Expansion drafts are generally fun times for leagues. They open up new markets and get fans excited for a new team, with new players joining the local community. While the enthusiasm is generated when a location for an expansion team is announced, putting players’ names and faces to the team is what really generates excitement and momentum for the start of a franchise. Despite what are typically mediocre seasons, civic pride and general sports enthusiasm is prevalent in the first few years of an expansion team’s life.
The latest league to expand into a new geography is the National Hockey League, which last year announced they would be the first major sports league to settle in Las Vegas. In mid-June the league held an expansion draft for the newest member of their club, the Vegas Golden Knights.
All the talk of expansion got the team at Beyond the Box Score pretty excited, though it looks like MLB has a number of issues to work through before considering further expansion. With stadium issues for both Tampa and Oakland, and a wildly successful 1/30 stake for each MLB owner in MLB Advanced Media (BAM Tech), splitting the pie up further seems unlikely in the near-term.
Instead of looking forward to potential expansion sites (and inevitably getting the people of Montreal) excited about something that is not likely to happen any time soon, we decided to look backwards at the 1992–93 expansion draft, the first of MLB’s modern expansion post-1977.
Acting as the commissioner, I worked with my esteemed colleagues Martin Alonso (acting as the Rockies GM) and Jim Turvey (acting as the Marlins GM) to create alternative rosters for “what could have been.” Later today we will be releasing the “updated” and redrafted lineups based on Martin and Jim’s selection in a live draft that took place recently.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at how the lineups shook out as part of the original expansion draft. With the benefit of hindsight, we can identify some of the gems taken by Dave Dombrowski (the first General Manager for the Marlins) and Bob Gebhard (the Rockies’ first GM), as well as some of the duds.
1993 Expansion Results
|Original 1993 Marlins Lineup||Original 1993 Rockies Lineup|
|Original 1993 Marlins Lineup||Original 1993 Rockies Lineup|
|Benito Santiago||Joe Girardi|
|Orestes Destrade||Andres Galarraga|
|Bret Barberie||Eric Young|
|Walt Weiss||Vinny Castilla|
|Gary Sheffield||Charlie Hayes|
|Jeff Conine||Jerald Clark|
|Chuck Carr||Alex Cole|
|Darrell Whitmore||Dante Bichette|
|Charlie Hough||Armando Reynoso|
|Jack Armstrong||David Nied|
|Chris Hammond||Butch Henry|
|Bryan Harvey||Darren Holmes|
|Luis Aquino||Willie Blair|
|Richie Lewis||Bruce Ruffin|
|Matt Turner (RP)||Steve Reed|
The Rockies plan going into the expansion draft was to select controllable and cheap players the team could build around over the next three to five years to become contenders. The Rox did manage to draft ten players who stayed at least three years in Colorado, and seven that stayed at least five years.
Though their inaugural season was a little rough (to be expected), the Rockies did make their first playoff appearance in their full second season (we’re ignoring 1994 because it never happened, right? Right.). Led by near five-win free agent acquisition Larry Walker, the Rockies finished in second place in the West and earn themselves a wildcard spot.
The Braves defeated the Rockies in four games that series, but overall, Colorado held their own. In Game One at home (the format then was 2-3) the Rockies ‘pen gave up a run in the eighth and ninth innings to lose 5-4. Game Two was an even more painful affair, as the Rockies turned a 4-3 ninth inning lead into a 7-4 deficit by allowing four runs in the top of the inning.
It looked like the Rockies were on the right path and such early success would be a harbinger for the future. But the future is a cruel mistress. After losing the 1995 NLDS to Atlanta, Colorado would not finish better than third for the next 12 years. Though they did win the NL Pennant in 2007, they did so while again winning the wild card and finishing in second place. The team went on a team in the postseason until running into the buzzsaw/buzzkill Red Sox. Colorado is still seeking their first NL West title.
Now onto the Marlins. Oh the Marlins…
We all know the Marlins game, and more specifically their recent MO with Jeffrey Loria at the helm. When the Marlins were created, Wayne Huizenga had a similar ‘the time is now’ timeline. Unlike the Rockies, who were built for the three to five-plus year plan, the Marlins only had three players from their starting 15 players to stay more than five years. The first three years were pretty dreadful, and Florida never got closer than 16 games back. Then the 1996 offseason arrived.
In 1997, the Marlins went all-in, replacing some of the cheaper and worse players with high-flyer free agents including Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, and Alex Fernandez. The free agents supplemented young rising stars along with the only three starters left from the original draft: Gary Sheffield, Jeff Conine, and middle-of-the-rotation starter Chris Hammond.
The Marlins still did not win the NL East (they finished nine games out, in second place behind the NL reigning champion Braves), but they did manage to win the wild card slot. Florida swept the Giants three games straight, beat Atlanta in six games, and took home their first World Series championship in an exhilarating seven games over Cleveland. In only their fourth full season the Fish won the World Series!
Then the firesale (the first firesale) happened, beginning the long and storied legacy that is the Florida/Miami Marlins. The same thing happened in 2003, when the team spent like drunken sailors on free agents, won the World Series via the wild card again, and sold off pretty much every movable asset. The Marlins are still awaiting their first divisional pennant as well.
That’s the story of the real Marlins and Rockies franchises. Later today we take a look at the setup Martin and Jim have come up with via the redraft.
Ed’s Note: the Marlins original ownership has been clarified.