The Miami Marlins recently acquired Fernando Rodney, and while that trade may seem like classic Marlins behavior in the trade market, it sounds as though the deal was hotly debated within the organization. In fact, thanks to the shuffling of the front office in the offseason, it sounds as though owner Jeffrey Loria, the presumed final (and seemingly unilateral) decision-maker on the Marlins has delegated more of the responsibility to a group of trusted advisers, including some new names. Peter Gammons over on his Daily Gammons blog has more.
Loria decided to make Mike Hill the president of baseball operations and build a board of directors. Hill essentially became the baseball CEO, like Billy Beane and Dave Dombrowski, and hired Don Mattingly, who he calls "our CEO of the clubhouse."
Loria, Hill, and Mattingly then put the board structure together, everyone given a voice. While Stan Meek remained scouting director, Mike Berger was named VP and assistant GM. Jeff McAvoy was named VP of player personnel. Loria signed them to long-term deals, then allowed Hill, Berger and McAvoy to hire away two fulcrums from the Pirates organization on long-term contracts; Marc Delpiano, a major force in the Pirates’ system, and Jim Benedict, Pittsburgh’s pitching doctor, were lured away for considerable raises. Scout David Keller was promoted to director of pro scouting.
This is an unprecedented amount of information about how the Marlins function in decision-making. We already know the franchise picked up a great name in their new analytics department in former Baseball Prospectus writer and front office analyst guy in two different organizations Jason Pare. We talked to Pare earlier this year, and it sounds as though he is being well-included into the decision-making process. Now we are hearing that even more voices are being let into the "boardroom" of the Marlins’ executive planning. These names not only include top names like president of baseball operations Michael Hill or team president David Samson, but legitimate baseball names of varying amounts of Marlins-related experience.
This last point is so important. For the longest time, we assumed that there was such a small contingent of decision-makers on this Miami team, and that even with those voices, the voice of Loria rang loudest and most prominently. We are not privy to what goes on in these meetings of the minds of Miami’s new core decision team, but you have to figure that there is a lot more discussion and differing viewpoints than there were in years past. This is especially true with three outside voices being introduced to the organization in Pare, Marc DelPiano, and Jim Benedict, guys who cut their teeth in the business not just in Miami (the case of DelPiano) but in other well-run organizations like Toronto and Pittsburgh.
An article like this could not have been published two or three years ago. Can you imagine something like this quote in 2013?
But when the board of directors hashed out the pros and cons of trading a pitching prospect for Rodney, there were yeahs and nays heard for nearly a week, and the trade was the consensus of opinion laid out to Loria by Hill, Mattingly, Berger, McAvoy, et al.
It seems so odd to hear after years of presumed unilateral choices made by a well-known meddling owner. But if you look carefully, the Marlins have made strides towards the future rather than worrying strictly about the now. The team made a bunch of signings in 2012 and tore the team down within four months of the season. This new brain trust does not seem like it would be so rash in its choices. Loria himself is talking more about the future rather than a playoff run for the present.
"What we have tried to do is have a baseball operation with vision, vision of smart baseball people," Loria says. "I can’t tell you where we’re going to end up, or what the attendance will be for the year. But I want baseball to succeed in Miami, and it’s clear we need a long-term plan."
This was the kind of talk that never came out of Loria or the organization before. During this offseason, there was suddenly more and more talk about Loria keeping his hands away from the organization. There was always a question of trust with Loria. But it feels relatively important that last year, we discussed the differences between the Marlins and smart organizations like the Pirates, Astros, and Cubs and talked about the need for advancing their analytics department and providing a long-term plan with more voices involved in the discussion. One year later, there is news about Miami doing exactly these things.
There is no guarantee this talk will stick. Loria could seize onto any idea about the franchise and mandate a new direction, then he can easily change his mind within months and force the team to go another way. However, the focus on a long-term plan headed by a group of smart folks is better than the alternatives we have seen in the past. The managerial spot held by Don Mattingly seems slightly safer now with the team playing decently and with an established group of decision-makers in place. The organization is broadening its horizons and opening up to non-established Marlins members for the first time ever. It may not mean every decision will be a positive one, but it is a significant positive step for this organization.