10/16/2003 2:20 AM ET
Final destination? Fish wait and see
Get your Marlins NL championship gear
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- After 11 years of their existence, the Seattle Mariners had yet to post a winning season, maxing out with 78 victories. For their first 11 seasons, the San Diego Padres averaged 96 losses. In their 11th season, the Houston Astros finally broke, barely, through .500.
In their 11th season, the Florida Marlins are going to their second World Series, right on schedule. They've already won one, in 1997, in their fifth year. After another five-year wait, here they come again.
So Florida is not only the land of the hanging chads. It's also the land of postseason perfection.
The Marlins are 5-for-5. Do we hear six?
"One more mountain to climb," said Derrek Lee, the big first baseman.
"We beat two great teams in the playoffs," said Ivan "MVP" Rodriguez. "We'll enjoy it for a couple of days, then get ready for the World Series."
But, first, they have to learn their destination, Boston or New York?
The Marlins will remain here through Thursday night, awaiting the outcome of another Game 7. That downtime will be welcome, a chance to come down from an unusually spirited clinching celebration, as the Marlins vented all the emotion they'd kept bottled up as a slighted underdog to the Cubs.
However, once their World Series opposition is identified, the National League champs will mobilize. They will fly either to Boston or New York late Thursday night, in order to wake up in the city where they will continue their October mission.
"We're just happy to be there. We'll wait around to find out where we're going," said manager Jack McKeon.
"Either one," Rodriguez said when asked for a World Series foe preference. "When you're in the World Series, the two teams are the best teams, so you've got to be ready for either."
There was no immediate indication whether the Marlins would work out Friday, in preparation for Saturday's Game 1.
Nor was McKeon ready to even speculate on a pitching rotation, which doubtless will be affected by the opposition.
There is some feeling that Dontrelle Willis, who started Game 4 of the NLCS, could be tabbed to open the Series.
But McKeon would be unlikely to give him that assignment in Fenway Park, and have the young left-hander pitch with the Green Monster towering over his shoulder.
Carl Pavano, who tendered a solid effort in Game 6 here on Tuesday, could start Saturday on three days' rest, and be followed by Mark Redman, Wednesday's starter, and Josh Beckett.
Beckett dominated in his Game 5 shutout and helped preserve the clinching win with four strong innings on two days' rest. But a Game 3 assignment would come following another five days of rest, recharging the right-hander's juices.
Wherever they're going, whoever they're playing, whichever is their leadoff arm, the Marlins know one thing.
They are no longer just the school of Fish which was standing in the way of a World Series berth the Chicago Cubs and their nation of followers considered their rightful destiny.
They are a scrappy, determined bunch you only need to know to love.
"I think the Cubs were always America's favorite," McKeon said, "and now I think we're the darlings of the baseball world, and I think we'll have all those people rooting for us.
"Because they're seeing an exciting team play. We're going to have some fun, wherever we go."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.