Did it surprise anyone that Mike Redmond received a contract extension late last September in large part because the Miami Marlins had overachieved in an expected down year? Redmond was somehow credited for a superstar, MVP-caliber healthy season from Giancarlo Stanton and the best young outfield trio in baseball coming together nicely. While Redmond likely had something to do with the team's success, the casual reader probably figured owner Jeffrey Loria saw the 78-win season and thought back to his expectations before the year and made an emotional decision to commit to Redmond.
So it almost certainly did not surprise anyone that, after the Marlins entered 2015 as dark-horse Wild Card contenders and struggled to a 3-10 record out of the gate, the rumors quickly began flying about Redmond's job status. Never mind the recent extension and the implied strong vote of confidence. If you begin the season poorly and you were expected to do well, Loria has little patience for your efforts.
Jeffrey Loria's history with managers is one teeming with instability in large part due to emotional decisions. Sometimes those decisions are strictly due to conflict; Joe Girardi helped the Marlins wildly exceed expectations en route to a 78-win season in 2006, but one very public argument with Loria led to his firing despite a Manager of the Year award. Girardi has since moved on to be a decently successful manager with the New York Yankees.
Other times, Loria makes these decisions largely because of expectations. When he sets his sights on winning, the manager is the first person to blame if that winning that does not occur. One only need ask current Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez about that. The Marlins got off to a great start in 2009, beginning the year 11-1, and that raised expectations for Loria. The team fell about four games shy of the playoffs but finished with 87 wins, the third-best record in team history. However, after the season, rumors surfaced that Loria was ready to fire Gonzalez for missing the playoffs. Failing to meet Loria's lofty demands eventually led to Gonzalez's dismissal 70 games into the following season.
Loria and the Marlins still expected contention in 2011 under Edwin Rodriguez, who was only afforded a one-year extension to work with the team after a .500 season as interim manager. Within 30 games, the rumors already began, and Rodriguez resigned at 71 games into the year rather than face further distracting speculation.
Ozzie Guilen faced the same problem in 2012. Redmond now faced the same issue three years later. The lone connection? Loria and the front office remain mostly static in this process, and it is clear they do not see continuity as a necessity for the players. These emotional decisions repeating themselves over and over again are rarely seen in other, more successful organizations.
Since 2010, the Marlins have won 376 games, the fourth-worst record in the majors. The three teams behind the Fish are the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, and the Chicago Cubs. The Marlins have run through four permanent managers in that time frame, five if you include Jack McKeon's stay in 2011. The Rockies have only gone through two managers in that five-year frame (Jim Tracy and Walt Weiss). The Astros, who underwent a front office change, had only three permanent managers in that time frame. Only the Cubs, who underwent a similarly large front office overhaul, saw five permanent managers hired.
For a team with as much stability in the front office and ownership, the Marlins have seen huge turnover in the managerial departments. Despite a comparable amount of losing, only the Cubs could match the Marlins in terms of manager changes among the ten worst teams in baseball since 2010. The average club in this bracket of losing has had between two and three managers during this time, with only one in-season switch for most clubs. This will mark the third in-season switch the Marlins have made since Giancarlo Stanton became a fixture in this lineup.
Take a look at the teams closer to .500. The Royals have had two managers in that time frame. The Blue Jays have had three. The Orioles have had two. The Brewers just hired their third manager since 2010. Teams on the border of success still search for the right combination, but they do not do it nearly as often as Miami does. Combine that with the knowledge that teams in the same situation as the Marlins rarely switch this often and you begin to wonder whether the problem is not in the managers, but in the front office and ownership.
The manager can only do so much, but he is the easiest scapegoat on the team. The first time a manager gets fired by a stable front office and ownership, maybe you can consider it a move to "shake things up." But the fourth time in five seasons and change? It becomes a systemic sign of a overseeing group that does not value stability and makes on-the-fly decisions. The fact that they keep making the same types of decisions also points to those moves not necessarily working out for the better.
Stability is not a sign of success, but it seems undeniable that a lack of stability can cause harm to the players. If Dan Jennings does not stick around, there is a very good chance the Marlins will replace the entire coaching staff at the end of the season. That means a new pitching coach just two years after Chuck Hernandez was hired. It means a new hitting coach two years after Frank Menechino and one season after Lenny Harris were brought in. It means emphasis on different styles and different approaches to molding the players. It also means a new voice and new leadership style at the top once again.
How do you think Giancarlo Stanton feels about all of this turnover, especially since none of it thus far has led to any improvements? How about Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, or any of the other young players who are still developing? Their development has to be affected by the constant coaching turnover. The Marlins are once again risking detriment to the team for a "new voice," but so far none of the new voices they have acquired before seem right.
Rather than being patient, Loria and company value immediate results, but this unstable style of hiring and firing has not helped before and it does not seem likely to help going forward. Loria promised that the era of fire sales is over in Miami, but with the way he handles his managers, it seems awfully like business as usual in south Florida.