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BERARDINO: Is Leyland on way back?


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I've got to admit, Mike has almost gotten me excited about the prospect of a good firin'.


BERARDINO: Is Leyland on way back?


Published July 19, 2005


This isn't Jack McKeon's fault. Not even close.


He's not the reason the Marlins are still stumbling around close to 500 in mid-July. He's not the reason they rank near the bottom of the league in runs, home runs and bullpen ERA.


But when an ultra-competitive owner like Jeffrey Loria signs a $52 million free agent (Carlos Delgado) in January and authorizes the highest player payroll in team history ($66 million), sustained mediocrity simply isn't acceptable.


Especially not when the team's stadium push and long-term future remain so uncertain.


That's why the Marlins could soon alter the aroma that emanates from the manager's office at Dolphins Stadium. Trader Jack's signature cigar smoke, so vital during the World Series run of 2003, could be a few more bad losses from giving way to the cigarette smoke of the only other man to bring such October glory to South Florida.


That's right. Jim Leyland.


At least that's the name you keep hearing around baseball when the subject of a potential Marlins opening comes up.


"My gut tells me the next manager of the Marlins will be Jim Leyland," a National League source said recently.


Oh, there are other candidates high on the Marlins' list of potential replacements. Yankees bench coach Joe Girardi, who the Marlins tried to hire as their bench coach last fall, is one of Loria's personal favorites.


But the Yankees aren't likely to let Girardi walk at midseason. The same goes for the Braves and third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez.


Former Red Sox manager Grady Little has been mentioned, and Jeff Torborg still has his admirers in the organization. The Marlins would love to take a crack at Lou Piniella, but his situation in Tampa Bay is too murky.


That brings us back to Leyland, who is definitely available, on the list and makes sense on several levels.


First, he's a proven winner. Three division titles in Pittsburgh and one World Series title with a fifth-year expansion team should win over the toughest of clubhouses.


Those 1,069 wins in the majors, 44th all-time, don't hurt either.


"For me he's the equivalent of a Admin Brown or a Pat Riley," says Brewers third-base coach Rich Donnelly, one of Leyland's closest friends. "He's one of the greatest managers of our time. Every time he's been given a good team he's proved that."


Second, Leyland is highly motivated. Yes, he has quit on the Pirates, Marlins and Rockies in the past, even giving back $4.5 million to escape the horrors of Coors Field.


But after five-plus seasons on the sidelines, during which he has done regular scouting for the Cardinals, Leyland is sitting home in Pittsburgh, rested and ready.


"He's very interested in returning to managing," Donnelly says. "He'd like to go with a team that has a realistic chance to win, but he's got the fire back. I can tell just by looking in his eyes. We talk about it. I just think he misses it."


Leyland, 60, was disappointed when the Phillies rejected him in favor of club insider Charlie Manuel last winter, and untested Willie Randolph beat him out for the Mets job as well.


While those situations might have worked best in terms of geography, Leyland realizes he may need to extend his reach to facilitate a dugout comeback. He rejected an overture from the Royals this year, but he has serious interest in the Reds job if interim Jerry Narron isn't retained.


Leyland's wife and two young children, as much as they have enjoyed having him home, fully support the idea of a comeback.


"What was it Adrian said to Rocky before the big fight? Win?" Donnelly says. "That's what his wife and kids said. They want this for him."


It should be pointed out here that this column will probably make Leyland break out in hives. He would never campaign publicly for anyone's job, would never even interview unless there was a clear opening.


So if the Marlins want him, they would have to first nudge McKeon into the multiyear consulting role already in his contract, install an interim manager (probably Jeff Cox) and then begin their search.


But if my reconnaissance is correct, that search would almost certainly include a phone call to Pittsburgh. And Leyland, friends say, would listen if the Marlins called.


Why wouldn't he? What struggling club is more ready to win big than the Marlins?


Leyland, who would probably bring close friend Gene Lamont with him as bench coach, has something else the Marlins would need to dump a hugely popular figure like McKeon: name recognition.


"[Loria] needs glamour," the NL source said. "He's not going to go out and get somebody unproven. He's never been that way. In that situation, there's really only one guy you could bring in to make a big enough splash. That's Jim Leyland. He brings instant credibility."


Granted, Leyland last worked in South Florida two owners ago, and Wayne Huizenga's only connection to baseball is as evil landlord. But Leyland and Loria have spoken at least a couple of times, and witnesses say they looked like old friends last July in Pittsburgh, when they sat together for a Marlins-Pirates game.


There also is this curious fact: According to two members of the Marlins' traveling party, Loria flew on the charter from South Florida to Pittsburgh on May 29.


Only Loria never showed up at PNC Park for any of the ensuing four games. He flew on to his New York headquarters the following day.


I wonder what (or whom) he was thinking about on that flight.


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At this point we are likely better off letting Jack finish out the season and then starting fresh with either Girardi or Gonzalez next season. We need a younger manager in the clubhouse.


I agree...the time to fire Jack was towards the middle of June. At this point I don't really see it changing things.

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I was suggesting replacing Jack in mid-June and chastised for being "negative." And told to "shut-up." That continued through July. And my criticism of Jack also came after wins.

Now, from the postings herein, my position appears to have become popular.

And to the guy who told me to "Shut Up..." No, I won't lower myself to respond.


July 19. Now we have to keep McKeon. Hire Giradi for next season (since we can't deal with him this season.)

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For fans that can remember the disappointing 1997 regular season, I hope not. Leyland was the Dusty Baker of his time. His teams always seemed to underperform.



Except the 90 Pirates were a suprise and the 91 and 92 Pirates were not picked to win the division either.

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Leyland would do nothing. How people forget what he did after 1997 when he turned his back on us for Colorado and then the Rockies underperformed.



might've had something to do with not wanting to be a part of a team that had just sold off everything but the kitchen sink.

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