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Tom Verducci
November 03, 2003
Bucking the odds and conventional wisdom, an old hand guided the upstart Marlins to a World Series triumph
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November 03, 2003

Youth Is Served

Bucking the odds and conventional wisdom, an old hand guided the upstart Marlins to a World Series triumph

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When Duty whispers low, Thou must, The youth replies, I can
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON, poet rumored to have once played for Jack McKeon

It all made sense, once the cigar smoke cleared, anyway: how the Florida Marlins could be world champions for a second time in seven years, even though they have never finished in first place. This was, after all, the postseason from hell, what with all the talk about the ghosts in New York, the curse in Boston and the dead goat in Chicago. Forget a scorecard. You needed a cauldron and a clove of garlic to follow these playoffs. And you needed the blessed ignorance of youth to win them.

Twenty-year-old rightfielder Miguel Cabrera is, fittingly, the face of the a face, in his case, with no apparent need Marlins—for a razor. He stood near the batting cage before Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium and observed, "There's a lot of history here, a lot of tradition, but this isn't about the past as much as it is about the future."

The kid was right, of course. One week later the Florida players were whooping it up inside the diamond at Yankee Stadium after Game 6, the 100th World Series game played at the old ballyard—home office of the Fall Classic—but only the seventh in which the visiting team had eliminated the Yankees. The crowd watched in eerie silence as the ghostbusting Marlins celebrated the world championship clinched with a 2-0 victory. Nobody said boo.

Viewed against the cruelty heaped upon the League Championship Series-losing Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, Florida's refreshing triumph is proof that the baseball gods have a conscience. The franchise is now 6-0 in postseason series (including 1997) and has a powerful, young starting rotation that could very well bring the Marlins back for more. As catcher Ivan Rodriguez said after the game last Saturday night, "If you keep this ball club together for the next three, four, five years, you'll see more than one World Series."

Tradition means little in Florida, especially in the rightfield corner of tacky Pro Player Stadium, where the bronzed busts belong not to Whitey, Mickey and the Babe, but to Jenny, Cindy and the rest of the babes who serve as cheerleaders by stripping down to bikinis and taking a dip in a fieldside hot tub. Talk about your Monument Park.

The Marlins are nothing if not unconventional, which was evident after pitcher Josh Beckett, the highest caliber of the young guns, played long toss in the Pro Player outfield several hours before Game 5, two days after he lost a Game 3 pitching duel to Mike Mussina that was much tighter than the 6-1 final score.

"How does it feel?" pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal asked, referring to Beckett's right arm.

"Fine," Beckett said. "I was more sore yesterday. I'm good to go."

"You've got Saturday," Rosenthal said.

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