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The Coaching Change that Affects the NL East

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Yes, the Marlins hired a new manager yesterday. Ho hum. I'm sorry if I can't be all that excited. That's not the coaching change I'm excited about.

Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with the hiring of Joe Girardi. My issue is just that I don't think it's going to make much difference. I'm much more concerned about the personnel that the Marlins will put on the field than the folks that they'll have manning the dugouts.

There will surely be some bumps along the way with Girardi. He's a first time manager and bound to make some mistakes. Heck, both Ozzie Guillen (in 2004) and Willie Randolph (in 2005) made the mistake of calling for the wrong pitcher from the bullpen in their managerial debuts. Those guys, despite being young, have forgotten more baseball than the rest of us could ever hope to see, so if they're making errors on the field, Girardi is bound to as well. But I don't think those errors will cost the Marlins a playoff berth.

On the flip side, the acquisitions that are made and not made this winter will go a long way to making the Marlins into a winner. Losing Carlos Delgado or failing to get some bullpen help would likely have a much greater negative impact on the Marlins than Girardi could, even if he slept in the dugout all season.

In today's Herald, Dan LeBatard sums up much of my feelings about a manager in baseball:

The manager's impact on results is pretty negligible. It is smaller than you'll find among any of our major sports leaders.

That said, there is one potential coaching move in the NL East that I think could have a significant impact on future pennant chases: Leo Mazzone is taking his services to the Baltimore Orioles.

Mazzone has been the Braves pitching coach for well over a decade, a time which has seen the Braves--most notably their pitching--rise to prominence in baseball. That's due in large part to Mazzone.

How can I say a pitching coach, like Mazzone, impact a pennant race when I don't think a manager can have much of an impact? Well, Mazzone has a different system. His pitchers work out differently during the season and during the offseason. Their throwing program is different. And I don't profess to know all of the magical ingredients, but he seems to pull a pitcher or two off of the scrap heap annually and turn them into a star (see Sosa, Jorge this season).

Now that Mazzone has departed the Braves for the Orioles, I think the Marlins will be better off.

Maybe Girardi will come and revolutionize the ins and outs of managing a baseball game in a way similar to what Mazzone has done for the role of being a pitching coach. I doubt that he will. In all likelihood, Girardi's biggest impact will likely come from his ability to turn around the atmosphere in the Marlins' clubhouse, which has apparently been toxic than team oriented of late.