On his first day in the Marlins' clubhouse in February, Tim Raines was treated as a cross between Yoda, Jesus and, well, a guy with 22 years of big league experience. Some of the Marlins' guppies were too intimidated to make eye contact. Others smiled sheepishly from afar. Cliff Floyd, the 29-year-old All-Star outfielder, shook his hand and insisted that Raines take Floyd's number 30, which Raines has worn for most of his career.
"You are number 30," said Floyd. "You're the Man around here."
"Nah, don't worry," said Raines, shooing Floyd away. "You've earned it."
It's easy to suggest that last year's Marlins, an early wild-card hopeful that wilted into an 86-loss creep show, were done in by a mediocre bullpen and an offense that went from powerful to punchless. Truth is, Florida was an immature crew in need of a captain. Or, more appropriately, a Rock.
"When we had distractions, nobody knew how to handle it," says Floyd. "We were stupid, and we had no one to wake us up."
Enter Raines, 42, one of the game's great clubhouse stabilizers. When the Marlins signed him as a free agent, it was not to add a basestealing threat atop the lineup ( Raines, who has 808 career stolen bases, hasn't swiped more than 10 since 1996) or to bolster a suspect outfield. (He hasn't played regularly in six seasons.) No, Raines is here because Florida is long on young talent and short on guidance counselors.
Last year, in no particular order, Florida:
?Staged a minicoup against manager John Boles, who after a 22-26 start was ripped by reliever Dan Miceli for having no major league playing experience. Boles was fired shortly thereafter. "Bolesie lost the players," says Floyd, "and that can't happen."
?Grumbled among themselves about perceived mistreatment by ownership. "Seven or eight times the entire team went to downtown Miami to [help ownership] drum up support for a new stadium," says Floyd. "But when we wanted certain foods and a new TV in the clubhouse, we got nothing. That kind of thing gets to you."
?Stopped hustling and played selfishly. Floyd admitted during spring training that last season he had focused more on his stats than on winning. "I found myself trying to hit .300, get 30 home runs, drive in 100 runs," he says. "Those are fine numbers, but what kind of attitude is that?"