This is the first of three articles focused on offering opinion in regard to this offseason for the Miami Marlins. This article will focus on the key figures in running this team. The other two articles will focus on the Marlins’ situation with pitching and position players, separately.
Since there is really no need for another article to express the disappointment of this season, let’s open with the fact that Marlins fans have heard every season that everyone in the organization is evaluated at the end of every season. While this message has come from the organization every season, just about everyone following the Marlins have known that, other than managerial changes and other changes of little note, pretty much the team would return with the status quo in who was constructing and running the team. After all, the perception was that there was no need to. However, this year is different and the rumors are flying. While this article will attempt to not be another reporting effort to add, continue, or expand on those many rumors, it will use those rumors as structure to offer an opinion from this one person, who may be speaking for multitudes of other Marlins fans. And this article will focus on key figures and components to this team to offer an opinion or evaluation of my own, some of which may be unpopular or completely agreeable.
First, I will start with David Samson and Jeffery Loria. While in seasons past, many Marlins fans could lay any team failures mostly on Samson and Loria because of limited budgets; this is a season when no Marlins fan really can lay blame on these two. The payroll exceeded $100 million. The checks and contracts were signed. That’s all anyone can ask for Samson and Loria to do. Anything else positive would have been a bonus. A good payroll is all Marlins fans have asked for in previous seasons. These two did their jobs. Any Marlins fan would hope that going forward that they continue with a competitive payroll and don’t get “gun shy” because this season failed. If anything additional can be asked of Loria and Samson, it would be to take a look at fellow Miami sports franchise owner, Mickey Arison, and follow his lead in allowing the right people to run the team without interference and just sit back to enjoy the show or, when needed, be patient.
Next, we obviously need to take a look at Larry Beinfest, who has been one of the main targets of rumors for this offseason. While it is an easy statement to make about firing Beinfest, it may prove to be a very dumb move to make, unless a quality replacement can be had. It certainly isn’t a move that could’ve been considered if the Marlins didn’t already have Dan Jennings in the organization. Beinfest, for the most part of his career, has been considered a top notch baseball executive. It hasn’t really been until the recent years when his competence has been called into question or the need for a change has been heard in fan and media grumblings. While many revisionists want to credit the 2003 Marlins World Series team to Dave Dombrowski, the facts remain that it was Beinfest that put together the finishing touches that turned a losing team into a champion. Beinfest is also the same person that had the organization achieve winning seasons in 4 of the following 6 seasons after that championship – 2 of which was a team that was completely rebuilt in the 2005-2006 offseason and underwent needed managerial changes during the process. Larry Beinfest is also the person that was in charge when the Marlins were able to find solid contributing players that weren’t highly sought nor getting opportunities in other organizations (Dan Uggla, Cody Ross, John Baker, Justin Ruggiano, etc.). These are some key points that lead to me stating that I doubt that Beinfest has forgotten how to do his job. Although, it has to be acknowledged that the last few years, since September 2007, when Beinfest was promoted to President of Baseball Operations, there have been more that has gone wrong than has gone right with the moves that the Marlins organization have made – starting with the Miguel Cabrera trade in December 2007. In my honest opinion, Beinfest should return. If any change needs to be made with him, it is best to consider what changed in his responsibilities from before his promotion and after his promotion. The changes with Beinfest and the poor track record since then, and the tied-in changes, leads to the next person to evaluate.
When considering the changes under Beinfest’s watch, you have to look no further than Mike Hill. If revisionists want to take away credit from Beinfest for the 2003 championship in order to criticize him, they won’t need much revising of anything when it comes to Hill. Hill had not been noticeably at the forefront of much until he was hired as General Manager in September 2007 – coinciding with Beinfest’s promotion. Since that organizational change, there have been more poor moves than good moves. Without the history that Beinfest has, the” blame game” can stick very well to Hill. Only the Marlins know if Hill’s responsibility and power changed when he was made into the General Manager. If he was given more ability and reign to make or influence moves, it does not look very good for him, especially when the moves prior to that organizational change were mostly good – and also considering the previous results from other organizations that can be tied to him (e.g 1995-1999 Tampa Bay Devil Rays). I won’t say that he should be let go, but a questionable track record can make that argument.
Along with the front office being questioned about responsibility for this year’s failure, it is common sports tradition in these circumstances to raise questions about the coaching staff, starting with the man in charge. Ozzie Guillen came aboard expecting to lead this team into the playoffs and putting his stamp on a new era for the Marlins franchise. So far, the only mark he has had on this franchise is the unfortunate controversy that he brought to the organization earlier this season. Now there are rumors that he may be one of the persons that will be held responsible for this disappointing season. However, he shouldn’t be. Yes, the facts are that Ozzie’s “colorful personality” combined with a poor decision to express a highly unpopular opinion became another segment of a dreadful season; however, there is no one that can point to poor decisions on the field, other than sticking with a closer who was expected to continue with his career success. The facts are, while Ozzie’s personality is an acquired taste, his managing resume speaks for itself. He is a proven winner that led a team to a World Series title. Marlins fans can also remember Ozzie’s influence as Third Base Coach of the 2003 Marlins team. Ozzie is the man that needs to be the manager going into next season. Very little of this season’s on-the-field disappointment can be attributed to Ozzie. Before anyone calls for a new manager, they also need to consider the possibilities as replacements. Names like the unproven Mike Lowell or Eduardo Perez aren’t going to convince anyone with a sane mind. And for those that would suggest Terry Francona need to consider that it isn’t very likely and, even if it was possible, how can anyone think that the Marlins would perform any better under Francona than they have under Ozzie? So basically, the potentially “best option” out there isn’t much of, if even at all, an upgrade over Ozzie Guillen. So I repeat, Ozzie Guillen needs to return for next season and replacing him should not be entertained until he’s been given next season with corrections made within the organization.
After Ozzie, the Marlins will obviously be looking at the rest of its coaching staff. For the pitching, that would mean Randy St. Claire. Evaluating St. Claire should be the easiest task in the organization. In his time as the Pitching Coach for the Marlins, there has not been much that really points to a dire need to replace him. This season was heartbreaking, but when your biggest pitching problems are that your ace pitcher was still showing signs of coming back from injury; your closer shows signs of “Father Time” calling his number; a pitcher expected to be a frontline starter continuing to show that he lacks the mindset to perform to his contract; a former ace pitcher that was brought in with the hope of revamping his career shows that he truly is done, there is very little that anyone can do to change these. It also needs to be considered that the other veteran pitcher that was brought in, did his job, the injured ace pitcher got stronger as the season proceeded, and a new young pitcher came in and did well enough to win the job as closer – among other successes with the pitching. In short, St. Claire deserves to return and the only evaluation meeting he should endure should be to thank him and encourage him further to keep the staff moving forward, especially with the new parts that he has to work with in Nate Eovaldi and Jacob Turner.
Also after the manager of this team, the Hitting Coach needs to be looked at. Anyone that has read previous articles by me will not be surprised by my opinion of what should happen, and the only new thing would be a different approach to my statements, only for the sake of literary variety. First, I have pointed out in the past, the Marlins offense overall has been a failure under Eduardo Perez. At no point has it shown competence under Perez. It has been so bad that all the Marlins needed was for their hitters to perform to their career norms or averages rather than their peak performances, and the offense this year would have been effective as a unit. However, they couldn’t even do that. They couldn’t be effective with two former batting champions – both of which have been M.V.P candidates in the past, with one being a stolen base champion a couple of times. They couldn’t be effective with one of the best power hitters in the game, who also happens to be a potential superstar on the rise. They couldn’t be effective with a consistent and disciplined hitter in Gaby Sanchez, who was effective enough to be the Marlins representative on the 2011 All Star team, who interestingly enough, has enjoyed all of his career success before Perez became the Marlins batting coach. Amazingly what seemed impossible, John Buck actually hitting for even less average than his already low career totals. There are other little things that can be pointed to like the players continuously having wasted at-bats and for so many of them failing to make adjustments. While many apologists have defended the competence of Perez about this by stating that he’s telling the players what they need to do in order to correct things, those apologists don’t realize that it points to another problem. If the players are not making adjustments because of a lack of competence from the Perez, then they are not adjusting because they are not listening to him, which is an even bigger indicator of a problem. So I would have to ask the apologists to indicate which of the two is the problem – are the players not being informed/advised by Perez or are they not listening to Perez? Either way, it reflects poorly on Perez. I will continue to point out that the Marlins need a change here. And I haven’t and won’t really get into a breakdown of the image or message it would send if Perez was back next season. All I will say in closing is that if he is back next season, for a coach with very little on his resume in the first place, with an offense that has had very little results from him, a return clearly shows that Perez has a lot of job security with the Marlins that he wouldn’t enjoy anywhere else. I think that it doesn’t take much logic to figure that if these poor offensive results were happening under his watch with any of the 29 other M.L.B. teams that don’t have Tony Perez in their employ, there would be no doubt that Eduardo Perez would not be returning next season. In the very least, he would be on a very hot seat, without the amount of support from apologists that love, appreciate, and respect his father. I’m one of the few that can respect his father while remaining objective enough to make my statements in regard to Eduardo. I will say it again – Eduardo Perez should not be the Marlins Hitting Coach and should never have been. If there was and is a desire to help him get an opportunity to build his credentials to be a manager someday, the Marlins and Tony Perez would have been doing Eduardo a big favor by giving him a chance to learn somewhere in the Minor League system. Hopefully, the Marlins will sit down with Eduardo and Tony to sort this out in a way that is beneficial for everyone involved. If not, the Marlins need to make an organizational move and be prepared to replace an icon. Maybe this is where Mike Lowell can come in to sit beside Jeff Conine and Andre Dawson.
Finally, there is no doubt that a long hard look needs to be directed toward the combination of the Marlins scouting and player development. While the Marlins have been successful at finding “diamonds in the rough” over the years or the veteran that is ready to re-establish his career, they have gotten little return from high draft picks in the aspect of quantity of quality talent that has come through. While there have been some pieces like Giancarlo Stanton, there are just too many players that have not helped this organization. The trick to this is figuring out if the problem is scouting, development, or both. While it may be easy to say that the Marlins scouts have been able to find talents from other organizations that have helped this franchise, they cannot be exempt from blame in regard to the issues with drafting. It is far different to see a good and developing player that is not getting a chance in another organization than it is to find a young talent to draft into your own organization to develop yourself. The Marlins know what has been going on with this behind the closed doors. They need to take a much harder look at what’s happening and take the measures needed to assure that they are drafting players that can develop successfully within this organization, instead of picking players that aren’t going to improve, no matter what. A long hard look at their drafting philosophy and the tendency they have had of focusing heavily on pitching while letting the “best talent” go, needs to be re-evaluated and potentially changed. In regard to development, it is very easy to say that failed prospects are only the result of poor development, but it isn’t that simple. If you’re scouting and drafting poorly, the personnel responsible for development may be in a no-win situation from the start. If the Marlins determine that scouting isn’t the problem, then the continued revamping of their player development is needed. Whatever is determined, Marlins fans can be happy to know that this may be headed in the right direction ever since the Marlins hired Dan Jennings, a key cog in the development of the current version of the Rays franchise that has been a contender over the last few years.
Once the Marlins have gone through the evaluations and Loria and Samson have made their decisions, this will only be the start to what is needed this offseason. But it will be a key start and, if rumors are correct, this may be expedited right after the end of this 2012 season. If rumors are correct, Marlins fans will also see actual organization altering changes that truly send this franchise into a new direction that goes beyond a new stadium, brand, and uniforms. Then, Marlins and Miami sports fans may have the chance to see their baseball franchise operate like they have dreamt of for many years – like they have seen from their basketball franchise for the last couple of decades and what they once saw from their football franchise many years ago. At least that is the hope. At least we finally have that chance.
Oh, and by the way, if this first of the three articles was not what you expected based on the way I started, I will respond in saying that, neither were the 2012 Marlins.