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Do the Miami Marlins Have a Front Office Rift?

How many of these men will be involved in the player personnel decision-making process next season? And who is siding with whom?  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
How many of these men will be involved in the player personnel decision-making process next season? And who is siding with whom? (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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With the disappointing Miami Marlins season coming to a close, there is a lot of discussion about the potential offseason turmoil within the organization. Much of the discussion right now seems to be about manager Ozzie Guillen, whose job is seemingly threatened (but should not be), but it seems as though the Marlins are more likely to make moves with the front office rather than with their manager.

CBS Sports's Jon Heyman reported as much in his latest piece, though he mentions also that, because the Marlins may not have as much money to work with as before, they may choose only to shake up the managerial front. But what was more interesting in Heyman's piece is not the speculation about a Guillen firing, but rather the speculation regarding the front office and a potential rift between two different sides.

Rival teams have noted a bit of a split in Miami with [assistant general manager Dan Jennings] lining up with [owner Jeffrey Loria], and [president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest] and GM Michael Hill appearing to be more aligned with club president David Samson. At times to outsiders, it's looked like they've suffered from the "too many cooks'' syndrome (for instance, Loria and Jennings wanted to go for Prince Fielder after Albert Pujols turned them down, but Samson rejected that idea) .

As the Miami Marlins' front office dealings are often shrouded in media silence, we do not often get a view of just what goes on behind closed doors. This is partly why this particular rumor seems so fascinating. For years, Marlins fans have accepted that the organization is not a forward-thinking one and seems to stay rooted in its old-school analysis ways. The more you look at their moves, the more your realize that this franchise's brass at the top may fall behind in the ways that other teams are embracing. And recently, it has surfaced that Jennings, a man with a fellow scouting background akin to Beinfest's, is potentially more open to more advanced statistical analysis penetrating the Marlins.

At the same time, Marlins fans know that Jeffrey Loria, a man who does not have neither the scouting background of a Beinfest or Jennings nor the analytic background of anything other than the value of art pieces, tends to be more involved in the front office process than necessary. So to hear that a rift between Loria and the established front office is not surprising. To hear that Dan Jennings sides with Loria perhaps is.

"Loria" Moves

We cannot be certain just what moves were designed with Loria in mind and what moves were more independently produced by the current front office regime. One prime example of what is generally considered a "Loria" move is the signing of Heath Bell, a player most fans believe Loria coveted for some time before getting his chance in 2012. Even before Bell's disastrous season, it was clear signing the 34 year-old closer to a three-year contract was a mistake, and most fans likely credit Loria with that error.

What throws the monkey wrench into the plans of 2013 and beyond is that the Marlins' potential future successor to baseball operations, Jennings, is apparently siding with Loria in terms of moves. Of course, we do not know to what extent Jennings is on Loria's side, but given what we know about Loria's baseball decision-making based on moves such as the Bell signing, it cannot be the "right" side on which to reside.

The Prince Fielder Example

Fielder is another seemingly obvious example of a Loria move. As per Heyman's article, the Marlins were torn on pursuing Prince Fielder following Albert Pujols's rejection. When you hear a big name like Fielder attached to the Marlins, you have a gut feeling Loria pushed for it, as he was likely still looking to "make a splash" in the free agent market. What is disturbing is that Jennings seemingly supported the move. One look at Fielder's current batting line of .305/.404/.518 (.390 wOBA) makes you think it would have been a good move, but when you glance at the price tag (nine years and $214 million) makes you think otherwise.

But on the opposite side appears to be David Samson and the heads of the current front office, erring in the correct side in rejecting pursuing Fielder. Samson was noted for saying multiple times during the offseason that Fielder was not on the team's radar, so you know he was likely against the move. The fact that the Marlins were never seen as competitors for Fielder also makes it seem like Beinfest and company were not interested. The now much-maligned front office had made the right decision to pass on Fielder.

Whose Side Are You On?

Presuming this is true (and of course, this is all hearsay reported by one writer), it leaves Marlins fans with a conundrum to consider. Yes, the front office is slow to move to better analytic tools, and in that respect it is a dinosaur that is heading towards extinction in the industry. Why should the Marlins be stuck with a dying breed of front office thinkers when it could move towards the future by supposedly promoting one of their own? Following a tough season for which Beinfest, Hill, and the rest of their "camp" is not entirely to blame, what better time than now to move forward?

At the same time, perhaps David Samson served as a bridge in the organization between the tempestuous owner and the more reasonable front office. Perhaps a move to Jennings, who is seemingly on the side of said tempestuous owner, would remove Samson as a bridge and a filter and leave Loria too close to the top of the decision-making structure. Would you want Loria, an owner who is already considered to be too "hands-on," that capable of affecting team personnel moves by having his "side" on top of the structure? Would you want Loria essentially fully running this team without an outside voice filter?

Of course, both of these scenarios presume the worst of the potential truth that Heyman reports. We could be speculating about things that are not even close to reality. But neither decision, at its extremes, seems all that appealing to me.