September 7, 2006
Remember what happened at this year's Final Four? One of the greatest Cinderella stories took place as George Mason, an 11th seed, got to Indianapolis! Jim Larranaga's squad beat Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut to make the elite party that is so special!
Larranaga did an amazing job, getting his kids to play at such a high level. The Patriots proved that if you play as a team, you can overcome obstacles. It isn't always about being the most talented; if you can play together and with a sense of pride, you can accomplish almost anything.
Look at what is going on in baseball right now. Larry Beinfest and Joe Girardi have done an incredible job with the Florida Marlins. Think about it … Florida was 20 games below .500 earlier this season. I don't want to hear comments that the National League is watered down.
The bottom line is the Marlins are competing for a playoff berth despite a payroll under $15 million. That's less than what Derek Jeter makes in a season!
It is a credit to the leadership of Beinfest to get the right people. My friends, try to name that Marlins lineup? The names like Uggla, Jacobs and Willingham don't ring out to the average fan. Yes, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis are still there, but baseball purists would have a hard time knowing many of these guys.
They are competing and playing well, doing all the intangibles needed to win.
There is something about leadership and Joe Girardi has worked with some great baseball minds over the years, including Joe Torre. He learned a lot as the bench coach in New York. Girardi would be my pick as NL manager of the year.
I recently spoke about the Marlins on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike show. We agreed that it is amazing to have a successful team with such a low payroll.
Florida is the kind of underdog story that makes you say WOW! Just like George Mason earlier in the year, it is an incredible Cinderella story.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.