The Miami Marlins fired Dan Jennings today after about a week of questions about what his current status was with the team. The Fish are moving on with other internal staff members and letting Jennings go after not involving him in the decision-making process during the beginning of this offseason. Miami seems to have grown weary of Jennings, as he clearly lost influence in the front office while he spent time in the dugout as interim manager for the Marlins.
When the interim manager move was first made, I thought it was a cost-saving temporary maneuver for the Fish, who could pay Jennings his salary as a front office executive without strong expectations to have him return to that role. Once the season ended and a proper managerial search could be made, the Marlins could find their best choice among candidates and move Jennings back to his official role as GM behind president of baseball operations Michael Hill. Of course, Jennings did not do well, mostly through no fault of his own. He was 55-69 as Marlins manager, good for a .443 winning percentage which was marginally better than Mike Redmond's 16-22 start that earned him a firing.
Of course, not doing well with a roster that was expected to do well is not acceptable under owner Jeffrey Loria. Jennings's bizarre timetable of events since the end of the season led to his firing today shows yet another example of the impatience of Loria with regards to managers of all types. The Marlins could not have been expected to do well after the early start, the subsequent midseason trades, and the injuries to Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton this year. Stanton played less than half a season this year after suffering a hamate bone fracture that kept him out the rest of the campaign. Fernandez was out for half the year with his Tommy John surgery recovery, then had forearm tightness issues that led him to get an additional DL stint. In total, he made just 11 starts when there was a reasonable chance for him to make 20.
Jennings takes part of the blame for having not only overseen the Marlins' struggles this year, but also playing a critical role in building this roster. After 13 years with the organization, Jennings probably earned some share of the team's myriad successes and failures in front office decision-making. But it is telling that he is not being fired after years of being a trusted executive under Loria's regime, but rather after three quarters of a bad season as manager of the Marlins. It is also telling that while Jennings has been scapegoated like Redmond and others before him as manager, Michael Hill has remained unscathed and will retain his top position in the organization.
Jennings and Hill essentially came up together in the Marlins' organization, and their shared experiences primarily as scouts climbing the Loria front office ladder make them very similar. In fact, they were the organization's second and third in command under Larry Beinfest, and ascended to first and second when he was fired. How is it possible that, in such a short time period, Jennings undid all of that trust that he and Hill have received?
He was manager of the Miami Marlins, that's how.
This firing was not about his service in the front office. Jennings was a trusted advisor to Loria and was on his side in the supposed rift between Beinfest and the owner. He was widely expected to take over the top front office position before the decision was made to promote both Hill and him in step. But unlike the front office personnel, in which Loria has nearly infinite patience, Jennings under the managerial cap earned none of that privilege. As soon as rumors came about that the Marlins were uninterested in bringing Jennings back, his fate was likely sealed.
Don Mattingly, the team's new manager, should pay heed to this concerning trend. Ozzie Guillen was hailed as the right man and was fired a year later. Mike Redmond was given a contract extension for three more years and was fired after 38 more games. Jennings lasted 13 years in the front office and advanced to a top position and was cast away in less than a season after he put on a managerial hat. That cap and uniform for the manager of the Miami Marlins is a dangerous job to take, with owner-related pitfalls left and right. Loria tolerates no dissidence and no failure, even if the odds are against him. He is as unreasonable as owners come. No matter how long Mattingly has signed for or how much success he has had even in Miami, things can go sour in a hurry if you are the captain of this dugout. Be forewarned.