Remember a few weeks ago when former Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was becoming the scapegoat for the team's problems? With yesterday's firing of Guillen as manager, the Fish have officially named him the 2012 scapegoat for the team's myriad of problems.
President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest made that much evident when he spoke about the move.
"After careful consideration following the disappointment of the 2012 season, we decided to dismiss Ozzie," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "Our managerial search begins immediately, and our hope is that a new manager, along with roster improvements, will restore a winning culture."
"I don't think it's any one thing. I think it's cumulative. It's a complete evaluation, and we wanted to move forward," Beinfest said. "Look, there was nothing positive about that. It was a black eye for Ozzie, for the organization and we moved on it. We tried to move on from it and we recognized the magnitude of it. I would say that if we were going to say Ozzie got fired because of the Castro thing, that wouldn't be fair. Ozzie got fired because of an evaluation over a number of things."
Beinfest says here that it was a complete evaluation of Guillen's work as manager that led to his eventual firing. That means that the Marlins looked at Guillen's overall record and deemed him the most necessary change on a team that won 69 games and was flawed throughout the roster.
We have mentioned this before, but how did the Marlins come to the conclusion that it was primarily Guillen's fault that the team failed? Yesterday, Fish Stripes regular Andrew Townes brought up a great point in that we as outsiders have little access to the complete package that is Ozzie Guillen. We know that his players stood by him during the Heath Bell controversy, and that paints a picture of at least a decent amount of support for the embattled former manager. At the same time, we can be fairly certain that Guillen's Fidel Castro comments were at least a neutral effect and almost could not be positive for the team. We know what the media has said about the backstage goings on with the Marlins under Guillen's watch, but it is impossible to tell exactly what is happening in terms of what is reported versus what is being interpreted by media members.
So we do not know the real Ozzie Guillen and the real effect of his leadership on this team. But once again, I point to the money to lead the discussion. Guillen was being paid $2.5 million a season, and in today's market, that may be worth half a win. Was he worth half a win in 2012? The odds are against that being true. But how likely is it that he was so bad that the Marlins would rather eat his salary than play out his contract?
Consider this: the Marlins would not release Heath Bell after one of the worst relief season in Marlins history. The team eventually "released" him via a small trade return for $8 million. Was Guillen worse at managing than Bell was at closing? This seems difficult to imagine, but essentially this is akin to what the Marlins are saying. Guillen's managing was almost as bad as Bell's performance in 2012, and Bell was universally panned.
While it is not far-fetched to believe that Guillen failed in 2012, I also believe that one piece among many cannot be the sole reason for success or failure, and the Marlins' firing seems to lean towards that thinking. The Marlins were filled with players who struggled, but not one player individually sunk this Marlins team. Not even guys like Hanley Ramirez, who was supposed to be a big part of the successful 2012 nucleus, cost the Marlins more than two wins. Heath Bell played with the Marlins the entire season and did not cost the team more than a win and a half. When even the highest-paid players are not costing your Marlins more than a win or two tops, how can the Fish justify eating the rest of Guillen's contract because of his poor performance?
There are only two real answers to this question:
1) The Marlins indeed thought that Guillen was worse as a manager than any of those other players listed
2) The Marlins believe Guillen has even more of an effect on the team than he probably has.
The first option is at least understandable, especially given the fact that the team cannot trade Guillen off of a down season like they could with players like Ramirez and Bell. But look at the emphasis in Beinfest's comments on a "winning culture" on the Marlins. Can one manager, especially a rookie one like Mike Lowell or Mike Redmond, provide that for the Fish? If I am correct, I think the Marlins emphasize managing more than the salary seems to imply, and that may be a mistake for organization.
No, firing Guillen is not an inexcusable offense for the Marlins. As I have mentioned many times before, I do not believe the hiring of another manager will swing the scales more than a win in one direction or another. But the fact that the Marlins have seemingly labeled Guillen the scapegoat for 2012 based on their actions and some of their words implies to me that the club is more likely to believe that a manager has a larger effect on the organization than he likely does. If the team believes that Guillen was so epically bad at the managerial position, then it is likely the team is either overestimating his effects on the players or underestimating his true talent. Either way, while it is not indefensible, it certainly does not sound right.