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June 19, 2011

The BP Broadside

Firing the Manager is the Last Refuge of the Incompetent

by Steven Goldman

Since 1996, when Rene Lachemann, the franchise’s first manager, was let go, the Marlins have had 10 managers, not counting one-game interim skipper Cookie Rojas, and considering John Boles’ two stints, separated by three years, as distinct administrations. Now they will be moving on to number 11. With today’s resignation of Edwin Rodriguez, the Jeff Loria ownership will be on its sixth manager.

Since winning the 2003 World Series (aided and abetted by spectacularly inept in-game managing by the Yankees’ Joe Torre), the Fish have gone 598-606 (.497). Their high in wins in those years was 87, their low 71. Their average record in that period was 81-81, and they finished third four times in seven years. In short, no matter whom the Marlins have had as their manager, there hasn’t been a lot of movement.

The reasons for that are as simple as the penurious decisions made by the front office, not the managers. Once Miguel Cabrera, one of the great young hitters of his generation, was traded after his age-24 seasons for a big bucket of parts the Marlins never got any use out of, they didn’t bother to find another third baseman, marking time with Jorge Cantu, Emilio Bonifacio, Wes Helms, and Greg Dobbs. They haven’t had a center fielder of note since Devon White; when Juan Pierre, Preston Wilson, and Cody Ross stand out as highlights among the Reggie Abercrombies and Alfredo Amezagas, you know you’re not trying. First base was thrown away on the extremely limited Mike Jacobs and Cantu until Gabby Sanchez came along. Catcher has been even worse, with the latest mistake being to sign journeyman John Buck off of a so-so career year,

On the pitching side, Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez (when healthy) have developed into reliable performers, but other hurlers, from Ricky Nolasco to Dontrelle Willis, Chris Volstad, and Scott Olsen, had moments in which they flirted with stardom only to give back their progress and never find consistency. That, perhaps, can be pinned on the various coaching staffs, but then again, maybe that is ownership too—Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported this week that, “[team president David] Samson would approach struggling young players and threaten a trip to the minor leagues if they didn’t start playing better.” The line between major-league success and failure may be as thin as knowing that the owner’s nepotistic pick for president has drawn a target on your back.

This season, ownership has seemingly been more interested in gagging outfielder Logan Morrison than in its performance on the field. Heaven forbid that Morrison draw some attention to a team that is last in the National League in attendance, as it has been every year since 2005. Oscar Wilde said that the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about. The Marlins are the all-time leader in that latter category. For all their own attendance problems, the Rays get far better press.

None of this is to say that Edwin Rodriguez is John McGraw or that the Fish haven’t been in a miserable tailspin. Going back to the last time they won consecutive games, May 24-26, they are a jaw-dropping 3-20 with a 5.83 RA and .234/.301/.363 rates. Though they have played against good teams in that time, the record is still pathetic. The question is, what is the manager supposed to do about a team that has had Hanley Ramirez hurt and ineffective, that has seen both Morrison and Mike Stanton miss time to injuries, that traded for Omar Infante, that has had to play Bonifacio every day, and expected Javier Vazquez and Leo Nunez to play major roles on the pitching staff? What do Loria and Samson know about fixing this team that Rodriguez does not?

A look back at teams that have changed managers in-season shows that very few of them experience big turnarounds. Sure, there is a Bob Lemon here and a Buck Showalter there, but these are few and far between. Most of them just go on being miserable. Given the degree to which the Marlins had shut it down this month, perhaps letting Rodriguez go was necessary, yet given the Loria-Samson track record the move should be viewed with a jaundiced eye. After all, they have had so many managers and so many similar records. The skippers change, the players change, but ownership stays the same. Rodriguez may have been guilty of a transient losing streak, but he is hardly the author of the big-picture problems that plague the Marlins.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

delatopia

"I'm gonna give you some good advice, Brian Clough. No matter how good you think you are or how clever, how many fancy new friends you make on the telly, the reality of footballing life is this:

"The chairman is the boss, then comes the directors, then the secretary, then the fans, then the players, and then finally, last of all, bottom of the heap, the lowest of the low, comes the one, who in the end, we can all do without -- the f---ing manager." -- Sam Longson, "The Damned United"

Jun 19, 2011 10:52 AM
rating: 5
 
pobothecat

one of the great overlooked sports movies. highly recommended.

Jun 20, 2011 11:24 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

I really liked it, but was confused by where the line between fact/fiction was. It seemed to have been badly blurred.

Jun 20, 2011 13:39 PM
 
cfinberg

They can't fire him. He quit: urlm.in/iauo

Jun 19, 2011 12:41 PM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

Still not clear on this --- did he resign, or was he forced to?

Jun 20, 2011 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Jeffrey Loria is the biggest scumbag in Major League Baseball.

Jun 19, 2011 18:03 PM
rating: 4
 
SirVLCIV

But, but, but, I was told that Mark Cuban would be "bad for baseball".

Jun 20, 2011 10:12 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Hey, Loria has been great for baseball. He got one team moved out of Montreal to sunny Florida while distributing their major and minor league talent to the rest of the league and, as a bonus, gave a marquee team like the Red Sox some real owners. Oh, and as a reward, he's even getting a nice new and mostly free stadium to help drive up the Marlins franchise value.

Believe me, Loria has been great for Major League Baseball (tm)

Jun 21, 2011 16:47 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

Maybe firing the manager is their admittedly lame attempt to generate some press. Obviously they can't seem to do it by building a good team.

Jun 19, 2011 20:43 PM
rating: 1
 
dom

everything will change with the new stadium

Jun 19, 2011 22:03 PM
rating: 2
 
T. Kiefer

Is this statement made in seriousness or sarcasm?

Jun 20, 2011 06:18 AM
rating: 1
 
Ric Size

The stadium is not the problem, therefore it will add very little in terms of attendance, while costing the taxpayers very much in terms of neglected infastructure.

Jun 20, 2011 07:18 AM
rating: 2
 
Richie

The stadium is a huge problem. Not that there aren't others.

Jun 20, 2011 08:21 AM
rating: 0
 
terryspen

To McKeon's credit, the Marlins did turn around in 2003 after he replaced Jeff Torborg and I'm surprised that's not mentioned in this piece. The biggest differnece -- McKeon had the fortune of first Willis and then Cabrera being brought up from the minors. But he also stopped Torborg's insistence on basing the offense around the steal and the sacrifice (God how I used to scream at the TV when Pierre would lead off the first with a double and then Torborg would have Castillo bunt him to third).

Unfortunately there are no studs in waiting for the Marlins to call up and Edwin's strategic moves didn't stand out as horrible (or brilliant).

I think because of 2003, Loria thinks he's just a managerial change away from his team winning another title.

Jun 20, 2011 09:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Sacramento

The Curse of Buster Posey certainly has screwed with the Marlins. Since that fateful day they've gone 4-21.

Jun 20, 2011 14:15 PM
rating: -1
 
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