Where Do the Marlins Go From Here?

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This Marlins group is not a “team”. It’s a glued together collection of individuals whose mutual interests—of the front office and players—mixed together to create a toxic mess that’s being dismantled as hastily as it was built. A plan that changes when it doesn’t reap immediate dividends is not a plan at all and with the decision to start clearing the decks and apparently listen to offers for anyone and everyone on the roster, where they go from here is unclear.

It began yesterday with the Marlins trading righty starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for three youngsters including top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantly and lefty pitcher Brian Flynn.

Turner, the 9th overall pick in the 2009 draft, appeared to have fallen out of favor with the Tigers and his status moved from untouchable to gone, but he’s only 21, has a great curve and a prototypical pitcher’s body. The Marlins have gotten torched in dealing for Tigers’ prospects before as Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin didn’t pan out after they were acquired in the Miguel Cabrera trade, but Turner is more polished than Miller was.

Sanchez is a free agent at the end of the season and, when he’s on, is very difficult to hit. He’s had a history of arm problems that he’s overcome in recent years and is going to be more of an immediate help to the Tigers than Turner. Infante is a reliable veteran who plays good defense at second base and has some pop.

Getting Turner is a positive for the Marlins, but does this signal a housecleaning? The construction of the 2012 Marlins wasn’t about putting the best possible pieces in place, but about buying stuff to stick in their gaudy new home. Like the impulse purchases of an instant millionaire, aesthetic and functionality were placed on the backburner in the interest of generating headlines. They needed a manager who was going to spark buzz and had a history of winning? Trade for Ozzie Guillen. They needed a closer? Heath Bell’s out there and he’s a closer. Let’s sign him. They needed a third baseman? Sign Jose Reyes and move Hanley Ramirez to third base. They needed starting pitching? Sign Mark Buehrle and trade for Carlos Zambrano.

It’s simple in the George Steinbrenner sense and actually sometimes works. It did for the 1970s Yankees and the 1997 Marlins, among others. But it’s also failed as it did with the 1980s Yankees and the 1992 Mets.

Who knows what would’ve happened this season had Guillen not caused an immediate uproar by fulfilling his mandate by ranting (mostly incoherently) to draw attention and idiotically said that he admired a loathsome figure in the Miami area, Fidel Castro? If they’d made sure Ramirez was onboard with the move to third base and was committed to being a Marlin, playing hard every day and behaving himself? If Logan Morrison spent as much time concentrating on playing and not expressing his freedom of speech rights on Twitter? If Zambrano was, as Guillen apparently expected, reachable to a countryman and friend who knew him well?

There’s no room for wouldas, shouldas and couldas with the Marlins. Owner Jeffrey Loria and the baseball people act quickly when they’re building and demolishing so this concept of being ready and willing to talk about the entire roster is not foreign to them. The attendance at their new ballpark is 12th in the National League. They’re not cohesive nor do they appear to like each other very much. It’s understandable to give up on the season and try something else, but what is there to try? Who stays and who goes? And what’s going on in the heads of the free agent signees Reyes and Buehrle? They presumably had it in mind that the Marlins couldn’t care less about promises they may or may not have made at contract time and that the organization will dispatch them at a moment’s notice, sending them to live out the remaining time on their deals in a locale that they wouldn’t have chosen on their own. They signed with the Marlins knowing their history and they have to deal with the fallout.

As rapidly as this was tossed together, it’s being taken apart with the only question being where they go from here. Since it changes so rapidly and without remorse or introspection, I don’t think anyone can provide an answer because not even the Marlins know.

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Resuscitating A Dying Fish—Solutions For The Marlins

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Since Jack McKeon is so old that he has a rotary cell phone, bringing him back in a significant capacity is unrealistic.

But something has to be done.

The Marlins are 5-18 in June and have fallen into last place in the NL East.

All is not lost however. In spite of their 34-40 record, they’re 9 games out of first place in the division. It’s a deficit that can be overcome. They’re also 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card lead. With two Wild Cards available, there’s no reason for them to give up.

But they do need to do something to shake it up.

Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Fire someone.

Manager Ozzie Guillen is going nowhere.

It’s not pitching coach Randy St. Claire’s fault that Carlos Zambrano’s velocity is down to about 88 mph; that Heath Bell has been dreadful; that the bullpen overall hasn’t performed. But the pitching coach is an easy fire.

The Marlins are near the bottom of the NL in every offensive category. Hitting coach Eduardo Perez could be in the crosshairs as could bullpen coach Reid Cornelius.

It would be cannibalistic of owner Jerffrey Loria to fire Eduardo Perez while he counts Eduardo’s father Tony Perez as a friend and adviser, but he’s fired friends before when he dumped Jeff Torborg in favor of McKeon in 2003. Firing the hitting coach is symbolic, but it would count as doing something.

Make a trade/demotion.

Logan Morrison had a right to complain—within reason—when he was demoted to Triple A last August. But the club had warned him about his ubiquitous presence on social media and told him to tone it down. He ignored organizational responsibilities and those warnings. They sent him to the minors and brought him back shortly thereafter. He quieted down on Twitter. So it worked.

This time a demotion will be because of performance. Period. A .224/.302/.379 slash line with 7 homers isn’t cutting it.

They sent Gaby Sanchez down once and it didn’t help. The next step is to trade him for another team’s headache.

Trading Hanley Ramirez would drop a bomb in the clubhouse. The likeliest scenario of trading Ramirez would be during the off-season, but they can listen to offers now.

The Dodgers need a third baseman and a bat. The Padres are listening on Chase Headley. Maybe Ramirez and Morrison for Headley, Huston Street and Carlos Quentin would make sense. The Padres could spin Ramirez off this winter for more than they traded to get him.

Remove Bell from the closer’s role for the rest of the season.

If he wasn’t signed for 3 years not only would he have been demoted, they might’ve released him.

His teammates, coaches, manager and front office can say they believe in Bell all they want, but only a fool thinks they’re telling the truth. No one is comfortable when he enters the game and while a veteran is allowed to slump, he’s not allowed to torpedo the whole season. They don’t have enticing options, but a closer-by-committee is better than this.

Stay the course.

At this rate, if they do that they’ll be staying the course all the way to Miami’s finest golf courses.

With teams that are operating in bad luck or have veteran rosters with a history of winning, it’s reasonable to hold out and wait. That’s not the case with this patched together group. Loria knows this and something’s going to be done to awaken a shellshocked and increasingly ambivalent clubhouse.

//

What’s Wrong With The Marlins?

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In a sane world, rather than find someone to blame and sacrifice for a poor performance, an organization steeped in common sense and with confidence in their decisionmakers and strategy would look at what’s wrong and try to fix it.

That’s in a sane world.

The world I’m talking about is that of the Miami Marlins and it’s anything but sane.

After today’s loss to the Blue Jays, the Marlins are now 33-38 and, pending the Phillies’ game being played as of this writing, are in last place in the National League East.

It’s a plummet from the heights that owner Jeffrey Loria envisioned in the first year of the new Marlins Park and after the money he spent to import expensive names Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, Carlos Zambrano and manager Ozzie Guillen.

Not only has the team floundered, flipped and flopped on the field, the attendance is 10th out of 16 teams and the empty seats have become more and more noticeable. Judging from their history the fans in Miami and surrounding areas have had other things to do on a warm summer night than to go see the Marlins. That’s been the case whether the team was good or not. With the team playing this brand of uninspiring and disinterested baseball, there’s no reason to go to the park at all.

In some circles, the Marlins were a trendy World Series pick.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t holes and questions.

The starting rotation had Josh Johnson returning from injury and Zambrano, who had worn out his welcome with the Cubs to the point where they paid the majority of his $18 million salary for the Marlins to take him. The bullpen added Bell and, in spite of his declining strikeout numbers and reputation of annoying his bosses, he should’ve been expected to convert the majority of his chances in the negligible save stat. As set-up men they’re using the homer-prone Edward Mujica and a pitcher with a great arm, Steve Cishek, who gives up rockets all over the place whenever I see him pitch. Many times those rockets are hit right at someone making his numbers better than what they should be.

The lineup has been a disappointment and is 12th in the National League in runs scored. Two of their everyday players, John Buck (.165) and Gaby Sanchez (.195) are trapped on the interstate. Reyes has a slash line of .270/.347/.381 with 16 stolen bases. It’s not bad, but not what he was for the Mets in 2011 when he won the batting title and was a phenomenon for much of the season. Hanley Ramirez is hitting better now after a rancid start. Emilio Bonifacio is on the disabled list. Logan Morrison has 7 homers and a .721 OPS.

In the past, the question for Loria has been, “Who can I fire?”

It worked in 2003 when Jeff Torborg was replaced by Jack McKeon. It didn’t work last season when Edwin Rodriguez was replaced by McKeon. Guillen has a 4-year contract at big money and isn’t going anywhere.

This group was Scotch-taped together with big names from the open market without consideration as to gelling and functioning as a unit.

And they’re not functioning as a unit. They don’t put forth the on-field impression that they like each other very much. The Marlins play as if they don’t care; as if they’ve accepted that this is the team, this is their status, and as long as the paychecks are signed and cashable, whatever.

We’re days away from a Loria explosion dutifully filtered through his hatchet man/son-in-law David Samson. It’s generally been Samson who’s been the public face for Loria’s displeasure. That’s coming soon.

One would expect threats and demands will be leaked into the media to express ownserhip’s displeasure. But when does something get done?

A threat is worthless unless it’s carried out in some form and the Marlins under Loria have never been shy to follow through on their threats.

Will they try to trade LoMo? Shake up the bullpen? Or fire someone?

Who is there to fire?

Team President Larry Beinfest has been with the Marlins for a long time and for the most part has done a good job. It wasn’t long ago that he was widely considered one of the best executives in baseball for functioning in that world with Loria and Samson; without money to spend; with the other issues surrounding the club. He still placed a competitive team on the field. This team is a mess. It’s possible that Beinfest wasn’t onboard with the lavish spending spree the club undertook. That’s a dual-edged sword because if that’s the case, he’s expendable.

I doubt that Beinfest will be tossed overboard.

GM Michael Hill is another story. It’s known that Beinfest has been the man running the show and if the Marlins want to do something, firing or demoting Hill would be pretentious and useless, but that’s never mattered to Loria or Samson.

At 33-38 they’re going to do something. It all depends on who winds up in Loria’s crosshairs.

By now, it could be anyone.

The Marlins wanted to make a splash last winter and they did. But that splash is turning into a tsunami and it’s engulfing the club and everything in its path.

//

Believe It Or Don’t—The Bad (National League)

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In recent days, I’ve looked at teams that were either underachieving or overachieving based on expectations. Let’s check the National League underachievers (or achievers as the case may be).

  • Miami Marlins

What they’re doing.

The Marlins are 23-19 and in 3rd place in the NL East, 2 1/2 games behind the Braves.

How they’re doing it.

Their starting pitching has helped them overcome Heath Bell’s rancid first two months, a shaky overall bullpen and struggling lineup.

Bell’s been better in his last several outings, but no one, nowhere in Miami is going to feel comfortable with him closing an important late season game against any contender.

The lineup, which was supposed to be a strength, is 13th in the NL in runs scored. Jose Reyes hasn’t been the sparkplug they thought they were getting and his defense is drastically declining. Emilio Bonifacio is on the disabled list; John Buck and Gaby Sanchez are both hitting under .200 with Sanchez just having been sent to the minors; Logan Morrison has 2 homers; most glaringly and concerning (not counting last night’s game), Hanley Ramirez has played in a combined 133 games in 2011-2012 and hit 17 homers with a slash line of .259/.323/.412.

Then there’s the Ozzie Guillen-Fidel Castro controversy that, luckily for the Marlins, died down.

In addition to all of that, there’s the new ballpark and newly remodeled club and a still-underwhelming attendance that’s 8th in the National League.

Believe it or don’t?

I’d be very worried about Ramirez. With their starting pitching and Josh Johnson finding his form, they’ll have enough to loiter around contention, but their hitting and bullpen are so problematic that being barely over .500 is pretty much it for the Marlins.

Believe it.

  • Philadelphia Phillies

What they’re doing.

The Phillies are 21-22, in last place in the NL East and 5 games behind the Braves.

How they’re doing it.

They’re without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard; Jimmy Rollins is hitting around .230; they’re carrying hitters like Freddy Galvis who’s not ready for the big leagues; and playing role players Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry Jr. regularly.

Roy Halladay hasn’t been his normal, machine-like self. Cliff Lee was on the disabled list and Vance Worley is on the disabled list. Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton have picked up the slack and helped the Phillies stay competitive through their injuries and offensive malaise.

Believe it or don’t?

Don’t believe it and don’t listen to Jim Bowden/schlocky websites/trolling columnists when they suggest that the Phillies are going to be sellers at the trading deadline. They’re not selling anything unless they’re 20 games under .500, and that’s not going to happen.

The Phillies will be back at or near the top of the NL East by the time the season is over.

  • Milwaukee Brewers

What they’re doing.

The Brewers are 17-25 and 6 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.

How they’re doing it.

Losing Prince Fielder was bad enough, but his designated kindasorta replacement in the lineup, Aramis Ramirez, is hitting .218 with 3 homers; his actual replacement at first base, Mat Gamel, blew out his knee; and for good (or bad) measure, shortstop Alex Gonzalez blew his knee out as well.

The starting pitching has been good and the bullpen hasn’t.

Ryan Braun has picked up where he left off from his MVP season in 2011 and—presumably—he’s not going to be stupid enough to do anything that might cause a failed PED test.

Believe it or don’t?

This team is flawed and short-handed offensively. They have the pitching to get back within striking distance of a playoff spot, but unless they hit, they’re a .500 team at best.

Believe it.

  • San Francisco Giants

What they’re doing.

The Giants are 22-20, 7 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

How they’re doing it.

They’ve lost closer Brian Wilson for the season, but their bullpen is still deep enough even without their horse. Starting pitching is carrying them and that’s with Tim Lincecum carting around an ERA over six.

Their hitting has been better than the popgun it was in the past, but pitching is what carries the Giants.

Believe it or don’t?

Don’t believe it. The Giants are better than a .500 team and once Lincecum gets straightened out and Pablo Sandoval is back healthy, they’ll be in the thick of the playoff race.

  • Arizona Diamondbacks

What they’re doing.

The Diamondbacks are 19-24 and 10 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

How they’re doing it.

A lot went right for the Diamondbacks in 2011, especially in the bullpen. The lineup has black spots. Chris Young is just off the disabled list and they’re waiting for Stephen Drew.

Paul Goldschmidt and Ryan Roberts have a combined 4 homers. You can’t win with Willie Bloomquist playing every day and your first and third basemen not hitting the ball out of the park.

Trevor Cahill is 2-4 and that’s with a .262 BAbip. Imagine if he wasn’t as lucky as he’s been. Ian Kennedy has an ERA of nearly 4.5 and is leading the National League in hits allowed.

J.J. Putz has been a calamity as the closer.

Believe it or don’t?

Believe it. Their luck from 2011 has abandoned them and they’re plainly and simply not that good.

//

Jose Reyes Signs with the Marlins—Full Analysis

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Jose Reyes has agreed to terms with the Miami Marlins on a 6-year, $106 million contract.

Let’s dissect it.

For the Mets present and future.

Did Reyes’s presence or absence matter much to the 2012 Mets?

The financial issues notwithstanding, do you really think that the 2012 Mets have a chance in that division?

If you read The Extra 2% about the Rays, the new front office—coming from a financial background and aware of risk/reward and bottom-line reality—made a conscious decision not to waste money on veteran players and negligible production to win a few more games.

Mired in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, playing in a hideous ballpark and with a rotten team, it didn’t make a difference whether they won 64 games, 68 games or 75 games.

They weren’t going to be anywhere close to the top of the division anyway and they weren’t competing for a Wild Card spot, so why put up a pretentious display and spending money they didn’t have for players they didn’t need?

The Mets current financial situation isn’t as dire as that of the Rays, but you can compare the two.

The Rays didn’t have money to spend on payroll to begin with; the Mets don’t have the money because of an ongoing legal drama and onerous, immovable contracts for Johan Santana and Jason Bay.

The common denominator is the same.

Why spend the money on Reyes when the earliest possible season of contention—barring a serious and unrealistic leap from their young players—is 2013?

The Phillies age/money-related downfall won’t start until 2013; the Marlins are being investigated by the SEC, are taking a wait-and-see approach to see if the new ballpark inspires the fans in Miami to come to ballgames and could tear the roster down as quickly as they’re building it up; the Nationals years of being terrible gave them the foundation of two franchise players in consecutive years with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and have other young players on the way to counteract stupidities like giving Jayson Werth $126 million; the Braves are stacked with young players of their own.

How are the Mets competing in that division in 2012?

They’re not. With or without Reyes.

They haven’t won anything with Reyes. They lost in the playoffs in 2006, collapsed in 2007 and faded in 2008. The whole thing came apart in 2009 and they’re sifting through the muck to fix what ails them now.

One player isn’t going to make a difference one way or the other to achieve their ends.

Maybe it’s time to do something different and move on.

For Mets fans and the bloodthirsty media.

The fans have all the power in the relationship. If you don’t like the product they’re putting on the field; if you’re unhappy with the management; if you don’t want to watch the team in person without one specific player, don’t go to the games.

Reyes is the girlfriend you’re not all that bothered to see leave, but don’t want to picture her with someone else.

Make a choice. Overcompensate and mortgage more of the future to keep him around or enter another phase of life.

The fans have the option of supporting the franchise with their money or not.

In a capitalistic society with a discretionary expense, it’s remarkably simple—don’t buy it.

Fans who are hoping that Reyes gets injured are bitter and spurned; to blame Reyes for taking the biggest contract he could get is projecting that anger on someone who doesn’t deserve it. The Mets didn’t make an offer that compared with that of the Marlins and Reyes left. Blame the Mets if you must and act accordingly.

Reporters who were sitting and waiting with rampant (as opposed to rational) self-interest for Reyes’s departure are gloating now, doing their touchdown dance and rationalizing the departure in terms to bolster their own agendas. They hedged their bets when it looked like there was the remote possibility of him staying, but betrayed their hands at every rumor that had him gone before it was a fact. Now they’re saying, “See?!?”

It’s akin to picking the Cardinals to win the World Series before the season started and claiming to have been “right” after the fact while ignoring that they turned over half the roster and wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all if the Braves didn’t collapse.

Put it into context; know what you’re reading.

If you’re smart, intuitive and aren’t looking for validation for yourself, you’ll see right through it and not purchase the junk that they’re selling either.

How does this affect the Marlins and their fans?

Hanley Ramirez is moving to another position. Some say it might be center field; some say third base.

He’s not going to be happy about it nor is he going to be happy if the Marlins don’t offer him a contract extension for time served to put his paycheck in line with his friend and new teammate.

An unhappy Ramirez is the fuse to a powder keg.

The Marlins have made some splashy moves and are apparently not finished. Reyes and Heath Bell are onboard; they’re still after pitching with C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle and have an offer out for Albert Pujols; but much is dependent on Josh Johnson‘s return from shoulder problems and how much they improve the pitching. If they don’t pitch, they don’t win.

The NL East isn’t a division where a few big name signings will vault the Marlins past the Nationals, Braves and Phillies.

Even if they win, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to achieve the floating projections and needs in attendance to keep the group together.

Pending the SEC investigation into the shady ballpark financing and whether there’s an interest in a new park and star-laden team, we won’t know about the Marlins and their future until the summer when there won’t be any basketball or football to distract the fans—fans whose interests tend to lean in that direction in spite of the Marlins record.

They’re not baseball fans in Florida. Will stars and a freshly built stadium with a roof and prevalent diversions alter that fact?

We won’t know until we know.

What to expect from Reyes.

The predictions (prayers) are running the gamut from Reyes going to Miami and being a megastar for the entire 6-year term; to him getting hurt immediately; to the Marlins holding him for a year or so, seeing how things go as they did in 1997 during their last spending spree, then trading him.

Bell, Ricky Nolasco, Johnson, Ramirez, Ozzie Guillen, that hideous home run monstrosity disguised as art, their World Series trophies and anything else that isn’t nailed to the ground could be on the move a year from now.

It’s impossible to foresee what’s going to happen, but there is that history of business amorality and outright falsehoods surrounding Jeffrey Loria and his club.

Reyes might get hurt.

Reyes might stay healthy.

It might be somewhere in between.

Those who constantly reference Reyes’s health from the years 2005-2008 are ignoring the consistent injury history to a single part of his body—his hamstrings—and that his legs are what makes him special. Without his speed, he could hit 10 home runs a year, be a decent fielder, pop a few doubles and triples if the mood strikes him. But he doesn’t walk and if he can’t steal bases, what good is he as anything other than a $17 million a year singles hitter?

The hamstring problems are recurrent and had little to do with the Mets supposedly subpar medical staff. It’s insane to think that he’s going to sign with the Marlins and turn into Cal Ripken. The only question is whether there’s a tweak here and there for which he misses a few games or a pull/tear that keeps him out for a season.

As a player in the prime of his career, he’s an unstoppable force when he’s healthy and motivated—while he has his legs. Reyes was healthy and motivated in the first half of this season with the Mets with visions of $100 million+ spurring him on. But when he returned from his numerous hamstring strains, he didn’t steal any bases; he was intentionally tentative; he was thinking about his contract and, playing for a non-contender, he made sure he stayed on the field…and he got hurt again.

In conjunction with his decision to remove himself from the final game of the season to save his batting title, it’s a typical and troubling attitude of me-me-me that is tolerated out of necessity and unwanted in a perfect world.

Self.

There’s going to be lots of “self” on that Marlins squad. Guillen is a calculating and perceived as a self-promoter; many times he’s doing it to take the focus off his players in a method-to-his-madness sort of way, but there will be instances where he calls out his players, coaches, media, fans, front office and makes a mess.

The players tend to go off the reservation as well with Logan Morrison‘s social network fetish; Bell’s big mouth; Reyes and Ramirez and that “you’re taking my money and my position” dynamic that could turn ugly—it’s going to take time to find cohesion and common ground.

It’s a potentially toxic brew.

Reyes always wants to play; he’s not a malingerer. But that doesn’t mean his hamstrings are going to sustain his game of speed and quickness from age 29-35.

And without that no-trade clause he could be traded anywhere at anytime and there won’t be an enraged fan base, protesting media and image-cognizant ownership. They’ll deal him if they have to; they’ll send him anywhere; and they won’t care how Reyes feels about it.

Reyes is smart enough to know this.

Why did he sign the deal?

It appears as though the bottom-line dollar figure was more important than any personal protections that could’ve been inserted into the contract. If Reyes was willing to take the lower amount of money from the Mets in exchange for that no-trade clause, he absolutely would’ve gotten it.

But he wanted to get paid. His agents, the Greenbergs, had an undeniable stake in maximizing his dollars as a selling point to Reyes and their other clients. In reality, there will be whispers and outright statements from the other agents that the Reyes contract was lowball; they should’ve waited and demanded that no-trade clause.

They didn’t.

He’ll get his $106 million. Whether it’s from the Marlins for the life of the contract is contingent on the multiple factors surrounding the club and their too-clever-for-their-own-good ownership.

The contract and advancement of evil.

In the spire of a heavily guarded skyscraper a shadowy figure sits in a darkened office.

His eyes glow with hint of red that may be an optical illusion, a casting of light or terrifyingly real.

His fingers are tented under his chin; his mouth a thin line of concentration, he waits.

He’ll use this. This example of foolhardy loyalty; ill-advised pragmatism; brainless adherence to a limiting code of propriety.

Ethics. Personal attachment. Emotions.

He shakes his head at the faux and misplaced morality.

Emitting a grunting sound comparable to the stifling of a laugh, the corners of his lips curl into a sneer. His nose crinkles as his mouth twitches. His nostrils flare as he grins. The grunt evolves into a chuckle then a full-blown laugh.

Hysterical and maniacal, it continues for an extended period and echoes through the cavernous and sparsely furnished room.

It stops suddenly.

The muffled wheeling sound of an oversized leather chair—similar in scope to a throne—is heard as he rises from his desk. He walks deliberately to the window overlooking the curvature of the earth in the distance; the lights of Los Angeles in the foreground. He interlocks his fingers behind him, his legs spread wide apart.

He’s contemplating how he will use this turn of events. The obvious answer is that he’ll frame it just as he frames everything else—advantageously, twisted and designed to achieve his nefarious ends.

There is no functioning as an advocate and representative of the individuals. He has a mandate to his defined job, but he’ll do it differently. Using this inexplicable turn of events as a tendril of connectivity from one to the other, his current stable of clients will benefit from this and assist him in accruing others who want him to deliver what only he can, by any means necessary.

He pauses and looks over his shoulder, his profile in view against the background of the windows, the moon and stars of the Southern California night.

One thing passes through Scott Boras’s mind over and over as he thinks back to his ill-fated pursuit of Jose Reyes as a client at mid-summer.

How do you not get a no trade clause?!?!

He shakes his head in disgust of what is, of what might have—should have—been.

The profile recedes into the dark.

He has work to do.

//

Things To Watch In The Ozzie Guillen-Marlins Marriage

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The Loria/Samson/Guillen trio:

David Samson is a hands-on team president who uses his status as the son-in-law of the owner to throw his weight around.

Jeffrey Loria is notoriously short-tempered and petulant.

Ozzie Guillen is a loose cannon who says and does what he wants.

None of them are entirely wrong in their behaviors. Samson was well within his rights to tell Logan Morrison to calm down with his use of social media; Loria’s the owner of the team and the boss and if an employee steps out of line, he can fire said employee for whatever reason; Guillen’s “madness” is used as a prop.

There are going to be clashes and they’ll happen quickly, but if the Marlins give Guillen a 4-year contract, they’re not going to fire him no matter what happens.

Guillen and Hanley Ramirez:

I think back to the Bill Parcells-Keyshawn Johnson relationship when Parcells took over the Jets. It was repeatedly said that Parcells was going to light into Johnson for his selfishness and egomania; instead, Parcells took a gentle approach to Johnson and the two became off-field friends.

Guillen won’t tolerate Ramirez’s lackadaisical play and self-important “I’m the owner’s favorite; I’m the highest paid player on the team” nonsense, but if you’re expecting a dugout shouting match between the two, you can forget it. Guillen will be the big brother to Ramirez.

Whether that works is another matter.

Guillen and LoMo:

Guillen uses social media himself and is way more outrageous than Morrison. Morrison’s not outrageous at all—he’s simply out there all the time, saying stuff.

If Samson/Loria complain about LoMo’s tweeting, Guillen will wave it off.

Guillen and the fans:

The Marlins hired a big name manager in Jim Leyland in 1997 and few if any fans went to their games to watch him and only him. If there’s an increase in attendance, Guillen will be part of it in a larger framework with their decision to spend on name players and the new ballpark.

Guillen and the media:

The Florida media will pay attention to Guillen to get a story, but Florida’s media’s not as ravenous about baseball as they are in Chicago. They’ll use Guillen; he’ll use them; and everyone will be happy.

The team on the field:

Lost in all his intentional lunacy, it’s forgotten how fine a strategic manager Guillen is.

That said, the White Sox appeared to tune him out after awhile and the club underachieved for the last three seasons he was there.

The Marlins have a lot of talent but were oddly constructed with a terrible defense and feast-or-famine bats.

In the early stages of his tenure, he’ll get the most out of the Marlins’ talent.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams was well-equipped to deal with Guillen’s madness. Will Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill want to deal with the Ozzie Package?

They’re not going to have a choice. Because he’s the guy the owner wanted. And he got him.

From this day forward…for better or for worse….for richer (in Ozzie’s case)…or poorer (in the aggravation content of the front office)…’til controversy and an explosion do they part.

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The Marlins: Where Good Vets Go Bad

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Mike Cameron is the second respected veteran the Marlins have—for all intents and purposes—fired for off-field issues.

A month ago, Wes Helms was released as a middleman in the reining in of Logan Morrison; now Cameron was dumped for the wide-ranging and unexplained “conduct detrimental to the team”.

No other details have been disclosed as to what Cameron did to warrant a release with two weeks left in the season; it’s generally a courtesy that players like Cameron will be allowed to retire gracefully rather than endure this.

By this I mean a story that’s going to metastasize until both sides are heard as to what really happened.

Since the Marlins have yet to explain, here’s some speculation from mein own head:

He was spending too much pre-game time on MySpace.

LoMo got into trouble with the organization for his candor and overuse of Twitter and was sent down to get him in line. I agreed with the move; LoMo needs to understand that he’s not a veteran on the club; he’s basically subject to the whims of the front office and has to be subservient while he’s laying the foundation to his career. Was Cameron MySpacing too much? Was his elder statesman status extending to the dying MySpace?

He failed to bow in a courtly manner to David Samson.

Perhaps the notoriously touchy team president Samson (son-in-law to owner Jeffrey Loria) wasn’t treated with the proper reverence by the veteran center fielder; he ran and told his daddy-in-law and Loria released him immediately to show Cameron and the rest of the organization who the boss is.

He’s somehow responsible for Josh Johnson‘s shoulder injury.

Johnson needing Tommy John surgery in 2006 was lain at the feet of former manager Joe Girardi for reinserting Johnson in a game against the Mets after an hourlong rain delay.

Of course it’s ridiculous, but these are the Marlins.

He was unable to converse intelligently with manager Jack McKeon on the presidency of Herbert Hoover.

McKeon’s 146-years-old; Cameron’s 39. What did they expect from the guy in terms of an oral history?

I’m only partially kidding.

I have no idea who leaked the story that Cameron was released because of intra-team issues, but why was it necessary? What could he possibly have done to inspire the club to embarrass him in this way just as he’s hinting at retirement in the final two weeks of the season?

Unless he did something totally out of character for a player who’s been respected and liked everywhere he’s been (and he’s a journeyman’s journeyman), what was the point?

I was totally on-board with both the releasing of Helms and the demotion of LoMo. If Helms—who wasn’t contributing on the field—was advising Morrison to blow off team functions and Morrison listened to the harebrained advice, the Marlins were well within their rights as employers to punish both men for it.

But this?

I don’t want to comment directly because it’s quite possible that Cameron did do something to warrant being released for conduct detrimental. It’s hard to believe, but possible.

Regarding the Marlins organization itself, I’ve long been an admirer of the way they’ve run their franchise. As much as Loria is called one of the worst owners in sports, to me he’s run the team as a successful business. He won the World Series in 2003; he’s decisive way in changing managers if he deems it necessary; the team wins within a budget and is profitable; he’s aggressive when the opportunity to win is there; and he’s getting a new ballpark with public funding.

This is a smart businessman.

However, going back to last winter, the Marlins betrayed much of what made me admire them.

They altered their strategy by spending capriciously on a mediocre catcher in John Buck; they shunned their bullpen-building practice by trading for veterans Ryan Webb, Edward Mujica and Michael Dunn in an opposite manner than what they’ve been successful with in the past of finding a load of young and/or cheap arms and patching a bullpen together; they made a rushed and stupid trade in dumping Dan Uggla on the Braves for two players you can find everywhere, Omar Infante and Dunn; and now it’s being said that Loria and Samson are going to take a more active role in the construction of the team.

That’s a questionable strategy considering the smart baseball people they have in place with Larry Beinfest leading the way.

Before there was a haphazard sense of urgency that the team was expected to win independent of obstacles.

The dysfunction was part of the function.

And it worked.

But now they’re veering into a direction that is concerning and the Cameron release adds another ingredient to the toxic brew that has sabotaged a club that has a lot of talent, is underachieving and seemingly blowing up from the inside.

It’s not good.

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MLB September Stories To Watch, Part I

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Justin Verlander‘s MVP candidacy.

I went into the reasons why Verlander is a worthy candidate here.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated also believes pitchers should be eligible in this piece while saying Verlander’s not his pick now. In August. Why Heyman’s writing who his MVP is in August is a mystery aside from screaming, “I dunno what else to write about so I’ll write about the MVP in August!!”

While I’m unsure of whom should actually be the MVP in the American League yet, I don’t know how even the greatest holdout that pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP can deny Verlander serious thought if he wins 26 games and leads the league in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and the Tigers win a division that they wouldn’t have come close to winning without him.

I still might say Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP, but it’s simple arrogance to completely exclude Verlander because of self-inflicted parameters that aren’t in the mandate of who’s eligible for the award and who’s not.

What the Yankees will do with A.J. Burnett.

Burnett has the right arm of an ace and the results of a pitcher with the right arm of an ace who decided he’d pitch with his left hand.

And he’s not ambidextrous.

I’m not even convinced Burnett is capable of tying his own shoes.

He’s going to stay in the starting rotation for the next 10 days or so because of the number of make-up games the Yankees have to play, but by mid-September, they’re going to have to come to a conclusion of what to do with him.

They could take him out of the rotation, stick him in the bullpen or just sit him down completely.

All are possible.

All are viable.

Planting the seeds for Billy Beane‘s departure from Oakland.

Already there are whispers that sound more like preparatory statements for Beane to leave the Athletics.

The time is right. Moneyball is at his conclusion (at least with people believing that nonsense); the movie’s coming out in three weeks; Beane’s reputation is pretty much shot with only those holdouts who cling to his fictional genius, trying to justify it with alibi-laden columns and statements as to how what’s happened with the A’s is the fault of Northern California because the evil politicos won’t let the A’s build a stadium.

Yeah. The A’s are going to lose 90 games because of the stadium.

Nothing’s Billy’s fault.

Interesting that the stadium wasn’t an issue when there were so many experts picking the A’s to win the AL West this year.

What happened?

The skids are being greased and the nuggets are popping up from “those close” to Beane saying he might be tired of tilting at windmills with no money and no stadium revenue; that A’s owner Lew Wolff would let Beane talk to other teams that might be interested in him.

Blah, blah, blah.

I say he’s going to the Cubs. The only question is how it’s framed when he does.

LoMo and the Twitter and the mouth and the batting average.

The Marlins demotion of Logan Morrison was a warning shot that lasted a week. They brought Morrison back quickly in the hopes that he’ll learn his lesson that he’s not a veteran; he’s not a megastar who can say whatever he wants; that he’s an employee held at the whims of his bosses for the foreseeable future.

Will he understand?

Yes.

Will he listen?

I’m not convinced.

The Marlins don’t tolerate a lot of crap; don’t be surprised to see Morrison showcased by batting fourth for all of September as they hope he has a big month and then listen to offers for him. The price would be steep because he’s cheap, young and good, but the Marlins wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and trade him.

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LoMo’s DeMo And The Grievance

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It’s well within Logan Morrison‘s rights to file a grievance with the Players Association for whatever he wants—even a demotion. But it’s clerical more than viable. He won’t win.

How’s this going to go? The PA is going to demand the Marlins bring Morrison back to the big leagues? Or what? Are they going to demand he play as well?

And why? Because he was one of the team leaders in homers and RBI?

Yeah? So?

Part of being an employee in any work environment is behaving in an appropriate manner based on the parameters set by the employer; to an extent (arguably) Morrison may have done that on the field, but that’s not all there is to being a big league player. He shirked responsibilities to the club and ignored strong suggestions/threats to tone down his outspokenness—in my eyes, perfectly acceptable grounds for demotion.

Former Marlins teammate Cody Ross summed what I’m sure is an unspoken belief among many veterans around baseball with the following:

“It sends a pretty good message.”

“It’s about baseball. It isn’t about you. Logan will figure it out and learn he’s got to stay quiet and stay in the corner and do his job.”

In other words, “shut up rookie”—something I’m sure has been said to him privately by teammates and opponents.

It’s telling that it was Ross who came out publicly with his pointed assessment since Ross is a player who had to fight and scratch his way to the big leagues and bounced from team-to-team—sold as disposable chattel—before getting an opportunity with the Marlins that he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Common sense says he appreciates it more than Morrison does and is expressing that with his statement.

Discipline is part of development. This is a disciplinary move from the Marlins to show Morrison that he’s not an entity unto himself; he’s not a mega-star rookie; and he’s not playing for a team in the middle of a pennant race that has to put up with him to achieve their ends.

They sent him down because they could send him down. And he asked for it multiple times. The Marlins were beyond patient.

I’m not entirely convinced that Morrison is going to learn his lesson either. Judging from his personality, he’s a “last word”-type person and will feel defeated if he doesn’t have the final say.

But he has no bargaining power and that makes it pretty difficult to have the last word about anything.

On another LoMo note, I received the following comment about yesterday’s posting from someone or something named “Ingy”.

Are you black? Stupid article. D-

No, “Ingy”. I’m white. But is my grade race related? If so, I think I have grounds to file a grievance!

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LoMo Can Use The Twitter From The Bench

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Or he can use the Twitter from Triple A New Orleans.

There’s a hierarchy in baseball that’s existed forever; there’s also a certain illogical reaction to any perceived “reason” for slumps and losses.

Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison was reportedly benched—in part—because he’s using Twitter too much. I’m sure that his lack of hitting was also a factor.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Morrison using Twitter for the most part. He says some funny things. But I’m not 80-year-old Jack McKeon—specifically hired to light a fire under a young clubhouse and get them in line; I’m not notoriously touchy team president David Samson who’s best known for his contentious nature and that he got into an argument with Bobby Valentine during a job interview.

Social media is still relatively new and these older men would prefer it if Morrison was out doing “man stuff”—drinking and carousing—rather than providing insider access and running commentary to the inner workings of the organization. (He might be doing the “man stuff” as well—who knows?)

George Steinbrenner was the poster child for irrational behaviors such as making his team shave their several days growths of beard for a run of poor play and screaming, yelling, stomping his feet and firing, firing, firing, demoting, firing, trading, firing and firing. He would’ve rolled his eyes at the bland action taken against Morrison. Morrison’s ignoring of Samson’s warnings against tweeting was a Steinbrennerean act of treason; the military/football-minded Steinbrenner would’ve demoted him whether he was hitting or not.

Now he’s not hitting.

Morrison doesn’t understand his station. He’s 23 and is pretty much a rookie. Quirks and a loud mouth are tolerated as long as the player is performing; once he stops performing, they’re no longer tolerated.

Dustin Pedroia yapped a lot, but won Rookie of the Year and a World Series; he won the MVP the next year. It’s subjective and random, but it’s the way of the sports world.

Morrison enjoys hearing his own voice and seeing his name in print such as when he “called out” Hanley Ramirez for lackadaisical play, but is in no position to be saying one word to the highest paid player on the team. That he may or may not have been right is irrelevant. He needs to quiet down.

What Morrison will learn is that a reputation is hard to shake. It’s cute, colorful and accepted while he’s hitting home runs, but when he’s not hitting and the team’s struggling, someone’s going to be made an example of if the Marlins poor play continues. Being benched, demoted or losing one’s job because of twitter is arrogant and stupid.

If he doesn’t understand the messages that are being sent, he’ll be forced to.

Soon.

Whether it’s in Florida or New Orleans is entirely up to him.

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