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"The Marlins Are the Most Underachieving Team in Baseball"

Those words were uttered by ESPN's Peter Gammons when speaking to Sam Ryan during last night's broadcast of the Yankees - Red Sox game.

That Al Leiter, a Marlin as recently as the start of the weekend, was pitching in that game and dominating the reigning World Champion Boston Red Sox didn't make Marlins fans feel any better.

But Gammons was right. In addition to talking about the inevitability of A.J. Burnett, and probably Mike Lowell too, being traded, Gammons talked about other likely changes.

Gammons intimated that Jack McKeon may not be long for his role as Marlins Manager. While it was just two seasons ago that McKeon took over this club (and guided them to the World Series), things are clearly different now. There are grumblings from the clubhouse. There is a lack of consistent performance on the field. When you look through the lineup, down the bench, and into the bullpen, there are some disappointments and question marks, but on the whole it's a solid team. Someone needs to take the fall; a change needs to be made.

McKeon is the person who needs to represent that change. Bill Robinson also needs to follow Jack out the door. Actually, this entire coaching staff was hand picked by and for Jack, so they all need to go.

As an example of what ails the Marlins, take this example from yesterday's game against the Phillies (as retold by Larry Bowa on XM radio this morning): In the second inning, Vicente Padilla is at bat against Dontrelle Willis. With two runners on base and two outs, Dontrelle decides to use a slide step. This is a terrible mental error by Willis - as a slide step, which in addition to reducing the likelihood of a stolen base, reduces the velocity of the pitch. That's exactly what happened with this particular pitch to Padilla, as he launched it for a triple. Two runs scored and the day went downhill from there. Something simple, which should have been addressed by a coach before the game or in the dugout, which jumped up to bite the Marlins on Sunday afternoon.

While this example is small and in the grand scheme of things doesn't matter much, it's representative of the Marlins this year. As much as they've been out-hit, out-efforted, and out-timely hit, the Marlins have been out-coached and out-managed. Watching how other teams adjust their strategies each time through the lineup (both offensively and defensively) makes the Marlins look like they're playing without scouting reports. While this may be due to indifference by the players, in the end the blame rests on the coaches. Either the coaches aren't communicating the scouting reports and strategies effectively, or the coaches aren't making sure that the players execute those directives. Whatever the case, something needs to change - and McKeon, and on down through his hand picked coaching staff, is where that change needs to start.

According to Gammons, the most likely candidates to replace McKeon on the bench are Jim Fregosi and Jim Leyritz. Others have circulated the name of former Marlins' skipper Jim Leyland. While all have their merits (Fregosi - experience, Leyritz - youth, Leyland - track record of a winner), none is the right man for the job. Or at least he's not the right man for the job on his own.

Since Ozzie Guillen left the Fish after the 2003 season, two big things have been missing from the coaching staff: youth (or recent playing experience) and an ability to communicate effectively with players in English and Spanish. Those two traits are closely related. And it's much more than merely being able to speak Spanish. Nearly everyone (other than me) can speak Spanish. What's needed in the club house, in the dugout, and on the field is an ability to talk baseball, to relate to the players, and to get subtle messages across. And even more importantly, those messages have to be communicated in a way that allows them to be received in Jupiter in March, in St. Louis in the dog days of August, and all throughout the year. The Marlins don't have that now (apparently) but they need it.

The Fish need something to change. Hopefully it will happen soon. Extended tryouts for the AA rotation isn't the needed elixir. Something bigger than that is needed.