30 June 2010
I do not think that most people in baseball were surprised at all that Marlins fired Fredi Gonzalez last week. It actually seemed like it was fairly inevitable that the two were going to split ways at the end of the year anyways. The Marlins owner Jeffery Loria had said earlier that he expected the Marlins to be a playoff team this year, despite the fact that the Marlins were picked almost universally to be third in the NL East this year by various media outlets, and Fredi is the guy that may people have expected to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta next year, despite getting a contract extension with the Marlins before the season. Originally I would have said that this is one of those firings that both the manager and organization are to blame.
For his career Fredi was 276-279 and had the Marlins in the hunt for a Wild Card birth the last two years, but this year the Marlins have had an up and down year. The 2010 Marlins have been a real Jekyll and Hyde team who will win 3 games in a row and then drop 4, and despite being 2 games under .500 there +/- is over +20. Through out his tenure as the Marlins manager, Fredi has been second guessed on may of his moves involving when he uses pitch hitters and how he has used the Marlins bullpen. Also the tipping point for the Fredi was during infamous vuvuzala game against Tampa Bay there was a mix up in which Marlins pitch hitter was said to have batted out of order late in a tie game.
The Marlins also need to be blamed for some of Fredi’s failures as well. Loria belief that the Marlins should be a playoff team is not that far fetched. The Marlins were in second place in the NL East last year, they paid Josh Johnson with a nice contract extension, did not trade away Dan Uggla, and a healthy Anibal Sanchez gives the Marlins a playoff caliber 1-2-3 at the front of their rotation. However where the front office has failed is by not opening there wallets to get any real bullpen help. As of today the Marlins are 36-40 with a +/- of +26, they have scored the 4th most runs in the NL and their starting pitchers and closer have put up decent numbers. The problem with the Marlins is that the middle relievers have let teams back into games and have let up the leads late. In the off season the Marlins tried to sign former proven bullpen guys who were looking for second chances like Mike McDougal, Jorge Sosa, and Derrick Turnbow, none of which were successful. Only closer Leo Nunez and Clay Hensley have been consistently good. The Marlins also lack left handed bats and have a weaker bench this year then last year with veteran Wes Helms being the only player of note.
After reading a report by Mark J. Miller on Yahoo Sports that the Marlins and Bobby Valentine stopped talks for Valentine to take over the manager job because of philosophical differences, I now have to say that the problem with the Marlins is Loria and the other higher ups in the organization. Valentine is a very good manager, and also a strong willed manager who could keep the ego of someone like Hanley Ramirez in line, remember Hanley had issues with Fredi after Fredi benched him for not hustling after a ball. While it may not be uncommon for an organization to have philosophical differences with someone they are interviewing, with the Marlins its different. The Marlins fired manager Joe Girardi after Girardi led and very young 2005 Marlins team to a 78-84 record and won NL Manager of the Year because of the philosophical differences he with Loria on how to play some of the players. This is the same Joe Girardi who just won the World Series with the New York Yankees last year. To make matters worse, after firing Fredi Gonzalez team officials publicly said that the organization did fail Fredi by not putting together a better bullpen for him to work with. So to sum up the Marlins last week fired a guy who had won 3 of 4 games, someone who will be managing another team next year, replaced him for the year with an interim manager from the minors, and it was partly the organizations fault that he was not winning…then why fire him?
Like I said at the start, I like a lot of other people was not shocked by the firing of Fredi Gonzalez, and I thought it would have been great if the team could have added Bobby Valentine. However with the team announcing today that Edwin Rodriguez will manage the team for the rest of the year I really do think that it fair to question what this organization and Jeffery Loria are doing. Although the last time the Marlins changed managers in the middle of the season was 2003 and the Marlins won their second World Series, so who knows.