Retired numbers: Miami Marlins

The field is wide open, but does anybody in the team’s past deserve the honor?

Let’s tackle a math problem.

Start with the average annual snowfall in Miami. Then add three sports-related numbers — Super Bowl appearances made by the Miami Dolphins since 1986, Stanley Cups won by the Florida Panthers, and local heroes whose uniforms have been retired by the Miami Marlins.

What answer do you come up with?

Zero.

I’ll write nothing more about snow, football, or hockey. But I do intend to dig deeper into the Marlins’ situation on this 14th stop of my every-other-Friday journey through the histories of all 30 big-league teams.

Or, to be more accurate, I’ll dig as much as I can. The Miami franchise hasn’t given us a whole lot to talk about.

The Marlins have been in existence for 28 seasons, they’ve won a pair of world championships, and they’ve employed five players who are currently in the Hall of Fame.

Yet Miami is the only major-league team that has never retired the number of any former star. Are the Marlins being miserly? Or do they have good reason for holding off on any ceremonies? Let’s take a look.


Subscribe — free — to Baseball’s Best (and Worst)

A new installment will arrive in your email each Tuesday and Friday morning


Marlins’ numbers already retired

I know I said the answer is zero, but that isn’t technically correct.

Commissioner Bud Selig decreed in 1997 that all 30 teams must retire No. 42, marking the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s integration of the major leagues. No Marlin has worn that number since pitcher Dennis Cook.

No. 5 was also withdrawn from circulation in Miami for awhile. The club’s first president, Carl Barger, died of an aneurysm in December 1992, four months before the Marlins played their initial game. The team retired No. 5 in Barger’s honor, since Joe DiMaggio had been his favorite player as a boy.

But the decision was reversed two decades later. Left fielder Logan Morrison was handed No. 5 in 2012, and five other Marlins have subsequently worn it.

Which brings us back to the current number of Marlins players, managers, and executives who have had their numbers retired. And yes, it’s zero.

Marlins’ candidates for retired numbers

I noted earlier that five Cooperstown inductees have donned Marlins jerseys, but none stayed in Miami for more than two seasons. Mike Piazza had the shortest sojourn of all. The Dodgers shipped him to Florida on May 14, 1998, and the Marlins traded him to the Mets just eight days later.

So Miami will have to look elsewhere for players worthy of retirement ceremonies. And the pickings, quite frankly, are slim.

That’s partly because the franchise has spent much of its short history in rebuilding mode. Miami’s standard procedure has been to trade older players away and replace them with young prospects. The resulting lack of longevity has had its greatest impact on the mound, which is why no pitcher in franchise history has exceeded the pedestrian totals of 81 wins or 108 saves.

And that’s why most of our candidates come from other positions. Let’s discuss the sole exception first, then go down the rest of the list in numerical order.

No. 16 Jose Fernandez (2013-2016) arrived in Miami with a bang, posting a 12-6 record and a 2.19 ERA to win National League Rookie of the Year honors. He was going even better with 16 wins in September 2016, when he died in a boating accident, just 56 days after his 24th birthday.

No. 1 Luis Castillo (1996-2005) spent 10 years in Miami, an impressively long tenure with a franchise known for its revolving-door roster. The second baseman played more games than anybody else in a Marlins uniform (1,128), and he accumulated the most runs (675), hits (1,273), and stolen bases (281) in the club’s history.

No. 2 Hanley Ramirez (2006-2012) won the NL’s Rookie of the Year Award in his Marlins debut, then took the batting crown three years later with a .342 average. The shortstop is second in the team’s all-time rankings for hits (1,103) and runs (666), and he’s third for homers (148).

No. 10 Gary Sheffield (1993-1998), a right fielder, was a key power source behind the franchise’s first world championship in 1997. He still has the club’s best career on-base percentage (.426) and the second-best slugging percentage (.543).

No. 19 Jeff Conine (1993-1997, 2003-2005) was the team’s first star, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in the Marlins’ inaugural season. The left fielder and first baseman ranks second in club history for games (1,014), and he is one of only three batters to deliver more than 1,000 hits for the Marlins (1,005).

No. 24 Miguel Cabrera is almost certainly destined for the Hall of Fame because of his 13 seasons (and counting) in Detroit, not his five years (2003-2007) in Miami. The third baseman and outfielder has the highest career batting average for the Marlins (.313).

No Miami player ever enjoyed a better season than No. 27 Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, when he smashed 59 home runs, drove in 132 runs, and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. But that marked the end of his eight-year stay as Miami’s right fielder (2010-2017). Stanton has the most home runs (267) and runs batted in (672) in franchise history.

The outlook

There was talk of retiring Fernandez’s jersey immediately after his death, though no action was ultimately taken. The Marlins have not issued No. 16 since 2016, nor have they officially removed it from circulation. The incentive to formally retire the number will lessen as memories of the young pitcher fade.

It’s hard to make a strong case for any of the other candidates. The stats for Castillo and Conine are the most compelling, though far from outstanding. Castillo won three Gold Gloves and batted .293 for the Marlins, while Conine made two All-Star teams and hit .290. Those records, to be honest, don’t seem quite good enough to warrant number retirements.

Two other possibilities, Cabrera and Stanton, are still playing, so it’s too soon to judge their chances. Perhaps one or both will eventually be honored by the franchise that brought them up to the big leagues.

But that’s a matter to be settled in the future. The immediate verdict is that the Marlins seem to have retired an appropriate total of jerseys.

Zero.

Previous posts on retired numbers