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BASEBALL NOTES

Two Marlins File for Free Agency

October 27, 2003|From Associated Press

Less than 18 hours after the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series, closer Ugueth Urbina and spot starter Rick Helling filed for free agency Sunday.

John Flaherty, the Yankees' backup catcher, also was among the 35 players who filed.

About 230 players potentially are eligible to file by the Nov. 9 deadline. Players cannot start talking with clubs other than their own until Nov. 10.

Also filing were Texas outfielder Juan Gonzalez, Atlanta catcher Javy Lopez, Boston second baseman Todd Walker, Minnesota closer Eddie Guardado and outfielder Shannon Stewart, Arizona outfielder Raul Mondesi and San Francisco pitcher Sidney Ponson.

None of the biggest names filed on the first day. Top eligible pitchers include Andy Pettitte of the Yankees, Bartolo Colon of the Chicago White Sox and Greg Maddux of Atlanta.

Among the top hitters are Gary Sheffield of Atlanta, Vladimir Guerrero of Montreal and Rich Aurilia of San Francisco.

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Thousands of fans turned out to welcome the Marlins home to Fort Lauderdale, chanting and shouting until every player, coach and team official passed by for a quick wave, handshake or picture.

The crowd started chanting as the team's plane began its descent, and cheers nearly drowned out the noise of the jet's engines.

"It's got to be uplifting for the community," Manager Jack McKeon said after he stepped off the plane. "This is a great story, maybe the story of the century."

Rookie pitcher Dontrelle Willis, a fan favorite, enjoyed the show of support.

"You can't get enough of this," he said. "You see this and you just want to keep playing hard for these people."

Across the region, fans spent the day the same way they spent the moments following the Marlins' 2-0 title-clinching win over the New York Yankees the previous night -- celebrating.

"Our fans have been incredible," said team owner Jeffrey Loria, the first to step off the plane. "They've been behind us the whole way, and they deserve this."

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This year's World Series finished as the third-lowest-rated on TV. The six games posted an average national rating of 12.8 with a 22 share for Fox Sports.

The only Series with lower averages were in 2000, when the Yankees beat the New York Mets in five games (12.4/21) and the Angels' seven-game defeat of San Francisco last season (11.9/20), which was the lowest-rated ever.

The Marlins' series-clinching victory Saturday night garnered a 13.9 national rating with a 25 share, an 18% jump over last year.

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Montreal General Manager Omar Minaya has turned down an offer to return to the Mets for a position in their front office.

Minaya, the Mets' senior assistant general manager before joining Montreal in 2002, decided against accepting Met principal owner Fred Wilpon's offer to return as a "co-GM," spokesman John Dever said.

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