I became a Marlins fan in 2001. I had followed the team prior to that, but just here and there, nothing really serious. But then something happened, the Marlins had just fired John Boles and replaced him with Tony Perez and had a little run going. It looked like the Marlins were going to come out of the mediocrity that had surrounded the team for the last 3 seasons. I can’t remember exactly when, but shortly after the May 11th-13th series in San Diego, in which A.J. Burnett pitched a no hitter, I became hooked. Soon I was glued to my television on a nightly basis watching the young and talented Marlins making a run at first place in the National League East.
Things were going great until June 28th, 2001. The Marlins went into Philadelphia for a five game set against the Phillies. The Phillies, coming off their 26th last place finish in franchise history, were half a game behind the Braves for first place in the NL East standings. The Marlins at 41-36 were 2 games back of Atlanta, the week prior they had taken two of three from the Phillies at Dolphin Stadium.
It was a series that would make or break the season.
On Friday the 28th, the series began with a double header. The Marlins quickly lost both games by scores of 6-5 and 8-7 respectively. On Saturday, Scott Rolen started things with a three run homer off of Chuck Smith in the bottom of the first- the Marlins would lose 5-0. On Sunday, the Phillies scored 5 runs in the bottom of the fourth enroute to a 6-4 victory. The Phillies would cap off the sweep the next day with an 8-1 victory.
It was the series from hell.
The Marlins left Philadelphia 6 and a half games behind the then first place Phillies. They would never fully recover, finishing the year 10 games below .500. Philly took 14 of 19 from the Marlins that season. Bobby Abreu and Jimmy Rollins proving to be the biggest Marlin killers, and thus becoming the biggest villains for any Marlins fan.
In 2002, the Marlins would go 10-9 against the Phillies but still finish behind them in the standings.
2003 was payback time for the Marlins. The Fish lost to Philly 8-5 on Opening Day. Infact they would lose 4 of the first 6 against the Phillies that year. It was more of the same between the Marlins and the Phillies. Bobby Abreu and Jimmy Rollins continued to be the villains leading the Phillie charge, but now they had assistance from Jim Thome.
Everything changed July 4th, 2003. The Marlins went into Philadelphia once again making a little run up the standings. The Fish went ahead 2-1 in the top of the ninth thanks to a single by Derek Lee that drove in Mike Lowell.
The Marlins went on to sweep the series in Philly; they did it again at home two weeks later. The tide had turned. It was the Marlins turn.
Back and forth both teams battled that summer for the Wild Card lead. It all came down to three games the last week of the season. Nothing has more exhilarating than watching that core of players finally down the nemesis that had haunted them for so long. Not only was it a clean sweep, but all three victories were late inning back breaking victories. The fact that Jeff Conine had such a huge part in that series made it even sweeter. The final game of the series did two things, it brought the Marlins to within one win of a Wild Card berth and it eliminated the Phillies from contention. One of the greatest feelings I had as a fan was the sense of relief that came over me when the Marlins ended that series.
We all know what happened later on in that postseason.
That year the Marlins went 13-6 against the Phightins that year. Somehow the Marlins pitching staff found a way to stifle the three menaces known as Rollins, Abreu and Thome.
During the early part of the 2004 season we saw more Marlin domination. Mike Lowell had a three homer game in Philly, the third of which tied the game and sent it into extras innings where the Marlins would win.
On April 25th, the rivalry escalated even further with a bench clearing brawl in Philadelphia. The brawl started after Brett Myers threw a pitch high and inside to Alex Gonzalez. Todd Pratt then set-off Alex Gonzalez by bumping him after he stared down Myers. Both were ejected and the Marlins would eventually win the game 9-7.
Later on in the season, Hee Seop Choi hit a massive go-ahead home run at Dolphin Stadium. The ball almost went into the club level seats down the right field line. Just when you thought the Marlins couldn’t own the Phillies anymore than they already had, they would do something else. The reactions from Philadelphia ranged from disbelief to awe.
The Marlins took the 2005 season series 12-7.
Two-thousand and five was a fairly quiet year in the rivalry. For most of the year both teams played .500 against each other. Once again both teams were fighting for the Wild Card spot. On Saturday, September 17th the two teams faced off on national television. Philadelphia was 1 game out of the Wild Card spot; the Marlins 2 games out. The Marlins had Cy Young candidate Dontrelle Willis on the mound. Going into the top of the 9th, the Marlins and Willis were cruising 2-0.
Then the inning from hell.
Bloop hits, errors, bad hops — you name it! — it happened and it led to a 10 run Philadelphia inning. The Marlins proceeded to fall out of the Wild Card race over the last week of the season losing 6 out their next 8.
The young 2006 Marlins struggled against the Phillies going 6-13 over the season. The Phillies line-up battered the Marlins pitching staff, especially at Citizens Bank Park, the alleged major league park with short fences. New villains in Chase Utley, Jaimie Moyer and Ryan Howard joined old villains Jimmy Rollins and for half a season Bobby Abreu to plague the Fish.
Then in September Scott Olsen made the now infamous comments saying how much he hated the Phillies. Not disliked the Phillies, but hated the Phillies. He wanted to end their season. On September 24th, Olsen took the mound in Philly and was promptly lit up for 7 runs in 2 and two-thirds. He was ejected for throwing a pitch that hit Abraham Nunez.
Now, on to 2007 and this week’s three game series.
On Tuesday, Scott Olsen finally defeated his arch nemesis but not before exchanging a few words with Chase Utley after he repeatedly called time while Olsen was mid wind-up.
Thursday night, we saw Jon Lieber throw a pitch behind Dontrelle Willis. Willis responded by doing the same. After Lieber was retired, he went back to the dugout and got into a shouting match with Willis that eventually led to the benches clearly.
Understandably the first guy out of the Marlins dugout backing Willis was none other than Scott Olsen.
The Marlins would win the game 5-4 in 11 innings thanks in part to a long double from Miguel Cabrera off the Teal Tower that drove in Hanley Ramirez. The Marlins celebrated as if they had won the World Series. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel refused to have a press conference after the game.
This series had everything. Bean balls, ejected managers, rain, wind, eerie conditions, extra innings, a game past midnight, sparse crowds, energy, passion and yes, hatred. Most importantly it escalated a rivalry between both teams that had died down in recent years.
I have always seen the Phillies as our greatest rival in the division. I have always hated them. Yes, not disliked them, but hated them. I can’t stand Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, Citizens Bank Park or the fans that go to that alleged major league park.
The only other team the term hate can be applied to is the Mets; even then most of the “hate” is directed at their obnoxious drunken fans that take over Dolphin Stadium every time they are in town
I don’t “hate” the Braves. They are just programmed to win. They have always had better teams than the Marlins, their fans aren’t obnoxious and players like Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and John Smoltz have never come across to me as “villains” like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.
Even though the Expos/Nationals are in our division, I have never seen them as a division rival. The Marlins have had their number for the last several years and the club, except for a 2002, has never been as good as the Marlins.