Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon won 96 games during the regular season once in his career, in 1999 with the Cincinnati Reds. His center fielder that year was a young 26-year-old center fielder named Mike Cameron, who hit 21 home runs that year with an .825 OPS. He also swiped 38 bases. Twelve years later, McKeon, 80, is reunited with his former center fielder after the Marlins acquired him from the Boston Red Sox in a deal for a player to be named later or cash. The Red Sox also agreed to pick up more than $3.3 million of the $3.6 million owed Cameron for the remainder of the season.
Cameron, 38, was hitting .149/.212/.266 with three home runs and no stolen bases in 105 plate appearances with the Red Sox at the time of the deal. The Marlins are in last place in the National League East, 10 games under .500 at 38-48. They trail the Phillies by 16.5 games. Do the Marlins think that Cameron will all of a sudden rejuvenate his career and pull a Lance Berkman? Of course not. Do they think he’ll rebound and start playing like the Cameron of 2006-2009? Nope. Do they think he’s any better than the players on their present roster? Doubt it.
Cameron is one of only five active players with at least 250 home runs and 250 stolen bases in his career. He’s won three Gold Glove awards in his career and made the All-Star team in 2001. He’s also a player that’s been injured and ineffective off the bench the last two years for the Red Sox. Quite frankly, from a baseball perspective, he looks finished. And that’s tough for me to admit because Cameron is one of my favorite clubhouse guys in baseball.
Despite Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest's comments to the media -- he said “I think you’re looking for production, and we still think this guy can help us” -- this move was clearly made to provide player leadership for players like Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison. McKeon and his coaching staff can only do so much. Andre Dawson and Tony Perez can walk through the clubhouse only so many times. The reality is that some players listen to players a lot better than they do field staff or upper management. Cameron provides leadership in his work ethic and his fundamentals, and he brings a special energy and enthusiasm that can only be measured inside that clubhouse.
The Marlins got better because of this trade, not because of Cameron’s diminishing baseball skills but rather because of the positive influence he’ll have on the development of so many of the Marlins' young players.