Best Florida Marlins Player
Everyone remembers that woolly October, with Pudge doing his best Cerberus impression at home plate and Josh Beckett mowing down Yankees. But were it not for Willis' summer, the champagne-soaked 2003 Marlins would have been the yeah, whatever 2002 Marlins. In May, the Fish were reeling from injuries when Willis, 21, got the call from Double A. He jumped in with 11-2, smiled for the cover of ESPN the Magazine, and became an unlikely sensation (that double-wide grin! that whiplash windup!) for a team with renewed verve. The Fish bottomed out at 19-29 on May 22, then closed the season at a 72-42 clip, tops in the majors down that stretch. In retrospect, their preposterous postseason looks like destiny, but those selfsame indestructible Marlins were scrapping for a Wild Card spot until autumn. Willis, the National League Rookie of the Year, was the reason they were even in contention. The capper: He's all of 22. Readers' Choice: Josh Beckett
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.