Shiny days for Marlins Cabrera, Ramirez
Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez have been side by side for two seasons, and the only sad thing is that they probably will not be together much longer. That is the unfortunate reality of playing for the Florida Marlins, the team that is baseball's equivalent of the NBA Developmental League.
If that all sounds like a rip on the Marlins, rest assured: it is not. For all of the good that has happened in baseball in recent years, the game still has certain economic realities that may never, ever change. One of them is that team like the Marlins eventually must part with players like Cabrera and Ramirez, tremendously gifted young stars who will simply get too big to remain in a small market.
But before this turns into a sad story, let's get this out there: Right now, at this moment, the Marlins have arguably the best tandem of shortstop and third baseman in all of major league baseball. Maybe they have the best tandem of positional players, period. In the National League, especially, people talk about the right side of the Philadelphia Phillies' infield and the left side of the New York Mets'. Now it is time to include the left side in Florida, for however long it lasts.
Seriously, can anyone name a more desirable tandem of teammates in all of baseball at the moment? In Cabrera and Ramirez, the Marlins have a potential Triple Crown winner (Cabrera) and a potential 30-30 man (Ramirez) for the next 10 years. Neither of those descriptions is an exaggeration. Cabrera is 24 and Ramirez is 23, which means that two of the best players in baseball, combined, are younger than Julio Franco.
Do you understand?
As good as Ramirez and Cabrera are now, they are only getting better.
Of course, playing for the Marlins only gets you so much attention, unless you happen to be an intrusive owner who doesn't know when to leave well enough alone. The Marlins seemed to be making major strides last season under the watch of manager Joe Girardi, who had Florida in playoff contention late into the season. That was before owner Jeffrey Loria decided that he was part Mark Cuban and part Daniel Snyder, and the sad truth is that the Marlins really have not been the same baseball team since.
Take a good look at those standings, people. Entering this week, the Marlins were a half-game ahead of the dreadful Washington Nationals in the stiff National League East.
Thankfully, there is still a race unfolding in South Florida this season, though it has nothing to do with the playoffs. With eight weeks to go in the regular season, Cabrera and Ramirez just happen to be fighting for the batting title. Ramirez is at .341 and Cabrera is at .338, though it should be noted that Cabrera is in the top six in the NL in home runs and RBI, too.
Of course, with the Marlins, all good things must come to an end. Cabrera is now in his fourth full season and eligible for free agency following the 2009 season, and his alary is starting to escalate. As recently as the weeks leading up to the July 31 trading deadline, there was speculation that Cabrera could be on the trade market within the next year or so, and you can bet that the suitors will be lined up. Cabrera has averaged 31 home runs and 114 RBI over each of his first three full seasons in the game, and he might be quite literally the best Triple Crown threat that the game has seen in a long time.
Ramirez? He has a long way to go to free agency -- he is not eligible until after the 2011 season -- though then he will still be just 27. The irony is that Ramirez was acquired from the Boston Red Sox when the Marlins faced a similar dilemma with Josh Beckett, who is now tied for the major league lead in victories (14) and threatening to win his first Cy Young Award. It was with the Marlins that Beckett won a World Series and began developing into a staff ace. Now that he has arrived, the Red Sox are enjoying the benefits.
Does that mean Ramirez will someday be a Most Valuable Player for the Marlins or someone else? That is entirely up in the air. But as two great young players continue to line up alongside one another in the searing Florida sun, as they continue to make a clump of other major league clubs drool with anticipation, the relatively few and loyal baseball fans of South Florida are offered a word to the wise:
Enjoy it while it lasts.
Right now, at least, there isn't a baseball city in America that has what you do.
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