On Monday, the Miami Marlins were embroiled in yet another feud that had nothing to do with on-field play, as Heath Bell got himself into trouble by making incendiary comments towards Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. The comments apparently were unfounded, as the rest of the Marlins team quickly came to the aid of their manager with a showing of support via texts and emails along with some nice quotes from guys like Mark Buehrle.
But then there was also the reaction from the clubhouse that came out. Remember this?
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.
Apparently the Marlins' response in the clubhouse was to force Bell to listen to Guillen rip him to a degree. Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation had his response to that treatment.
And folks in the comments mentioned the clubhouse, based on these antics, was "toxic" among other things.
What the rest of the Marlins did certainly sounded mean and a good deal on the passive-aggressive side of things. But I wondered if this was really a sign of a "toxic" conditions in a clubhouse, or if this was just how things were dealt with in the majors. After all, this is not the first time a player has acted up or said something and their manager has openly ripped them to the media. In fact, this certainly is not the first time on the Marlins. Remember this?
This is Fredi Gonzalez ripping into Hanley Ramirez a good amount about his effort following the infamous Jog-gate scenario of 2010 (you can read my reaction over at Marlin Maniac here). In this case, the manager ripped into Ramirez to the media, and for his efforts, Gonzalez was seemingly unilaterally supported by the media. A few folks, such as myself, David Pinto, and Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew, questioned whether Fredi Gonzalez should have taken the dispute into the public in the first place rather than handling the situation behind closed doors, but for the most part people seemed pretty affirmative in supporting Gonzalez's hard-line stance.
But what have Guillen and the Marlins done here that is different from then? We were not privy to the backstage happenings, but you have to imagine a number of players and coaches got in Ramirez's face and confronted him about the situation. How does that differ from what the Marlins did in Bell's case? Was it the passive-aggressive radio thing that made some folks uncomfortable? Should Greg Dobbs have gone up to Bell himself and given him a stern talking-to?
Since Greg Dobbs was kept from a trade to the Atlanta Braves specifically because of his clubhouse influence, I will leave it to him to figure out how to best motivate or chastise fellow baseball players. I know that in the previous incidence with Ramirez, veteran gritty clubhouse guy Wes Helms also spoke to the media and asked Ramirez to apologize. Was that any better than Dobbs?
Look, I do not presume to know the right answer here. Had reporters not randomly walked into the clubhouse, only to be shooed away by Dobbs, we would not even know about this management of the situation. Presumably, this was all supposed to be handled behind closed doors, which is the way I prefer it. Would it have been better had there been a more clearly aggressive confrontation, like when Dan Uggla yelled at Ramirez for being pulled from a game for a minor injury? I do not necessarily think so.
Perhaps the idea that the handling was "uncomfortable" and "toxic" was not necessarily in the handling itself, but in the fact that the team even needed it in the first place. We had not heard anything in terms of clubhouse rumblings all season long until today, and that is with a team that had a struggling Hanley Ramirez for half a season. But maybe there were problems before, and the Bell situation brought them to the forefront, and that is why folks think the situation in the Marlins clubhouse is dire. Because in an otherwise healthy clubhouse, such things like this would not happen at all.
Then again, how are you supposed to "discipline" a rogue player among your team? What do you guys think would have been the best way to manage this situation? Could Greg Dobbs and the Marlins have done this in a more "professional" way, or is a more antagonistic approach like this one fine as well? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.