Over the weekend, the Miami Marlins celebrated their 10th anniversary of the 2003 World Series-winning team. Many of the club's friendlier veterans returned, such as Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Lowell. We even got a warm video message from Miguel Cabrera! It was a nice Sunday ceremony that brought back all of your favorites.
One of those members was former manager Jack McKeon, and among the interesting things the eclectically old school manager said over the weekend was a comment on the players of today and whether the 2003 championship resonated with them.
"I really don’t think it even registers," McKeon said. "You have a new culture today. You could see that with what I’ve been reading about the last couple of weeks about the culture of these players. Come on, you’ve got to get…if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."
One could construe that in many ways, My first thought was that the franchise seems so far removed from that title that it is difficult to relate to that time (more on that later). But it seems as though McKeon is questioning something else, perhaps some sort of cultural "intestinal fortitude" regarding today's Marlins.
Juan C. Rodriguez mentions in the article that McKeon may be discussing the Tino Martinez situation.
McKeon, who turns 83 in November, probably would not have managed more than 2,000 big league games if berating players was frowned upon in any way. When the Marlins hired him less than 40 games into the 2003 season he brought a quintessential old school approach to the post and the Marlins thrived.
If McKeon is questioning why the Marlins' players were so unwilling to go through verbal (and supposedly physical) abuse from their coaches, then this is the ranting and raving of an "old-school" manager who is probably the one who is out of touch with the "culture" of today. The 2003 Marlins were about a lot of things, but being berated or manhandled by the coaches was not one of them. Did it happen? I'm almost certain it did, based on McKeon's reputation as a no-nonsense guy. But was that the reason why that team won a title? If it played a role, it played a small role behind the fact that the club was extremely talented.
How does that relate to today? Sports culture has always been about "toughness," but protecting the players is more important than any of that. That includes not only protecting players from injury, but from physicality from within the clubhouse. The time of motivating grown men by grabbing and pulling them around is over. That behavior should not be accepted, no matter who the source is.
McKeon likely has little idea what Martinez was doing, but he is commenting on it as though he knew what Martinez did to guys like Derek Dietrich. He is assuming, wrongfully, that this was merely a motivational ploy, and that the players took it too harshly and need to "man up." These ideas are dangerous; no player or employee should be asked to work in an environment in which they feel unsafe. A little jabbing with words is appropriate, and almost every boss, even outside baseball, probably does just that. But it is clear that Martinez passed the line between acceptable "tough love" and harassment, especially with report on physicality. If McKeon cannot see that, then he is clearly out of touch with what society should be like now.
Of course, owner Jeffrey Loria is just the sort of guy who would condone something like this. Martinez was Loria's selection, and it sounded as though he was going to defend and keep Martinez before the issue was forced. Loria has been searching for an "old school" manager like McKeon since 2005, a boisterous guy who will challenge his players and is unafraid of consequences. Of course, the two times he had those managers (Joe Girardi and Ozzie Guillen), he fired them after one year. So it seems the organization's top man should also fall in line with the thinking that players need to be needled but also protected.
It does not surprise anyone that McKeon is out of touch with current culture. But it is important for a person who has significant pull in the organization realize that there is a line that should not be crossed when managing a player. The Marlins did the right thing in ultimately not standing for it, and McKeon should try and understand that