Marlins’ third baseman and utility-man Martin Prado has taken his versatility to a new level, serving as the Marlins’ player-coach in their final game of the season. Following a week of tragedy and grieving, full-time manager Don Mattingly is looking for his team to enjoy themselves. "It’s nothing that you're going to do to disrespect the game or anything else. It’s just a matter of letting these guys have some fun," Mattingly told the media prior to Sunday's contest.
Martin Prado is a leader on and off the field and it has become more evident than ever in the wake of the Jose Fernandez tragedy. Prado has been rewarded for his excellent performance on the field and value he brings to the locker room as he recently inked a three-year, $50 million dollar extension with the Fish, though the team has not yet announced the signing. The Marlins selection of Martin Prado as the honorary player-manager speaks volumes to how much he means to the organization. Aside from the intangibles, Prado has also seen himself have arguably a career-best season. Prado finished the year with a .304 batting average and 75 runs batted in, while playing superb defense at third base. While Prado is the Marlins’ first player manager, the MLB has a rich history of players who have also taken the head coaching reins.
It has been a long time since the MLB has seen a full-time player-manager; in fact, the MLB’s most recent full-time player manager was Pete Rose in 1986. The infamous controversy surrounding Pete Rose during his managing tenure may have a lot to do with why we do not see any player-managers anymore, but in the early and mid 1900s it was very common to see elite players also manage teams. Hall of Famer Tris Speaker won the 1920 World Series as a player-manager for the Cleveland Indians in a season where he hit .388 with 107 RBI. Surprisingly, that was not even the most impressive season for a player-manager. The great Rogers Hornsby won a triple crown in 1925 while managing the Cardinals; one of the many impressive accomplishments of Hornsby’s hall-of-fame career that saw him win two MVP awards and hit a career .356 at the dish.
While Martin Prado’s career 0-1 record as a player-manager may not be as impressive as the managing careers of Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, and others, the Marlins naming Prado honorary manager is a testament to his value to the organization and his leadership ability. Even though Don Mattingly will be the manager moving forward, the Marlins extension of Martin Prado was essential to their long term success. With Prado, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton locked up for the foreseeable future, it is clear that the Marlins are making an effort to keep their core together. The Martin Prado extension will be the first of several more that may come this offseason.