The Miami Marlins apparently are "aggressively seeking" candidates for their managerial position, a position currently filled by Ozzie Guillen. The Marlins signed Guillen to a four-year, $10 million deal, but after a 69-win season, the team is looking to rescind that decision and start anew.
If this were the first time this had happened, I may even consider this move passable. I mean, Guillen was in charge for the Marlins' worst season since 1999. It is difficult to say that some of the blame is not on Guillen for whatever he did within the clubhouse. And if this problem came accompanied with reports of clubhouse discontent and difficulties with the players, you could maybe justify replacing Guillen with someone new to reset the clubhouse and move forward rather than be tied to the failure of 2012.
But this does not seem to be the case. Only one player, Heath Bell, seemed to have issues with Guillen, and the remaining players stuck by the manager's side throughout the ordeal. So this situation is not like the one with the Boston Red Sox, in which there was seemingly a faction of players who were not supportive of Bobby Valentine as manager. The Marlins' players, for the most part, are behind Guillen this season.
So why is Guillen being fired? Well, the team lost 93 games. But Guillen should not be cast as the scapegoat for that. Numerous Marlins managers in the past have been cast as scapegoats for a variety of reasons, and their firings have accomplished little in the following years. It may be simplistic, but a look at the records clearly shows how little these firings and hirings mean.
|Marlins Manager||Record, Predecessor (WP%)||Record, Manager (WP%)||WP% Diff|
|Joe Girardi||---||78-84 (.481)||---|
|Fredi Gonzalez||78-84 (.481)||276-279 (.497)||+.016|
|Edwin Rodriguez||276-279 (.497)||78-85 (.479)||-.018|
|Jack McKeon||78-85 (.479)||40-50 (.444)||-.035|
|Ozzie Guillen||40-50 (.444)||69-93 (.426)||-.018|
Of course, do not look into this too much, because it barely means anything. But that is sort of the point. The Marlins have made multiple firings and hirings since 2006. No one has moved the needle significantly. The Marlins as a whole are 541-591, good for a .478 winning percentage in that time. Only Girardi, Gonzalez, and Rodriguez have even matched that record. The team retained a good amount of its nucleus with few changes from 2006 to 2010. It added a few better players and lost a few decent players after that year, but all things considered, much of the core was the same.
Yet no manager was able to make good with that team. Gonzalez had a worst year in 2007 following Giradi, but then he followed that a few years later with the team's best campaign in 2009. A few months into the next season, he was fired. Edwin Rodriguez repeated Girardi's record and was essentially fired (he resigned to avoid being fired). Jack McKeon could not save a team ravaged by injuries following Rodriguez's dismissal. He was not held responsible for that, nor was Gonzalez held responsible for injuries eating the entire pitching staff in 2007.
So why should Guillen be responsible for the same sort of issues in 2012? Did Guillen hurt Logan Morrison? Not anymore than the front office did by forcing him to play left field. Was it Guillen's fault Hanley Ramirez really did decline in skill? Ramirez got almost 300 PA with the Los Angeles Dodgers to prove he was any better and Don Mattingly could not help him either. Was it Guillen's fault John Buck fell apart for four months? Was it Guillen's fault that the team traded three viable, average-or-better major league players for prospects who may or may not yet equal them now? Was it Guillen's fault those trades combined with the injuries gutted the roster in the second half, leading to a 28-49 second half?
Of course not. And yet the Marlins are apparently shopping for alternatives a day after the season ends. And the worst part is that the team will be better in 2013. The reason is not because the players will be embarrassed by their performances and work harder, or that the organization is going to whip the players into shape, or some rousing end-of-season speech will inspire them all. The Marlins will be better because the 2012 season represented the worst that this team could be. Logan Morrison is less likely to be this bad than he is to regress a little bit closer to his career numbers, especially with a healthy season at first base. Emilio Bonifacio and Giancarlo Stanton should have healthier seasons. Jose Reyes may be able to avoid the one awful month he had this year. The bullpen could not possibly perform as poorly as it did this year.
Any number of those factors listed could lead to a decent amount of improvement from this team. And none of those factors would involve Ozzie Guillen suddenly learning how to manage better. Neither would these things happen because a new face inspired the players to do better. No, if the Marlins improve in 2013, it will be because statistically, a team like this should perform better just by chance alone.
And even if they are not (and if the Marlins do not make any additions, do not be surprised if the improvement is incremental at best in the wins column), how can the Marlins be sure that adding a manager will make the difference? The club had the same basic core from 2006 to 2011, made four different hirings, and produced essentially breakeven results. Guillen did inherit a better team, which is why his situation is more severe than the others. But that "better" team did not play as well as expected, and some of that falls on both the manager and the front office that scouted and evaluated those players, along with the players themselves. He cannot shoulder all of the blame himself.
If the Marlins fire Guillen this offseason, the 2013 Marlins will likely improve a little over the 2012 counterparts. If the Marlins keep Guillen for next year, the 2013 Marlins will also likely improve a little over the 2012 team. If hiring a new face or keeping the old one adds very little to the brew, why should the Marlins bother to spend the extra $0.5 million? If the team really wanted change, it would put all the decision-makers on notice, including the front office. As it stands, this move is a cosmetic change, and if and when the Marlins do improve in 2013, it will only reinforce Jeffrey Loria's incorrect assumption that the managerial move was in order. This could only lead to more poor decision-making of this kind, and if the decisions of the past did not work, why would these do any better?