When Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria decided he had enough of then President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest, there were doubts about who would be willing to take the position and work for a team that lost 100 games in 2013. Seeking to hire an internal candidate instead of going through the interview process, Loria hired Michael Hill, who in the annual "State of The Union"-type speech on Monday night, expressed his opinion of the roster he constructed.
It is easy to say that Hill and newly appointed General Manager Dan Jennings wouldn't speak poorly of the organization and leader who just gave them a promotion, and that is reasonable. Hill, while not speaking of the season in a negative light, sympthasized with fans. Here are some takeaways from Hill's comments before Monday's 10-1 victory over the Rockies.
-Realization that Marlins didn't make the "sexiest of signings"
Every offseason, baseball fans hope to see their favorite team's front office aggressively pursue top free agents. For the Miami Marlins, after the 2012 firesale, that hasn't become the reality.
Stopgap players have become accpeted, but the Marlins filled several holes by signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Casey McGehee, and Garrett Jones. Hill acknowledged that the Marlins' 2013 offense was "subpar," and after it was the worst in all of baseball in several notable categories, obvious changes were necessary, and to a certain extent, made.
While discussing offseason transactions, Hill said he realized Miami didn't make "the sexiest of signings." This was followed by support for the roster in place, but the fact that it was addressed in such a way suggests that Hill, among others, knew there may have been better options available.
-There are few problems with "flying under the radar"
The Miami Marlins went 18-12 in Grapefruit League play. Spring games are insignificant, but aisde from occasional praise for the amount of pitching depth the organization has, that was an unnoticed winning record. It was a winning record in which several starters (exclusing Marcell Ozuna) thrived, and it was a winning record which made evident the team's motivation to succeed.
Both players and coaches have spoken about the changed clubhouse atmosphere as a result of the added veterans. And while it may be challenging for some to believe, the Marlins are consistently confident in the team they field. Which is beneficial yet ineffective.
Hill said that "I actually like it when people don't pick us, and I like flying under the radar because the guys in that clubhouse believe in one another." Confidence is an essential element to success, but the fact that Hill admits he doesn't mind the criticism suggests the Marlins may not change their ways in the near future.
-Not every roster move is perfect
Hill, when discussing the youth of last season's team, noted that he learned veterans are key parts to succesful baseball clubhouses.
"In the past we’ve had [young] rosters, we’ve just rolled with those young rosters and we’ve played young teams to sort of sink or swim together," he said. "I think that was a valuable learning lesson for me. You need veterans sometimes, you need experience."
Rarely did Beinfest admit that he made a mistake, or handled a personnel situation the wrong way. The fact that Hill went out of his way to say that he was wrong is significant only because only on a handful of occasions have any Marlins' front office members said such a thing.
Respect goes a long way. Hill and Jennings are well-respected throughout baseball, and the fact that they have adopted a "fan first" mentality while living under Loria's miniscule payroll is something to admire.