The '97 Marlins were a free agent-infused bunch that had an abundance of swagger, plenty of power and speed in their lineup (Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Devon White, Charles Johnson, Jeff Conine), a potent bench (Cliff Floyd, Jim Eisenreich), a deep starting rotation (Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Alex Fernandez) and strong bullpen anchored by closer Robb Nen.

They also had an extremely young and talented middle-infield duo of shortstop Edgar Renteria, 21, and second baseman Luis Castillo, 20. And while they were a thrill to watch defensively, by midseason it seemed apparent that only Renteria looked fit for a pennant race with the bat.

When the Marlins were treading water during a 17-17 stretch, manager Jim Leyland and general manager Dave Dombrowski agreed the Marlins needed to make a couple of changes.

One was to bring in veteran catcher Darren Daulton from Philadelphia to play first base and some outfield while oozing leadership and grit. If you could have just seen the daily regimen required just to get his surgically repaired knees ready for competition….

The other move was to send Castillo back to the minors and replace him with Craig Counsell, whom the Marlins acquired from Colorado in a July 27 trade.

I was in my third year as a baseball beat writer covering the Marlins for the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. Frank Wren was Dombrowski's assistant general manager.

Castillo hit .240 with a .310 OBP and no power to speak of in 75 games for Florida that season, including .170 with a .253 OBP in his last 43 games through July 27.

Counsell arrived on July 28 and hit .299 with a .376 OBP in 51 games the rest of the season, then .293 with a .423 OBP in 15 games during the '97 postseason, scoring the World Series-winning run on Renteria's 10th-inning single in Game 7 against Cleveland.