes. Reigning MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander could have also been a Marlin, if you believe that the Tigers offered him in a supposed deal for Dontrelle Willis after his Cy Young-like season in 2005. Infielder Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez were dealt to the Tigers in July in a trade which has worked out for both sides but that hasn’t always been the case.
Of course, who can forget 2007, when D.D. acquired both Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera in a “blockbuster” trade which he dealt overvalued prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. In 2012, the Marlins have none of the players acquired in the trade and have only pitcher Ryan Webb and prospect Zack Cox as offspring for this trade. While Willis endured Steve Blass disease, the Tigers may away have a future Hall of Famer and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, whom Dombrowski signed with the help of scout Al Avila (now with Tigers) when with the Marlins in the late nineties.
So now here we are, Dave Dombrowski will be sitting in luxury boxes watching his Tigers battle in the World Series while the Miami Marlins face uncertainty with their own front office and manager. Now with no threat of contraction or lack of a new ballpark, the Marlins brain trust will meet in New York during the World Series to discuss who gets fired and what moves will be made during the offseason to improve the team. It’s a sad predicament all things considered but if the Tigers do pull off a World Series victory, it is merely a gift from the Marlins, untended of course but through a series of events over the past decade it’s hard not to call this karma.