Sunday, June 19, 2011
Sizing up Marlins' managerial possibilities
By Jim Bowden
Edwin Rodriguez turned in his resignation as manager of the Florida Marlins on Sunday to team president Larry Beinfest. Beinfest accepted the resignation when he arrived at Tropicana Field at approximately 11:20 a.m. ET. The Marlins had lost 17 of 18 games prior to Sunday, winning only one game in June.
The Marlins got off to a hot start in 2011, and after sweeping the world champion San Francisco Giants in late May were an impressive 10 games over .500 at 29-19. Injuries to starting pitcher Josh Johnson and shortstop Hanley Ramirez contributed to the rapid fall of the team, which quite frankly all of a sudden couldn’t pitch, hit or field. The Marlins went 3-20 since sweeping the Giants, leading to Rodriguez's stepping aside.
Rodriguez, who was the first native of Puerto Rico to manage in the major leagues, replaced Fredi Gonzalez as the Marlins' manager in June of last year.
Beinfest was asked by the media if the team would have fired Rodriguez if he had not tendered his resignation, and he responded by saying, “I think when you've been going the way we've been going, I think everyone is on the table. I’m probably on the table as well, and rightfully so. I thought Edwin did a good job here. This has hit us and hit us hard.”
Bench coach Brandon Hyde managed the Marlins for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, but he will not be the interim manager for the remainder of the 2011 season. Speculation has already begun that Jack McKeon, 80, a special assistant for the Marlins, or ESPN baseball analyst Bobby Valentine could become candidates for the job.
Here is my take on Rodriguez's resignation and possible replacements:
1. Edwin Rodriguez: It’s very rare in baseball for a team to go through a stretch in which it went 3-20. The pressure is unimaginable, especially for the GM and manager, during that type of streak. I’ll never forget April 29, 1988, when the Baltimore Orioles' season-opening losing streak ended at a record 21 games. This streak has been similarly bad. Rodriguez is a good man, a class individual, and he will land on his feet. This is expected to be the beginning of moves by team owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson in an effort to get the club in contending status leading into their new ballpark, which opens in 2012.
2. Jack McKeon: He's a candidate to take over the team on an interim basis. He worked for me as a special assistant in 1997 with the Cincinnati Reds, and when the decision was made to fire Ray Knight, he took over the team and managed the Reds from 1997-2000. McKeon won the National League Manager of the Year Award in 1999, leading the Reds to a 96-win season. The team he took over midway through the 1997 season was 43-56. He regrouped and the team finished the year by going 33-30 and wound up in third place in the NL Central. He clearly overachieved with the team he had that season and reshaped the culture in the clubhouse, making it more relaxed and fun for the players, which resulted in improved performance on the field.
McKeon won the NL Manager of the Year Award again in 2003, while becoming the last manager to win a world championship for the Marlins. McKeon still has life and vigor and if the Marlins are looking for a three-month stopgap, he probably has enough left in the tank to do what he did for the Reds back in 1997. The only problem with Jack is the smell of his cigars. McKeon has said that he had not been contacted about the position as of Sunday morning.
3. Bobby Valentine: Valentine, 61, is another candidate. He led the New York Mets to the NLCS in 1999 and to the World Series in 2000, when they lost to the New York Yankees. He also has had managerial success with two different stints in Japan, managing the Chiba Lotte Marines, and leading them to the Japan Series championship in 2005. Valentine also coached under me in 1993 and 1994 when I was the general manager of the Reds. He was one of the hardest workers who coached under me. He got to the ballpark early in the mornings, even for night games. He studies video, scouting reports and players' swings all day and night, always trying to find ways to help a player and win games.
Valentine's tremendous people skills always have been a difference maker. His name surfaced last year for the Marlins' managerial opening, but there seemed to be a breakdown in the discussions between Loria, Samson, Beinfest, Marlins GM Mike Hill and Valentine. The only question remaining is where the breakdown was and if it's irreparable. Valentine has said that to his knowledge, he is not a candidate for the opening.
4. Bo Porter: He is the third-base coach of the Washington Nationals and was a finalist for the managerial position with the Marlins last fall. Porter coached for the Marlins from 2007-2009 and for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010.
Porter, 38, played a combined 89 games in the major leagues with the Texas Rangers, Oakland A's and Chicago Cubs. He has high energy and a passion for the game. His lifetime goal is to become a major league manager. He managed one year in the minor leagues for the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League in 2006. His lack of experience could be a factor in a situation like this one.
Rodriguez may have been forced out by the Marlins, or he may have stepped down on his own, as has been reported. Either way, it doesn’t matter because the Marlins are looking for a new manager and the important part of that decision will be to make sure it is a veteran, who’s been there and done that and has the ability to handle difficult situations and bring a calming influence to the team. McKeon for the short term or Valentine for a longer term would both be solid choices at this point.
Thanks for reading, I look forward to your comments. You can also follow me on Twitter: @Jim BowdenESPNxm.