All-Fish Team: #3 – Edgar Renteria

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October 26, 1997. Game seven of the World Series. Tie game. 11th inning. Bases loaded, two outs. A 20-year-old Edgar Renteria steps to the plate against Charles Nagy. Four years earlier, it appeared that his lifelong dream was realized as he was signed at the age of 16 out of high school in Colombia now here he was at the age of 20 in his second season in professional ball with baseball history within his grasp in a situation that every ball player wants to find himself in yet and many never do, even after storied Hall of Fame type careers. Somehow still, Renteria was able to put his fear, excitement, nerves, and about a million other feelings aside and deliver. He drove an 0-1 slider back up the middle, scoring Craig Counsell from third and winning the Marlins their first ever world championship and writing their name along with his own into baseball record books forever. The AB which was Edgar’s 1,048th of 1,565 in a Marlins’ uniform painted a perfect picture of the kind of player he was: a scrappy hitter who could be counted on to get on base by any means necessary in order to both start innings or extend them. On top of the image of Renteria streaking down the first base line with tears streaming down his face being ingrained in every Marlins’ fan’s memory forever, it is for that reason, for being one of the best catalytic bats the team has ever seen that Edgar makes the All-Fish team as the best all-time wearer of the number three.

Edgar Renteria was born on August 7, 1976 in Barranquilla, Colombia. He played high school ball at Instituto Los Alpes High School in Barranquilla. Not long after his graduating year in 1992, Edgar was signed at the age of 15 by the Marlins. He was the first of just three Barranquilla residents (the others being former Marlin Donovan Solano and his brother Jhonatan) to have ever made American professional baseball, aptly earning him the moniker The Barranquilla Baby. With what he would go on to accomplish in a storied 15-year MLB career, he did that nickname more than justice and did his homeland proud, so much so that his name is now attached to the region’s brand new $45 billion ballpark which is set to be completed next month, named Estadio de Beisbol Edgar Renteria (Ballpark of Edgar Renteria). If you ask any child in the region whom their all-time hero is, you will be greeted with the name Edgar Renteria before you can even finish the question. Barranquilla little leaguers revere him above all others as their all-time hero and pull on their cleats for practice hoping to one day follow in his footsteps.

Upon his arrival in America, Edgar was sent to the Gulf Coast League Marlins to begin a very short but very impressive minor league career. There, he hit .288/.329/.350. The .288 BA was second best on that year’s GCL Marlins and 34th in the league. His 47 hits in 175 ABs ranked 27th in the league. Again, he was by far the league’s youngest player, only turning 16 a month before the season ended.

The shift to full season ball proved to be a bit difficult for Edgar at first as he hit just a collective .229/.288/.264 through his first 244 games between 1993 and 1994 but that didn’t stop the Marlins from giving him the call to AA Portland to start the 1995 season. Renteria rewarded that confidence by having his best season as a pro at the highest level he’s ever played at and once again against much older competition. That season, the 18-year-old, playing in a league against guys who averaged the age of 24, hit .289/.329/.388. He smashed a career high 29 XBH including seven homers and seven triples. He also turned many of his singles into at least doubles by swiping 30 bags, a total which ranked fourth in the Eastern League and just behind the likes of Nomar Garciaparra. He also appeared on top 20 leaderboards in triples (6th), RBI (13th with 68) and BA (20th) as he helped the Portland Sea Dogs to a league title by way of an average of over five runs a game. This was the first glimpse Marlins fans got of just how great of a catalyst Edgar could be as he also contributed eight sacrifice hits, sixth most in the Eastern League and eight sacrifice flies, third most.

After getting another call up, his fourth in four years and officially making him a frequent flyer through the minors, Edgar got off to a similar start as his year previous as he hit .280/.326/.386 with eight doubles, two homers, 16 RBI and 10 SB in his first 35 games in AAA. On pace for career highs in all of those categories, the Marlins gave him his major league call after Kurt Abbott went down with an injury. Despite being just 19, Major League Baseball’s youngest player and still to this day the youngest Marlin ever, Edgar spent the next 106 games becoming one of the very best shortstops in baseball. In 431 rookie year ABs, Renteria slashed .309/.358/.399. Amongst shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances, those marks ranked third, just behind Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, seventh just behind Omar Vizquel and Barry Larkin and 10th. Despite playing in less games than any of the competition that topped him, his countable stats were equally as impressive as his hit count of 133 placed 13th amongst all shortstops, his stolen base count of 16 tanked sixth and his walk total of 33 ranked 17th. His exports barely kept his hands off the Rookie of the Year trophy. He placed second to Dodgers’ outfielder Todd Hollandsworth.

However, a season later, Renteria would get his mitts on an even more prestigious prize: the World Series trophy. The honor came after a regular season in which Edgar hit .277/.327/.340 as a 20-year-old atop the Marlins’ lineup. With 45 walks in 691 PAs, his BB% of 6.5 ranked ninth amongst MLB shortstops. Despite seeing the most ABs amongst baseball’s #6 players, he managed to hold down a 15.6 K%, good for eighth lowest amongst them. Accordingly, his 0.42 BB/K was 11th best amongst shortstops. The impetus Renteria also scored 90 runs that year, tied for most amongst NL shortstops. He also stole 32 bags, tied for second most in the NL with Shawon Dunston. All of this preceded his aforementioned heroic World Series moment. However, dramatically amazing as it was, the series clinching hit wasn’t Renteria’s only positive moment of that championship series. For the seven game span, he hit .290/.353/.355 with two doubles, three RBI and a 3/5 K/BB and he not so arguably deserved the World Series MVP Award over Livan Hernandez, who, despite a great performance in game five, gave up eight earned runs on 15 hits in 13.2 innings.

Renteria played in his final season with the Marlins in 1998, a year in which he was the only Marlins’ All-Star by way of a .302/.366/.358 slash line at the break. He went on to hit .282 that year, which was, at the point in his career, a career high and which ranked eighth amongst MLB shortstops. In that same regard, his .347 OBP ranked seventh and his 41 steals, another career high, ranked second again only to A-Rod of the American League Mariners. His 13.4 K% was 10th lowest amongst shortstops and his 8.3 BB% was seventh highest leading to a 0.62 BB/K that was sixth best amongst shortstops. Upon being traded to the Cardinals that offseason, his Marlins’ career came to an end but it didn’t come without a legacy left behind. That legacy is made up not only by way of arguably the best World Series performance in team history but also by way of the team’s seventh most career stolen bases (89), its ninth best career BA (.288), its seventh best AB per strikeout ratio (6.2) and its sixth most sacrifice hits (30). His final Marlins slash line reads .288/.342/.357 with 89 steals and 114 RBI.

Edgar went on to similarly great things as a member of the Cardinals hitting .290/.347/.420, marks which ranked sixth, eighth and 13th for an MLB shortstop and again putting him in the conversation for the best #6 man in the league for the span of 1999-2004 and awarded him three All-Star Game invites and two appearances in MVP voting (including 15th in his career best .330/.394/.480 season in 2003). However, perhaps his greatest personal accomplishment occurred in 2010 as a member of Giants when he righted the wrong of missing out on the World Series MVP award in 1997. That year, Renteria hit game winning homers in two separate games and was honored with the award.

A season later, Renteria’s baseball career came to an end. The first people he announced it to were his countrymen in Colombia. And as revered as he is there, he is equally as revered by Marlins fans. Being the ones who discovered him from humble beginnings in his tiny native city and bringing him to the professional ranks as merely a teenager only to watch him blossom in to a World Series hero and one of the baseball’s best top of the order incendiaries, Renteria could become the first player ever to enter the Hall of Fame, which he is eligible for this year, donning a Marlins’ cap.

Participate in the poll on Twitter this coming week and be sure to read next week where your votes will reveal the greatest Marlin to ever wear the number four.

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