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The Miami Marlins are mulling over the potential firing of manager Ozzie Guillen. Jon Paul Morosi thinks the move is necessary, but is Guillen being pinned for problems he could not solve as manager?
All throughout the regular season, as the Miami Marlins failed miserably in their task of becoming a contender with their current nucleus, you had the feeling like, at the end of the season, someone was going to be cast as a scapegoat unnecessarily. Rather than an entire team, from the front office to the manager to the players, taking part of the blame for the mess of a year that the Fish have made, you just had to have a feeling like someone on the Marlins would end up taking all of the blame for the failed season.
At the beginning of the year, that someone looked like it could be Heath Bell. Maybe it was going to be Hanley Ramirez before he was shipped off. There was always the threat that it would Jeffrey Loria, the petulant Marlins owner. But lately it seemed like it was going to come down to two men: president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest or manager Ozzie Guillen.
Well, if you ask Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports (I know someone did, who was it?), it's clearly Guillen.
Five months later, has he learned from his mistake? Has he remained modest? Has he been careful with his words? Has he focused on his job performance, rather than place the blame elsewhere? Has he put the feelings of his players first, as he promised he would?
Has he won?
Let’s check the record.
Thus begins a multi-paragraph tirade by Morosi on why Guillen, of all people, is most at fault for the failures of the 2012 Marlins. This sort of article deserves a response from me in a form no less than the Fire Joe Morgan style. Get ready for a reasonable discourse via FJM format.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Guillen said Friday of team owner Jeffrey Loria: "Look yourself in the mirror and ask why so many (bleeping) managers come through here."
On another occasion, he told reporters, "When you are in last place you need a better manager, better general manager, better owner, a better everything … because we all failed."
But these things are all true. One thing that we have harped on here at Fish Stripes over the past month is that every party is to blame for the Marlins' poor season. Indeed, it is the only way to think of it; how can we honestly partition the blame between the owner's initiative, the front office's decisions, the manager's day-to-day handling, and the players' performances? There is no one member of that cavalcade that is completely faultless in the team's struggles this year. Guillen basically just said that in a more frustrated form.
As for the Loria comment, Morosi later admits that Loria indeed has been at the heart of the Marlins' managerial instability. While it may not have been the most tactful move by Guillen with his job on the line, when has Guillen ever been tactful? At least in this case, he sported the correct opinion about Loria.
Highly paid reliever Heath Bell, whom Guillen demoted from closing duties, said in a Monday radio interview the Marlins need a manager "everybody respects and looks up to." Bell also accused Guillen of not telling him the truth. Bell tried to backpedal from the remarks Tuesday, sort of, but the effort was too lame to reprint here.
This ignores the fact that, throughout the Bell fiasco, the Marlins' players have all been on Guillen's side. How you can bring up Bell as an argument against Guillen when, in reality, Bell's comments are the best argument against Bell himself.
By the way: The Marlins are 66-88, last in the National League East.
Guillen blew his second chance. He doesn’t deserve another.
Morosi's thesis is that the team is not doing well, therefore the manager is at fault? Last I checked, the manager did not play third base. Nor did the manager get hurt for a month as the team's best offensive player. Nor did the manager lose a thumb and two knees on the way to the disabled list the rest of the season. Short of Guillen turning into a player-manager and donning the uniform more than a decade past the end of his playing career, it is hard to fault all of the Marlins' record on Guillen.
Ozzie might try to argue otherwise, but for now he’s too busy talking his way into trouble with upper management — again. Look yourself in the mirror, he said to his boss. Really? Guillen insulted Miami’s Cuban-American community, couldn’t win with a club-record $118 million payroll, and he’s asking the owner to look himself in the mirror?
The Fidel Castro comments were all on Guillen, and he was more than apologetic about the circumstances. But aside from getting the payroll incorrect (the Marlins had $101.7 million on their payroll this year, at least in terms of players), it seems odd to attribute the "Look yourself in the mirror" quote to anything other than firing managers, which, again, was a perfectly valid comment.
As for the failures of the team, please see the previous response. A team fails, and when it does, the manager is not the only person who is at fault. Is it Guillen's fault that the Marlins are paying $9 million for Bell after he came off of his worst season since becoming a closer? Is it Guillen's fault that Ricky Nolasco received a reasonable three-year contract but is now being paid $9 million to be a glorified fifth starter? Is it Guillen's fault that Josh Johnson lost two miles per hour on his fastball and subsequently lost some of his effectiveness?
Blaming Guillen is reasonable. But blaming only Guillen for players losing their skills, bad luck, and front office mismanagement leading to a high payroll and low results is not.
Guillen was accurate in noting Loria’s tendency to churn through (bleeping) managers. The Marlins have had six fulltime skippers in Loria’s 11 seasons — seven, when counting Jack McKeon twice. Former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez made the same point recently, telling the Miami Herald, "There’s not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough. Not Connie Mack, not anyone."
But if Guillen becomes Loria’s latest victim, it will be Guillen's own fault. He knew Loria was demanding and unpredictable when he accepted the four-year, $10 million contract to manage the team. First because of the Castro maelstrom, and later in light of the team’s underachievement, Guillen should have chosen his public words carefully while working doggedly to keep the clubhouse together. He did neither.
Because Morosi is so deeply involved with the Marlins' clubhouse to know that the players are not functioning within it or that Guillen has not tried hard at all to fix the problems he ran into at the start of the season. Did Guillen speak out more often than was necessary? Even that cannot be determined. The fact that I do not remember a single Guillen quote from the Fidel Castro situation to the most recent rumblings about his job security tells you just how little he has spoken out this season. Until recently, Guillen quit Twitter because he was incensed by comments directed towards him. When Bell's failures were the biggest story surrounding the team, Guillen quietly supported his closer as almost everyone else called for his head. By all accounts, this probably was the quietest Guillen season to date.
Supposedly, job one for Guillen was to nurture sensitive star Hanley Ramirez back into the batting champion he once was. That didn’t happen. Now Ramirez is a Dodger.
And he's struggling there too. Ramirez is hitting .267/.314/.457 with the Dodgers, good for a .327 wOBA that looks remarkably similar to his .328 mark in Miami. Clearly Don Mattingly needs to be fired for failing to make Ramirez play better.
The men pushing the shopping cart during the Marlins’ offseason spree — Loria, David Samson, Larry Beinfest — bear some responsibility for the team’s underperformance. The players do, too. Bell, with a 5.11 ERA, hasn’t pitched well enough to issue such a harsh rebuke of his manager. But Bell’s eagerness to do so is a harsh indictment of the atmosphere surrounding the team — for which Guillen must be held accountable.
That is an interesting comment from Morosi in light of the reports that Bell's teammates, all of whom were also a part of this "atmosphere surrounding the team -- for which Guillen must be held accountable," seemed to be in support of their manager and not in favor of Bell's comments. This much is evident in their clubhouse moment with Bell yesterday.
As Bell sat in front of his locker before Tuesday’s game in Atlanta, unidentified teammates cranked the volume on Guillen’s weekly radio call-in show on 790 The Ticket to force him to listen to their manager answer questions about the controversy.
Reporters walked in unknowingly on the awkward clubhouse scene before being detected by players and ushered back out by Greg Dobbs. But sources said the point was for players to show they supported their manager and to humiliate Bell.
To me, that does not sound like an atmosphere that is not supportive of Guillen's work on the team. It sounds like a number of Marlins supporting their manager and firing back at a rogue player for publicly bashing a member of his team. Sound like a fragmented clubhouse to you?
The facts: Guillen left the Chicago White Sox after last season, and they improved. Now the Marlins are on pace for a worse record than they had under Edwin Rodriguez and McKeon in 2011 — despite the regression of the division rival Philadelphia Phillies. That’s more than a coincidence. It’s evidence that Guillen, with one postseason appearance in his past seven seasons, often does less with more. He’s the anti-Joe Maddon.
With all due respect to Robin Ventura and the work he has done in Chicago, I'd like to find out just how much Morosi thinks Ventura did to fix Adam Dunn. How about Alex Rios? How about how Ventura made Chris Sale into one of the best pitchers in the American League? Sometimes, prospects go the right way, and sometimes players regress to their means and start playing like they were expected to play. Some of that is definitely the work of the manager for promoting a good environment, but some of that almost assuredly is the work of the player on his own, and some of that is plain old regression to the mean. It means nothing, and to make judgments based on that is also overstating the effect of the manager.
It's not "evidence." It's conjecture.
Guillen’s bluster suggests a belief that he is the main attraction. The act was tolerated in Chicago longer than it should have been, because Guillen managed the team to a World Series title and was beloved by owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Now gone from the city where he built up such capital, Guillen has been exposed. Guillen’s addresses to the team — at least, the ones we saw on Showtime’s documentary series — were long on expletives and short on inspiration.
Morosi is an expert on inspiration, didn't you know? Of the amount of "The Franchise" that I did watch, I thought Guillen did a fine job. Do I get a national platform to talk about inspiration too?
This is all quite sad. The Marlins fell short of the attendance projections during the inaugural season at Marlins Park, built with the help of taxpayer money. The first year in a new stadium is supposed to be a hit-me fastball for baseball franchises, guaranteed to boost revenues and fan interest for several years. The Marlins whiffed spectacularly. They will never know how good this could have been with the right manager — or even a more composed version of Guillen.
As we have mentioned before, no manager could have fixed this 2012 season. Joe Girardi couldn't fix it. Joe Torre couldn't fix it. Earl Weaver couldn't fix it. Branch Rickey couldn't fix it. It was a disaster in which part of the blame goes towards Guillen, but Morosi seems to insinuate more and more that Guillen is responsible for most of it. This thesis is untenable.
Now, the Marlins must analyze why the 2012 season was a failure. Bell, owed $18 million over the next two years, was part of the problem. Guillen, with $7.5 million left over three, failed in a way that is harder to fix. Logic suggests one of them must go. Math tells you which one.
Sure, it is easier to fire a manager than to cut a player for most franchises. Why? In part because you pay managers less. In part because they have a smaller effect on the game, hence why they get paid less. But just because getting rid of Guillen and signing a replacement is easier does not mean it is the right thing to do.
I am not a Guillen apologist, and if the Marlins fire him after this season and hire Mike Lowell or Mike Redmond to coach this team, I am certain the differences will be slight. But I am a fan of the Miami Marlins, and what I am concerned about is the right approach in fixing what was wrong in 2012. And if the Marlins take the approach that Morosi seems to be implying, that the primary problem in 2012 was Guillen's incompetent managing of the team and that firing him will make the 2013 Marlins significantly better, then the team is not looking at their situation critically. And if they do not analyze critically and appropriate blame on all aspects of this team's building, then 2013 and 2014 and years after that may also go poorly.
Keeping or firing Guillen itself is not important. But the process for determining what went right and what went wrong is. The process Morosi shows here is not correct. I think the Marlins need to do better than this.