The Silly Uproar Over Trading For A Manager

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Ozzie Guillen will not be returning to manage the White Sox in the final year of his contract in 2012 and there’s an agreement in place for the Marlins to exchange a player to hire Guillen—Chicago Tribune Story.

There’s an uproar over this because the Marlins are giving up a living, breathing player for a manager.

This is without knowing who the player is or anything about him.

It’s not without precedent for a team to trade a player for a manager. The Mariners traded the rights of Lou Piniella to the Devil Rays and got the Devil Rays’ best player at the time, Randy Winn; but the Devil Rays were desperate and stupid in trading an asset for a manager and then refusing to give that manager the players he needed to win.

In 1976, the Pirates traded catcher Manny Sanguillen to the Athletics for the rights to manager Chuck Tanner. Tanner won the World Series with the Pirates in 1979. Sanguillen was a pretty good hitter and very good defensive catcher who wound up being traded back to the Pirates and was on that championship team.

If the Marlins are trading someone with legitimate, near-future potential to get Guillen, then it’s a mistake; with or without this agreement, Guillen was not going to be managing the White Sox next season; if the White Sox fired Guillen, the Marlins would’ve been free to hire him without giving up anything other than the money to pay him and they’d save on the deal because the White Sox would still be paying a chunk of his 2012 salary.

I highly doubt that the Marlins are giving up a player they have in their near or distant plans. I speculated recently that the White Sox should ask for Chris Coghlan, with whom the Marlins are annoyed and who needs a change-of-scenery.

Who cares what they’re giving up if it’s not someone they have use for?

Isn’t it better to get this done now rather that go through the endless speculation—with the White Sox as to Guillen’s future; with the Marlins as to whom they’ll hire—and complete it immediately without rancor and controversy?

Guillen was not going to keep his mouth shut—he’s repeatedly asked for a contract extension that he knew he wasn’t going to get; the Marlins have had enough aggravation this season with the Leo Nunez identity mess; the Mike Cameron “firing”; the Logan Morrison Twitter-gate; and Wes Helms‘s union activities among other things.

Yes, there were other things.

They wanted Guillen.

They’re getting Guillen.

They probably won’t give up a big league player or a blue chip prospect.

The deal for compensation is done; Guillen wants to go to Florida.

It’s better to be decisive than to handle the possible and likely alternatives.

Everyone’s getting what they want, so it’s a sound business decision despite the silly responses before the fact.


Leo Nunez? ¿Quién es?

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Marlins closer Leo Nunez was placed on the restricted list by the Marlins.

At first there were the requisite snide comments about the Marlins being part of the problem; the questions as to why everyone with the Marlins misbehaves; wondering if they have a cage set-up at the new ballpark and other witticisms.

That one was mine and I didn’t say it publicly because—contrary to the popular notion that I’m a loose cannon—I think before I speak, tweet, write, link, comment.

Well, I do now anyway.

But as it turns out the problem isn’t any behavioral issue as it was with Logan Morrison, Mike Cameron and Wes Helms; it’s that Nunez has been playing under an assumed name and his real name is apparently Juan Carlos Oviedo and he’s a year older than “Nunez’s” age of 28.

The Marlins are out of contention and have been since the summer; his absence is not an issue. But what of the teams that have been affected by “Nunez” participating in games after the Marlins knew that Leo Nunez wasn’t Leo Nunez? Could the Braves—who have had their Wild Card hopes damaged by losing games to the Marlins—lodge a complaint that a player’s illegal status in the country automatically rendered him ineligible to play in the big leagues?

This could create a disaster of epic proportions if legal issues interfere with a player right to participate in games. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it after-the-fact in terms of game results, but is MLB going to let the Marlins get away with keeping this a secret (unless MLB knew about it and I can’t imagine they did) and having “Nunez” pitch when he wasn’t “Nunez”?

He wasn’t a legal worker in the United States.

Isn’t the failure to disclose the information, nor putting “Nunez” on the restricted list months ago, somehow sabotaging the validity of games he pitched after this was discovered?

If the Marlins knew about this, why didn’t they handle it immediately?

This isn’t the NCAA. Scholarships, bowl victories and other sanctions aren’t part of the process—they can’t wipe out the games in which “Nunez” played after the club supposedly knew about his status; but the Marlins can certainly be punished for this breach of competitive legitimacy.

This isn’t the decision to send a misbehaving player to the minors; it’s not the releasing of two finished veterans; it’s a willful act of criminality by “Nunez” and perhaps a coverup by the Marlins.

I’m curious to see what MLB does about it, if anything at all.

Bud Selig had better head to his rotary phone and handle this decisively or it’s going to explode into a political and competitive football.

He can barely handle baseball as it is; the last thing he needs is a football.


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.


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.


LoMo And The Tweets

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Generations are clearly clashing in the case of Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison and his penchant for expressing himself on Twitter.

I suppose “expressing” is better than “exposing”. (See Weiner, Anthony.)

Team president David Samson already warned Morrison about the potential negatives of his outspokenness on the site—as innocuous as most of it is—and ostensibly threatened him with demotion.

Samson’s not known as the most congenial guy in the world.

Obviously the Marlins aren’t going to demote Morrison…as long as he’s hitting.

That he’s a 23-year-old potential All Star contributes to his ability to push the envelope via social media. If it was Wes Helms doing the tweeting, he’d be told to stop or he’d get released; since it’s Morrison, he gets a certain amount of leeway and repeated stern talking-tos from the front office.

I use Twitter and other social networks and find it entertaining when people in the position of Morrison interact with fans. Roger Clemens and barbecue maestro Steven Raichlen have both replied to me on the site; I’m waiting for Jose Canseco to answer me or threaten me—either/or is fine.

Morrison’s biggest problem appears to be the perceptions of propriety separating the Marlins front office and his penchant for tweeting his mind. The lines are being blurred with what he says to the media in person and what he tweets.

After the Scott CousinsBuster Posey collision, Morrison did a service by stating publicly—on Twitter—that Cousins was receiving death threats. The reaction to this ridiculousness played a part on the toning down of the rhetoric.

It was an “enough already” moment.

After the Marlins fired hitting coach John Mallee, Morrison defended him, but did so to reporters directly and not on Twitter.

It’s easy for such things to become misunderstood.

Morrison’s tweets aren’t controversial. A public person willing to actually be the one running his own Twitter/Facebook page is not customary—much of the time, it’s a PR person or ghostwriter (or ghosttweeter) behind it.

Morrison interacts with fans and it’s viewed as unusual because it is unusual.

I find his twitter feed moderately entertaining; at least he knows his “your/you’re”, “their/they’re” and doesn’t use the phrase “lol” repeatedly. That’s all I ask.

But what I don’t understand is why an apparently single 23-year-old major league baseball player—whose home base is Miami—is on Twitter so often. There have to be better things to do.

Where are the models?