I had the chance to talk with Edwin Rodriguez only once during his 163-game stint as the Marlins' manager. He struck me as not only an exceptionally nice person but someone who had an innocence you don't often see in major-league managers.
Speaking before a game last August, a little less than two months after he had been promoted from the Marlins' Triple-A New Orleans farm club to replace the fired Fredi Gonzalez on an interim basis, Rodriguez used the word "fun" to describe what it was like to manage in the major leagues for the first time. Fun is a word rarely used in professional sports, and it was refreshing, too, to listen to Rodriguez speak from the heart about how much he wanted the job on a full-time basis rather than coming across as a self-promoter.
Gonzalez got his wish at the end of last season, when the Marlins gave him a one-year contract to manage the club in 2011. However, it was clear by the fact that the Marlins waited until a month after their last game to make the announcement and also by the length of the contract that owner Jeffrey Loria and club president David Samson weren't entirely convinced that Gonzalez was their man. Even the most neophyte managers get two-year contracts with an option year. It seemed Gonzalez was looked at as a bridge between 2011 and a new—and preferably big-name—manager who would take over when the Marlins open their new ballpark in 2012.
That bridge collapsed on Sunday morning in the midst of a total collapse by the Marlins, as Rodriguez resigned. The Marlins had lost nine games in a row and 17 of 18.
On May 26, the night Scott Cousins plowed over Giants catcher Buster Posey for the winning run in their infamous collision in San Francisco, the Marlins raised their record to 29-19 and drew within one game of the first-place Phillies in the National League East. Going into Sunday's game against the Rays at St. Petersburg, the Marlins had fallen into the division cellar, 12 1/2 games back at 32-39.
The Marlins rank among the worst teams in the major leagues. as they are 22nd in runs scored (3.87 a game), 24th in runs allowed (4.46), and 26th in run differential per game (-0.59).
Hitting coach John Mallee was fired earlier this month, and Eduardo Perez was summoned from the ESPN studio with the hope that he could find the magical key to clutch hitting. The Marlins' .654 OPS with runners in scoring position is 27th in the majors.
However, much of the Marlins' hitting woes can be blamed more on poor roster construction than a lack of clutch hitting.
The Marlins began the season without a real center fielder, as they decided to try Chris Coghlan, an infielder by trade, at the position after trading Cameron Maybin to the Padres in the offseason. Coghlan has been bothered by a sore shoulder all season and was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans this past week with a .240 True Average. The Marlins' solution to the problem has been to platoon a pair of light hitters, Dewayne Wise and Emilio Bonifacio, in center, and to bat them leadoff, no less.
The Marlins also signed catcher John Buck to a three-year, $18 million deal over the winter, and he has produced a .244 TAv. That is right in line with his .250 career mark in the not-so-small sample size of 2,802 plate appearances.
While the Marlins have been getting by with journeyman Greg Dobbs and his surprising .285 TAv at third base, they decided to take a flier on Jose Lopez at the hot corner. It's hard to imagine him helping much after compiling a .195 TAv in 129 plate appearances with the Rockies before being released.
Word has it that the Marlins will bring 80-year-old Jack McKeon, a special assistant to Loria, back to the dugout to serve as interim manager for the remainder of the season. McKeon is a wonderful guy, one of the game's great storytellers, and he led the Marlins to an improbable victory in the 2003 World Series after replacing Jeff Torborg as manager early that season.
As wise and experienced as McKeon might be in his role as South Florida's Billy Martin, it's hard to imagine him making a big difference in taking over a club with a lineup full of holes and a starting rotation missing injured ace Josh Johnson (3.15 Fair Run Average) and dragged down by the contributions of Chris Volstad (5.34) and Javier Vazquez (5.69).
The Marlins' mess proved to be too much of a challenge for Rodriguez, who is 50. It's hard to figure out why an octogenarian would want the headache.
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