Fredi Gonzalez has 276 on the books, the most of any manager in the brief history of the Marlins. The question is, was he the best manager in Marlins’ history? Clearly, no, but in judging from making the rounds reading the media reaction you would think he was. In fact, all of a sudden, it is being likened to another “mistake” of letting Joe Girardi go.
Look, Girardi is a fine manager for a veteran ballclub with a blank check for its payroll. In other words, anyone can really manage the Yankees if they are a company guy. So, let’s back off of the Girardi was a messiah-in-making idea. The man to replace him, Fredi Gonzalez, was selected because he was an agreeable personality and a local product to boot. He was not going to ruffle feathers and would know his place when it came to Jeffrey Loria and his ownership style.
Yet, that was the problem. Gonzalez was too nice of a guy and it was his lack of fire that cost him. I recall after watching a game last season, the Marlins had lost some games in a row and the media pressed Gonzalez for a reaction. He came up with a line that he doesn’t really care whether or not they win, but rather how well they play the game. Now, you’re just going to have to go with me on this one because I cannot recall where the quote came from as I caught it on TV after a Marlins’ broadcast. I remember being dumbfounded thinking, if this guy was coaching any other team – perhaps a high profile team – he would have been ripped to shreds by the media after a quote like that. He wasn’t. It went mostly unnoticed. (I am trying to find the quote…)
Juan C. Rodriguez was taking the temperature of the situation last season. Just over a year ago. I was tweeting with him about it asking if there was going to be a change. It wasn’t like it was a topic that came out of the blue. Bobby Cox is ripping Loria for firing Fredi – and there seems to be a push to get Fredi back in the Atlanta dugout (we’ll see). When you have a starting rotation as talented as the Marlins have had, and enough firepower to win games, is it unrealistic to maintain higher expectations? I think Loria has that right and to demand better from his franchise is what he is supposed to do.
And now Greg Cote “weighs” in. And what can you expect from the Miami media other than a pedestrian attempt to explain the situation and put it into any real context. Cote attacks Loria for being cheap, even though the Marlins crowds consistently “roar” between 5,000 to 10,000 a night – and the higher end is on weekends where the Marlins have to put fireworks and a concert in place just to get fickle fans to show up. Loria can, and should, be criticized for being cheap – but his group has put together a lot of talent on the field and they have an attractive product that fans should be going out to see. Yet, they aren’t. So, why should we expect Loria to be a bad businessman and just throw money out to fickle south Florida fans? Show some support, and maybe he will have to spend the money. In fact, if the fans showed more support consistently, we may still have Fredi Gonzalez in the dugout – because why would the Marlins take on a bad PR move like getting rid of a local kid who grew up to coach his hometown team? That shrewd idea about the hiring, on the heals of the Girardi debacle, was one of the few positives that was gleaned at the time by the local media.
So because Girardi won NL manager of the year and so has Gonzalez we are supposed to lament this move. No. Loria is right that there is plenty of time to turn this around and at the same time is correct in that Gonzalez may not be the right guy for the job now. This team has the talent – despite the payroll fixture – to get into the postseason. Who is going to be culpable here? The front office has put together the talent and has made the moves in the constraints they have been given. The Marlins are not drawing which means very little revenue stream is coming from attendance. Why should the brass and Loria make a big blockbuster move? It has never paid off historically for the Fish – only winning pays off. See 1997 and 2003. The ’97 champs were not drawing as well as projected and, in fact, the reason why Wayne “H-bomb” Huizenga sold the Fish was because he was claiming a huge loss (all BS which I discussed on a previous article, but I digress). The 2003 team spent money to get a big free agent in Pudge Rodriguez – which didnt draw fans despite the fact that Rodriguez was a generational type player at his position and hispanic to boot. In fact, I called out Dan LeBatard for his comment that it was like putting a boob job on a corpse. All the Marlins did that season was win the whole damn thing.
Oh, and what was significant about the 2003 season? There was a managerial change in-season. Loria hired his buddy Jack McKeon and we won it all. Sure, McKeon could be criticized for his moves but the guy won. Now, Loria is looking to another buddy in Bobby Valentine – and we are supposed to think that firing Fredi Gonzalez is a bad thing now?
Look, the reason why Girardi and Gonzalez were hired in the first place was because they were both talented future skippers. They were matched up with a young talented team and excelled. The Marlins did the right thing in finding their guys and putting them on the bench. Girardi landed in New York – were anyone can really manage that club (endless funds, a DH, filled with veteran players). The idea of getting Bobby Valentine in the Marlins dugout is very tantalizing. This is a guy who was thrown out of a game he was managing for the Mets only to wear a fake mustache so he could see the rest of the game! He is a colorful personality and knows a lot about baseball and this team and fan base would do well to have him in the dugout, doing interviews, etc.
Instead of belly-aching over the latest firing – Gonzalez did have 4 seasons here, afterall – let’s begin to ask what direction this franchise should be heading in. Is it unrealistic to expect this team to make the playoffs? If you believe what BSPN sells, then yes. If you actually look at this roster, you can make the argument that hovering around .500 is unacceptable and that they should be better. Everyone in this division has had a run – except the Fish. Maybe that changes now.