A lot of talk this week has surrounded the possibility that Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond might somehow lose his job despite having been deemed a long-term option just a few months ago. This talk probably will not die down while the Marlins continue to play poorly given the expectations owner Jeffrey Loria carried into the year. In this discussion, a lot has been made about Redmond's "lack of fire" and how that might be affecting this year's club.
Coincidentally, Michael Baumann of Grantland recently released an unrelated manager-related article on what a manager's job is in baseball. He was inspired by this Bryan Price rant to the media before a Cincinnati Reds game, but the article's details about the relative importance of the various roles of an MLB manager are relevant when evaluating Redmond's work thus far.
Here are the characteristics Baumann mentions as important, with rankings relative to importance.
Man Management (1a)
This is probably the most important part of a manager’s job, because a manager is, first and foremost, a low-level administrator. He has to motivate whichever 25 players are on the roster at any given moment, which is tough, because the same tactic doesn’t necessarily work for every player.
This is where the initial concern over Redmond came from. The comments from Giancarlo Stanton about the team lacking "fire" became interpreted as unintended shots at Redmond's supposedly more laid-back personality. It is certainly possible that that personality does not fit this clubhouse, which does include a fair amount of turnover and new players.
However, the Marlins did extend Redmond at the end of last season, and at least from their words, it sounds like they thought his leadership in the clubhouse was critical to the team's success.
"[Owner] Jeffrey [Loria] sat down with Mike and expressed to him that his leadership has really helped get this team in the right direction," President David Samson said. "It was really a unanimous feeling among the entire front office that Mike Redmond is the perfect leader for this team.
Of course, that could have all been a result of the Marlins exceeding expectations with 77 wins last season. Never underestimate any front office's ability to conflate wins with managerial success, especially the Marlins' crew. However, they have more access to how Redmond acts in the clubhouse than anyone else, and they had two years to see how Redmond's style fit in with a new, young team in the 2013-2014 Marlins. Clearly, some sort of fit was present then. It is unlikely much changed by now.
In addition, Redmond had all the tools to fit into a clubhouse as a manager. After all, he was a backup catcher, respected clubhouse leader back in his day, and former World Series winner for this team no less. The description of his clubhouse presence as a player sounds fitting.
Redmond was popular with teammates because of his droll wit, and they still fondly recall him taking batting practice naked in an indoor cage several days in a row to help the 2003 team snap a slump.
It is hard to say if "fire" is the missing element in this picture, but it is harder yet to say if "fire" is even necessary from a manager for this squad in particular.
Lineup Construction (6)
Whether it’s batting a high-OBP guy at the top of the lineup or hitting the pitcher ninth, the impact of lineup construction is largely overrated.
The early returns for Redmond's lineup-writing are not great. After a short stint with the initial Opening Day lineup this season, Redmond turned to Martin Prado, he of the career .428 slugging percentage and .137 ISO and batted him fourth. It reeked of the days when a manager hit Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs cleanup for this team. Wait a second...
Redmond is not very good at this. If there is one thing you would expect a manager to understand, it is the idea of power in the cleanup spot. Back in 2013, this may have been marginally understandable given the team's poor talent, but in 2015? No, not acceptable.
Pitcher Usage (4)
There are two aspects of this part of the game. On one hand, is Redmond responsible with his young starters and not interested in wearing them out Dusty Baker-style? In 2013, the Fish adhered appropriately to the Jose Fernandez shutdown plan late in the year despite him being in two awards races (he still won Rookie of the Year convincingly anyway). Miami never rushed back Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez after shoulder injuries that year either. In 2014, when the team was in playoff contention, the club rightfully shut down Fernandez the second things became truly evident. They similarly did not push their young guys again, as no one reached 200 innings, but two starters at least came close.
The second aspect of this involves managing the bullpen. Redmond worked the Marlins' pen to the sixth-highest innings count in baseball last year at 510 2/3 innings, but that may have been appropriate given the Marlins' strength at the position. He positioned the right guys in the right leverage roles as well, as Redmond determined the three best guys in the pen and put them around the eighth and ninth innings. As far as positioning his players in the most critical situations, Redmond was surprisingly effective. Steve Cishek had an average Leverage Index (LI) of 2.01 when he entered a game, meaning the starting situation on his entrances was, on average, twice as impactful as an average plate appearance. It was the second-highest starting LI of any reliever last year, which means that Redmond wasted Cishek's talent significantly less than other managers. The same goes for Mike Dunn, who was on average the third-best reliever on the team and faced the second-highest LI on the club and the highest of any non-closer last year.
In-Game Tactics (7)
This is partially about recognizing the few scenarios in which a matchup makes a difference, like Ned Yost telling the Royals to run all over Jon Lester and Derek Norris in last year’s wild-card game. But mostly, it’s about having the confidence not to manage.
Managers can definitely mess up games with over-managing, but Redmond tinkered a lot less than the average manager. For example, the Marlins had one of the lowest sacrifice bunt totals for non-pitchers in all of baseball (20th in baseball). It was difficult to find the number of attempts from non-pitchers, but if the Fish were reasonably successful, we would know that Redmond at least bunts less than the average manager.
On the downside, Redmond's lack of shift usage was notable last season as the trend towards the shift increased. Miami as an organization has been slow to move to this impact defensive maneuver; by early September 2014, the Fish had run the sixth-fewest shifts in the game and benefited the least from the move.
The shift does not always lead to success, of course, but on average it appears to be a beneficial move against the right opponent, yet the Marlins are, as usual, a step behind the rest of baseball in this advancement.
Playing Well with the Front Office (3)
A manager who doesn’t deploy a team the way it was built to be used is like a waiter who takes his corkscrew and uses it to smash a wine bottle open at the neck — he’ll get to the wine eventually, but it’ll be messy, and everyone will think he’s stupid.
No conflict here. Redmond, a former Marlin and a former 2003 World Series team member, has been a loyal solider to the Fish's cause. The front office lead by Michael Hill has been in full agreement with Redmond to this point and vice versa. Both sides are old-school and traditional as they come, meaning there is little conflict in how the team is expected to be run.
Playing Well with the Media (5)
I don't see any issues with this, given that Redmond is pretty chill and has not had a blow-up with the media...yet!
I don't know, you tell me.
I don't know about you, but I think Redmond owes a few dollars into the Swear Jar after that May 2014 tirade. He certainly wasn't disguising his disgust at the onset of the call. The video clearly catches the audio of Redmond cursing out the ump, and it was fun to see him kicking up dirt and throwing a funny managerial fit.
Do the Marlins need more of that? I don't know, but I think the presence of that video shows he has the "fire" to get mad at least. Redmond came out after the Giancarlo Stanton beanball incident and fiercely defender his team's situation as well. I don't know that he is lacking in this category.
How does Redmond rate in the end? I think he does decently in the managerial / leadership aspects of managing, including throwing hissy-fits for the club. His strategic game is less than ideal, but many managers show similar problems, and those aspects are less important than the people skills part of the job. What do you Fish Stripers think? Let us know in the comments.