MLB Top 5: Miami Marlins Catchers and Managers

This is the first article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Miami Marlins. In this installment are catchers and managers.

The team now known as the Miami Marlins began play along with the Colorado Rockies in the 1993 season, but that was not the first instance of a team bearing that name. A Phillies minor league team moved from Syracuse, NY, and took on the name in 1956, but the club soon suffered from poor play and poor attendance and was moved to Atlanta in 1962. While it was in South Florida, the team featured former Negro League star and future Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige, who took the mound for the squad at age 50.

In the same year as the club moved, the Phillies revived a long-inactive Fort Myers team, moved it to Miami and used it as a class A affiliate until 1966. The Marlins later became a minor league franchise in the Orioles and Padres organizations, before the Twins affiliated the squad and moved it back to Fort Myers in 1991. This incarnation of the team saw the development of another future Hall of Famer (this one quite a bit younger than Paige) in Cal Ripken Jr.

The process to create the modern Marlins began in 1985, when Miami was one of 12 groups to submit an expansion proposal. When talks concerning expansion stalled (thanks to a few established teams facing financial difficulty and owners facing collusion claims by the Players’ Union), the U. S. Senate got involved and forced baseball to either expand or lose its antitrust exemption.

In June 1991, the Denver and Miami groups outlasted bids from Buffalo, Orlando, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Washington D.C. to give the National League 14 teams. While Flamingos was considered an early nickname frontrunner, the team became the Florida Marlins as an homage to the earlier minor league franchises. Major League Baseball wanted the team to take on the Miami name, but the club decided to include the entire state in order to appeal to as many fans as possible.

The team’s first owner was H. Wayne Huizenga, the founder of both the AutoNation auto retailer and the environmental services company Waste Management Inc., as well as the owner of Blockbuster Video. He also was a co-owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and eventually the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Huizenga paid the entire $95 million franchise fee for the Marlins, plus all the team’s startup costs and renovations to Joe Robbie Stadium. Joining Huizenga at the top of the organization was former Pirates team president Carl Barger, who held the same role with the Marlins and was also on Blockbuster’s board of directors. However, he would never get to see the team play because he died after suffering a ruptured aortic aneurism during the Winter Meetings in 1992.

On the field, the Marlins were better than most expansion teams, going 64-98 in 1993 and hovered around .500 for their first few seasons. In 1996, the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals and Huizenga wanted to bring the same success to his baseball team. The owner, along with general manager Dave Dombrowski, spent $89 million on free agents in the offseason.

The result was a 92-70 record, good enough to earn the team its first playoff berth as a wild card team after finishing nine games behind the Braves in the division. Florida swept San Francisco in the Division Series, dispatched Atlanta in the NLCS and edged out Cleveland to become the fastest expansion team and first wild card team to win the World Series. Shortstop Edgar Renteria provided the series-winning hit in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7.

Unlike many championship teams, who try to keep their core together, Huizenga, claiming $34 million in losses, desperately dumped salary after winning the title. Florida fell to 54-108 in 1998, the worst record by a defending champion in baseball history. Huizenga sold the team after the season to John W. Henry, the owner of an investment management firm, for $158 million, but he retained ownership of the stadium and the team’s cable channel until 2012.

The Marlins steadily improved over the next few years, but Henry was more interested in moving on to bigger and better things. In 2002, he arranged a three-way team sale in which he took over control of the Red Sox, Expos owner Jeffrey Loria took over the Marlins and the Montreal franchise was handed over to the owners of the other teams.

Like Huizenga before him, Loria spent freely in his first few years and the Marlins went 91-71 in 2003. Thanks to a timely managerial change in May to 72-year-old Jack McKeon, Florida once again earned a wild card spot and finished second behind the Braves in the N. L. East. The Marlins dispatched the Giants in the Division Series again, then took advantage of the “curse of Steve Bartman” to beat the Cubs in the NLCS before toppling the Yankees for their second title.

Asa with their first championship, the Marlins held a “fire sale” to dump salary in 2004-05. The team remained competitive for much of the next decade, but went through seven managers in that span, including a second stint with McKeon in 2011 and three-plus years with Fredi Gonzalez, who the club originally hired as its first minor league manager back in 1991.

Loria scammed Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami into paying for a large portion of a new stadium, and the club left Sun Life Stadium (which had gone through seven name changes since the Marlins started playing there) in favor of Marlins Park in 2012 (now called loanDepot Park) while also changing its name to the Miami Marlins. The owner once again sold off most of the team’s good players.

Loria finally sold the team for $1.2 billion in 2017 to Bruce Sherman, the co-founder of wealth-management firm Private Capital Management, who was seconded by legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. The first thing the new owners did was sell off more talent, with this “fire sale” including three outfielders who would go on to have stellar careers with other teams. Jeter would last as the team’s CEO until he stepped down before the 2022 season.

Under their new management, the Marlins still proved they could do more on the field despite having less payroll to work with. Another former Yankees legend, Don Mattingly, led the team to its first playoff appearance in 17 years during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Miami swept Chicago before being swept by Atlanta in the Division Series.

In 2023, under new manager Skip Schumaker, the Marlins earned a wild card spot, but were swept by the Phillies while another wild card team, the Diamondbacks, went on to represent the National League in the World Series. In 31 years of existence, the franchise has just eight winning seasons and has made four trips to the playoffs.

The Best Catchers and Managers in Miami Marlins History

Catchers

Honorable Mentions – Although Mike Redmond technically was a starter in three of his seven seasons with Florida (1998-2004), Redmond served primarily as a backup or in a platoon with more experienced players. He batted .300 or better four times and had a .284 average in 484 games with the Marlins. Redmond went 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored in three games during the 2003 NLCS. He was second among National League catchers in fielding percentage in 2000.

5. Benito Santiago – He was the starter in the team’s first game in 1993, had two seasons behind the plate with Florida (1993-94) and led the league in assists and runners caught stealing in 1994. However, Santiago’s best years were with teams from Southern California. He was the 1987 Rookie of the Year with the Padres and earned four All-Star selections, four silver sluggers and three gold gloves with San Diego. Nearly a decade after his time with the Marlins, he was an All-Star and the MVP of the 2002 NLCS with the Giants.

4. Jorge Alfaro – The Colombian-born backstop came to the Marlins after a 2019 trade that involves another player on this list. He spent three seasons in Miami (2019-21) and batted .262 with career-best totals of 44 runs, 113 hits, 18 home runs and 57 RBIs in his first year with the club. After spending time with the Padres, Rockies and Red Sox over the past two seasons, the two-time Futures Game participant signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in August 2023, but never played on the big-league club and was granted free agency.

3. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez – He played just one season with Florida, but he was a big part of the Marlins’ championship run in 2003. He batted .297 with 90 runs, 152 hits, 16 home runs and 85 runs batted in during the regular season. In the playoffs, he batted .313 overall and was the MVP of the NLCS victory over the Cubs after amassing five runs, nine hits, two homers and 10 RBIs in the seven-game series.

Like many of the stars of that title team, Rodriguez found a new home the following season after signing with the Tigers. He also spent time with the Astros and Nationals before retiring in 2011. “Pudge” was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot in 2017.

2. J.T. Realmuto – He was drafted by the Marlins in the third round in 2010 and earned a September call-up four years later. Realmuto spent four full seasons in Miami (2014-18), posting double-digit home runs and at least 40 RBIs in each of those campaigns. His best year was his last, when he earned a silver slugger and an All-Star selection after batting .277 with 21 home runs and 74 runs batted in. He was also solid defensively, leading the league in assists and double plays by a catcher in 2016 and ranking ninth in franchise history with a 3.3 defensive WAR.

Realmuto was sent to Philadelphia in the trade that brought catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitcher Sixto Sanchez to Miami. He has improved throughout his time with the Phillies, earning two All-Star selections, two gold gloves and two silver sluggers, while also topping National League catchers in double plays three times, plus putouts, runners caught stealing and fielding percentage twice each. He has also gotten some playoff experience, appearing in 30 postseason games with 18 RBIs and six home runs, including one in the 2022 World Series, in which the Phillies lost to the Astros.

1. Charles Johnson – He earned a brief call-up during the team’s second season and went on to play seven seasons with the Marlins in two stints (1994-98 and 2001-02). Johnson earned a pair of All-Star selections and three gold gloves during his time in South Florida. His best season was 2001, when he batted .259 with 18 home runs and 75 runs batted in, which was his most as a Marlin.

Johnson totaled 204 runs, 467 hits, 111 doubles, 75 home runs and 277 RBIs in 587 games with Florida. He also was a member of the team’s 1997 championship squad, totaling 10 runs, 15 hits, two homers and 10 RBIs in 16 playoff games. Johnson drove in five runs against the Braves in the NLCS and had four runs, 10 hits and a home run against the Indians in the World Series. In addition to his gold gloves, Johnson won two fielding titles and led all National League catchers in double plays twice. He also tops the franchise list with an 8.6 defensive WAR.

Johnson was one of the major pieces sent to the Dodgers in the Mike Piazza trade in 1998, and he was also in trades involving Todd Hundley (Dodgers to Mets) and Armando Benitez (Mets to Orioles) that offseason. Johnson also spent time with the White Sox, Rockies and Devil Rays, ending his 12-year career with Tampa Bay in 2005. He works as a Marlins ambassador and runs a foundation to help needy families in the Miami area.

Managers

Honorable Mentions – John Boles had two stints as Marlins manager (1996 and 99-01), and while he did not lead the time to a winning record or a playoff spot, the team was mostly respectable during his tenure. Florida went 205-241 in his tenure, and he led the club to a pair of third-place finishes.

Skip Schumaker led the Marlins to an 84-78 record in his first season in 2023. Although the team was swept by Phillies in the Wild Card round, the team’s performance has created some optimism for the fans in South Florida.

5. Rene Lachemann – He was a former major league catcher who played 118 games over three seasons with the Athletics in Kansas City and Oakland in the late 1960s. Lachemann managed in the minors with Oakland and Seattle throughout most of the next decade. He took over the Mariners during the strike-shortened 1981 season and led them to respectability for the next two years before a 26-47 start in 1983 led to his dismissal in late June.

The following year, Lachemann took over a Brewers team that was a disaster despite winning the World Series two years before. He was let go after a 67-94 record and spent time as a major league coach with the Red Sox and Athletics before being hired as the Marlins’ first manager.

Lachemann led Florida to respectable showings for an expansion team, and he amassed a 221-285 record in three-plus seasons (1993-96). The Marlins were being overshadowed by the other expansion team, the Rockies, and a losing streak led to his firing in 1996. Lachemann went on to coach on staffs with the Cardinals, Cubs (including a one-game stint as manager in 2002), Mariners and Athletics again. He was a hitting coach for Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate beginning in 2008 and was the Rockies’ first base coach from 2013-16.

4. Jim Leyland – A manager who compiled a 1,769-1,728 record with four teams and won three pennants in 22 years deserved better than what he got in his time as manager of the Marlins. A two-time Manager of the Year with the Pirates, Leyland was the beneficiary of the team’s spending spree before the 1997 season, and he led the newly acquired talent to a 92-70 record. Florida earned its first playoff berth and became the first wild card team to win the World Series.

However, it took only five days after winning the title for the Marlins to start disbanding. The following year, the team set a record by losing 108 games in 1998, the most by a defending champion. Leyland had to use 38 rookies during the season, and he resigned right after Florida’s last-place finish.

Leyland spent one year as manager of the Rockies, but he liked working with pitchers and the thin air in Colorado did not make his job easy. He was a scout with the Cardinals for a few years before agreeing to manage Detroit. In eight seasons in the Motor City, Leyland led the Tigers to four playoff appearances and two pennants, and he was named Manager of the Year in 2006. He resigned as manager after the 2013 season and has been a special assistant in the team’s front office ever since. Leyland earned election into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2024 thanks to the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee.

3. Fredi Gonzalez – He joined the Marlins in 1991 as the first minor league manager the team hired. Gonzalez spent nearly a decade in the minors, other than a two-game stint managing the big-league club in 2000. He was given a chance to manage Florida in 2007, and he amassed a 276-279 record in three-plus seasons (2007-10).

Despite leading the team to a pair of winning seasons, Gonzalez was let go midway through 2010. The Braves hired him as manager the following year, and he led Atlanta to three winning seasons and two playoff berths during a six-year run. Gonzalez rejoined the Marlins as third base coach from 2017-19, and he has worked as a minor league coach in Baltimore since leaving Miami.

2. Don Mattingly – His 14-year playing career included six All-Star selections, nine gold gloves, three silver sluggers, a batting title and an MVP Award in 1985, all as a first baseman for the Yankees. Mattingly spent seven seasons as a special instructor during the team’s spring trainings before joining the club in hitting and bench coach roles.

When the Yankees did not offer him the managerial role following Joe Torre‘s departure in 2007, Mattingly joined Torre in Los Angeles. He spent four seasons, mostly as a hitting coach before replacing Torre as Dodgers manager in 2011. Mattingly amassed a 446-363 record and led Los Angeles to winning records in each of his five seasons at the helm. The Dodgers had their best season in 2013, when they went 92-70, won the N. L. West and reached the NLCS before falling to the Cardinals.

Mattingly joined the Marlins in 2016 and is the team’s all-time leader in managerial victories, posting a 443-587 mark in seven years (2016-22). After enduring a 57-105 record in 2019, Mattingly led the club to just its third playoff appearance and first in 17 years thanks to a 31-29 mark in the COVID-shortened season.

The Marlins defeated the Cubs in the Wild Card round but were swept by the Braves in the Division Series. Despite the loss, Mattingly was named National League Manager of the Year. The Marlins failed to reach 70 victories the following two years and Mattingly left Miami after the 2022 season. He spent this past season as the bench coach for the Blue Jays.

1. Jack McKeon – Like many other managers, McKeon was a catcher during his playing days. Despite never reaching the major leagues as a player, he spent a decade in the minors and was a player-manager for nearly half that time. The Senators gave McKeon his first full-time minor league managerial job in 1960, and he kept the job when the team changed over to the Twins. After spending three years as a scout for Minnesota, he got back on the field in the Kansas City organization.

McKeon guided the Triple-A team to four straight solid years, so the Royals gave him a chance to manage the big-league club. His first year at the helm, he led Kansas City to a then-record 88 wins in 1973. The team fell below .500 the following year and, despite having a winning record, McKeon was fired and replaced by Whitey Herzog in 1975.

After one year in the Braves organization, McKeon had a forgettable stint with the Athletics and spent one year in managing the Expos’ Triple-A team. He spent most of the 1980s as general manager of the Padres and, thanks to his penchant for making roster moves, he became known as “Trader Jack.” McKeon became manager in 1988 and the following year, he led San Diego to 89 wins. However, in 1990, he resigned as manager at the All-Star break and was fired as general manager after the season.

McKeon was out of baseball in 1991-92 and joined the Reds as scout and senior advisor. He held those roles until he took over as manager in 1997, and he led Cincinnati to a pair of winning seasons. After four years at the helm, McKeon was fired following the 2000 season and retired. However, he jumped at the chance to manage again when Marlins owner asked him to replace the fired Jeff Torborg in May 2003.

The 72-year-old appealed to players using his considerable experience. He was friendly but also had high expectations, which the Marlins provided during their 75-49 finish to the season. McKeon was oldest manager to lead his team to a championship and became the first to earn the Manager of the Year Award after being brought in during the season. He led Florida to 83-79 records in each of the next two seasons and retired once again in 2005.

McKeon stayed with Marlins as an advisor for the next five years until, once again, his managerial services were needed. When the team brought him in to finish the 2011 season, the 80-year-old became the second-oldest manager in major league history (behind Connie Mack, who was both manager and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics and led the team until 1950, when he was 87). McKeon went 40-50 and retired for good at the end of the year.

His 33-year managerial career spanned more than five decades, and McKeon won at least 1,000 games in both the major and minor leagues. He went 1,050-990 in 16 big-league seasons with five teams. His minor league record was 1,151-1,152 over 17 seasons. His son and grandson both became major league scouts and two other grandsons became college baseball coaches.

Upcoming Stories

Miami Marlins Catchers and Managers
Miami Marlins First and Third Basemen – coming soon
Miami Marlins Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Miami Marlins Outfielders – coming soon
Miami Marlins Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the Los Angeles Dodgers

A look back at the Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers

A look back at the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders
Kansas City Royals Pitchers

A look back at the Houston Astros

Houston Astros Catchers and Managers
Houston Astros First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Houston Astros Second Basemen and Shortstops
Houston Astros Outfielders
Houston Astros Pitchers

A look back at the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Catchers and Managers
Detroit Tigers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Detroit Tigers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Detroit Tigers Outfielders
Detroit Tigers Pitchers

A look back at the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies Catchers and Managers
Colorado Rockies First and Third Basemen
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops
Colorado Rockies Outfielders
Colorado Rockies Pitchers

A look back at the Cleveland Guardians

Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers

A look back at the Cincinnati Reds

A look back at the Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers

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