The Marlins Plan A Spending Spree

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In the winter of 1996-97, then Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga gave GM Dave Dombrowski permission to spend money and sign/trade for veteran players to augment a solid core of talent Edgar Renteria, Robb Nen, Charles Johnson, Devon White, Jeff Conine, Al Leiter and Kevin Brown.

Back then it was an annual undertaking for the club to try and gain public financing for a new ballpark; in this case, winning was seen as the cure. They hired Jim Leyland to manage; signed Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez, Dennis Cook and Moises Alou.

The 1997 Marlins won the Wild Card, upset the Braves in the NLCS and beat the Indians in a 7-game World Series.

Then they dismantled the team when they couldn’t get a new ballpark and were sold.

Now the Marlins have a new ballpark on the way; a talented group of young players; and money to spend.

Apparently they’re intent on spending it.

The circumstances mirror each other.

They’re going to hire a name manager (most likely Ozzie Guillen).

They have a foundation of players upon which to build (Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez).

They need a third baseman and Aramis Ramirez is being mentioned; they need pitching and C.J. Wilson is available; they have a first baseman in Gaby Sanchez, but he’d be trade bait if they made a move on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder; Jose Reyes would allow them to shift Hanley Ramirez to third base; Jonathan Papelbon would fill the void at closer.

Many players are from warm climates and would prefer that type of venue; or they’re attracted to the absence of a state income tax in Florida.

Players will want to play for the Marlins.

But will that bring in fans?

Will a contending team and a new, retractable roof ballpark attract the notoriously fickle and easily distracted, football-preferring masses to support the Marlins for the entire season rather than when they’re in the World Series?

We’re going to find out.

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Combustibility And The Marlins

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The most prominent name associated with the job as Marlins’ manager for 2012 has been current White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Guillen has a contract with the White Sox for next season and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has said he wants both Guillen and GM Kenny Williams back, but if the Marlins come calling, it’s very possible that the White Sox will let Guillen leave without compensation and move on. This is the third straight season in which the White Sox will miss the playoffs amid preseason expectations of contention; the last two seasons especially have been major disappointments. Williams isn’t going anywhere, so if the White Sox make a change, it will be in the manager’s office and not the GM.

So what would happen with Guillen and the Marlins?

It’s hard to say what kind of sparks would fly when the combustible personalities of Guillen, owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson all exist in the same vacuum. Guillen is going to make his presence felt and he’s most definitely not going to tolerate the diva act from Hanley Ramirez; on the other side of the coin Guillen—a social media user himself—won’t give Logan Morrison a hard time about his Twitter account.

Guillen has experience with difficult players. He won a World Series with A.J. Pierzynski, Carl Everett and Bobby Jenks on his roster so he can handle the Marlins. It might be that Loria, while not wanting to trade Ramirez as some (Jeff Conine, Keith Hernandez and myself) have suggested, he might want someone to reign in his prodigal and wayward son.

Under Loria, the Marlins have hired: Jeff Torborg; Jack McKeon; Joe Girardi; Fredi Gonzalez; Edwin Rodriguez and McKeon again. All were forced out in one way or another. Torborg had the team playing the way Torborg’s teams generally have in all his managerial stops—stiff and mediocre at best; with the team reeling in May of 2003, he was replaced by McKeon and the Marlins wound up winning the World Series under McKeon’s old school leadership style; Girardi clashed with Loria and was fired despite winning Manager of the Year with an overachieving, young and minimalist roster; Gonzalez’s teams played at or above expectations and he was fired because of strategic differences with upper management and overreaching beliefs that they should’ve done better; Rodriguez acquitted himself well, but resigned as the team came apart this past June; McKeon was kicked upstairs after 2005, went back into the dugout to replace Rodriguez and isn’t going to be back next season.

Loria, as is his right as owner, has been very free with the “you’re fired” card.

I have no issue with that. I don’t begrudge any manager or GM—from the late George Steinbrenner to Billy Beane—the right to make a managerial change for whatever reason he wants—he doesn’t have to give a reason. “I wanted to make a change” is good enough for me.

But what will Loria do with Guillen if he’s the choice? Samson notably got into an argument with Bobby Valentine during Valentine’s interview to replace Gonzalez; Valentine would have and would still be an excellent choice for a talented Marlins squad that needs discipline and a solid strategist.

But Guillen would be a good choice as well.

Loria wouldn’t be able to fire him though. And how the Marlins organization would function with that kind of restraint over their petulant owner is an interesting dynamic that has to be considered before making the move for an established manager who’s going to require a lot of guaranteed money and say-so to take the job.

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