July 26, 2012
On the Beat
The Marlins' Beaching
I don't profess to be a general manager, and I certainly have never been the architect of a World Series-winning club. However, I have something in common with Marlins president Larry Beinfest: I watched his team play two of its three games against the Pirates last weekend in Pittsburgh and came to the same conclusion—he needed to break up his underachieving club and start over.
Having covered the Pirates as a beat from 1988-2009, I saw a lot of teams sleepwalk through September. Rarely, though, have I seen a team with less energy and enthusiasm than the Marlins displayed last weekend. Clearly, Beinfest needed to take action even though the Marlins had entered this season with the highest hopes of winning in their 19-year history. They had the opening of their long-coveted retractable-roof stadium to look forward to, and they had signed shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle, and closer Heath Bell as free agents.
Yet things went astray early in the season when the Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for five games for comments he made to Time about how he "loved" Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. According to those who know him, Guillen hasn't been the same since the suspension.
"There's a filter on him now," said a long-time Guillen associated. "He's not the same old Ozzie. A large part of his effectiveness as a manager with the White Sox came from being outspoken. It kept the media away from the players and also allowed him to send messages to people when he felt they needed to be sent. He's lost that edge now."
Motivating the Marlins has been a problem for Guillen in his first year on the job. They are 45-53, putting them 13 1/2 games behind in the Nationals in the National League East and nine games in back of the Braves for the final NL wild-card spot.
Even a 21-8 record in May hasn't been enough to make the Marlins contenders. "You can't have one good month and three horseshit months and expect to win anything," Guillen said. "It doesn't work that way."