The Marlins Do Realize They Hired Ozzie Guillen, Right?

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What went wrong in Miami with the Marlins?

Was it the new, cavernous ballpark?

The odd mix of personalities?

The misjudgment of talent?

Injuries? Apathy? Dysfunction?

A combination?

Speculation centers on whom owner Jeffrey Loria fires. First the target sat squarely on the back of President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest. Now it’s turned to manager Ozzie Guillen. Given Loria’s history, I’m not going to venture a guess as to what he’ll do. He could say, “I’ve fired managers before, let’s try firing some people in suits.” Or he could say, “I like my baseball people, the manager and players were the problem. I’ll change the on-field personnel.” Or he could do nothing with the manager and executives and get rid of more players. He could fire everyone. He could fire no one.

Loria has a habit of firing managers, but the front office has remained largely intact and is signed long-term. To him, it’s clear that the manager is fungible and not all that relevant. It’s a similar argument in a different context to the new-age stat-based theories that say the manager is an implementer of the strategies laid out by the bosses and can be easily replaced. In his time, Loria’s fired every manager he’s had. Some were deserved, some weren’t, but as the owner it’s his right to do what he wants.

For years he wanted Guillen and took the step of trading minor league players to get him at the end of the 2011 season. Had Loria examined Guillen’s tenure with the White Sox closely and understood what he was getting before jumping in with a heavy financial commitment (4-years, $10 million) and expectant enthusiasm, he probably would’ve hired him anyway.

Was it because he thought Guillen was a good game manager with the background of success and the fiery temperament to keep the heat off of the players and drum up attention in the media? Absolutely. Guillen has all of those attributes. But he also says ridiculous things and doesn’t think before he speaks. There’s no filter and the fine line between being outrageous and offensive is blurred. He casually and without regret crosses into insubordination. Honesty and self-destruction are melded together and Guillen has essentially dared Loria to fire him as related in this blog from The Palm Beach Post.

The Marlins created a carnival complete with colorful uniforms, rampant ballpark diversions, a team of intriguing talent, and negative personalities. The White Sox, under Guillen, won a World Series with a blend of intriguing talent and perceived negative personalities so there was a basis for thinking Guillen could cobble it together again. Instead, the Marlins are a disaster.

But blaming Guillen for being Guillen? It’s an easy case to make that his comments praising Fidel Castro were a tipping point, but that was in April and the Marlins went 21-8 in May. The players don’t care about that stuff; the only time they’re bothered about some off-field controversy is if they’re constantly asked about it. It’s easy to say a calmer, more patient, and respected clubhouse voice would have handled the chemistry issues in a more diplomatic way than Guillen, but I don’t think the results would’ve been any different.

It was the front office who decided to build a cavernous ballpark tilted toward pitching, but put a horrific defense on the field. It was the front office that signed John Buck and Heath Bell; that traded for Guillen, Carlos Zambrano, and Carlos Lee. They put a toxic mix together in a bowl, expected it to smell good and for people to eat it. No one did.

They can fire Guillen; they can fire Beinfest, Michael Hill, Dan Jennings; they can trade away more players and bring in others; but that’s not going to alter the reality that the fans in Miami wouldn’t have gone to see this club play if their record was reversed and they’d hired a manager who had the power to free Cuba rather than one who expressed love for its aged dictator. New ballpark or not, the people in that area don’t care about the Marlins. There’s no reason to go to the park to see this team, but not many people would’ve gone even if there was.


Logan Morrison’s Demotion—A Checking Of Reality And a Rookie

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The bottom line is this: Logan Morrison has a big mouth; was warned repeatedly to fall in line with behavior befitting a rookie; told to tone it down with his activities on Twitter; and appears to think he’s in a position where he can challenge the club, call-out the best and highest paid player on the team, Hanley Ramirez, ignore the team president telling him he might be sent down—and get away with all of it because he’s a top prospect and has produced moderately well.

Yesterday the Marlins sent Morrison to the minors and released veteran bench player Wes Helms. I alluded to both possibilities two months ago in a pseudo-warning to Morrison and defense of his mostly harmless use of Twitter.

Whether it’s arrogance; the fact that he’s 23; or that he simply doesn’t listen are all irrelevant. This was always a possibility as a message to everyone in the organization and Morrison himself to know his place and realize that he’s got zero bargaining power. Regardless of the “condolences” he was getting on Twitter (one would think the Marlins Triple-A team had moved to Iraq and Morrison was about to be put in physical danger) and the suggestion that he could file a grievance (the Marlins don’t have to give a player with minor league options remaining a reason why he was sent down), he asked for it and he got it.

But rather than accept the demotion for what it is, Morrison again spoke his mind to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.

He’s not listening.

The timing of this was curious in an on-field sense. If they were going to send him down based on performance, they could’ve done it in June/July when he barely hit apart from an occasional home run. He’s been hitting in August. But obviously the response from the Marlins braintrust when Morrison asked why he was being shipped out—that he’s batting .249—isn’t the reason.

In June and July the Marlins were still harboring thoughts of climbing back into contention. In August they’ve gone 3-8 and fallen 22 games behind the Phillies in the NL East; 13 1/2 games behind the Braves in the Wild Card race.

They’re done and have been so for awhile.

Because the maneuver would’ve been easier to explain a month ago doesn’t make it wrong that they did it now. I completely understand the Marlins thinking that 2012 is their focus. It makes perfect sense to dump Helms and give his spot to a different player while simultaneously tossing a metaphorical knockdown pitch at Morrison to let him know he’s not untouchable. Morrison is an entry-level employee with no bargaining power—delusions of grandeur aside.

Morrison talks about what a great leader Helms was. Perhaps he should do two things: look at the fact that Helms—independent of his indispensable “leadership” for a 55-63 team—was batting .191; and that Helms was nothing but classy in his statements about the Marlins organization following his release:

“I owe Florida a lot,” Helms said. “They gave me an opportunity in ’06, and we built a great relationship. I had some good years here and got to know these young guys well. I wish them the best. They were good to me.

“I’m not bitter at all. I can understand that I struggled. It happens. Every player struggles, and this is just my time to go. No hard feelings to them. Hopefully I’ll land somewhere else, play one or two more years, and you never know: Maybe I’ll manage these young guys someday.”

With Morrison, this isn’t about his on-field play as much as it is an example being set for everyone else.

But Morrison is still talking.

It’s fine. He’ll eventually understand that he can be left in the minors now and for all of next year if he continues to chirp.

Or he won’t.

Either way, he can tweet from New Orleans for awhile and collect a minor league paycheck. Maybe the hit to the wallet and a Triple-A per diem will be sufficient to get through his head that he’s not Albert Pujols and can’t say and do whatever he wants. It’s also telling that a Pujols never behaved that way—ever—even when he could have.

Morrison was told in no uncertain terms he could tweet from New Orleans. Now he has to. Judging from his self-destructive candor, presumably he will.

It’s not smart.