Time Likely Running Out For Marlins’ Ex-Backstop, Current Skipper
By Sean Millerick
Clearly, things have not played out according to the script so far this season for the Miami Marlins. Following up a 2014 campaign that saw a fifteen game improvement from the year before with a frenetic offseason bookended by a pair of longterm extensions for superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton and Gold Glover Christian Yelich, expectations abounded for the club to make a huge leap forward. But rather than looking the part of a club that could play deep into October, they instead look like a bunch just grateful for the existence of the Milwaukee Brewers- the only team standing between them and the MLB cellar. Having just been swept out of New York by the rival Mets, Miami stands at 3-10, with nothing but questions to show for their efforts so far. And given the past history of this organization, one as to wonder what this means for the future of Marlins manger Mike Redmond.
I had really wanted to be the first to throw this out there, but I must acknowledge that the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer actually beat me to this with his fine assessment of the situation in Fish Bytes. Curse those paid professionals; as an unsalaried amateur, I must allow my wife and House of Cards to take precedence. But the facts on this one are beyond dispute, as this season quickly spirals out of control.
While Jeffrey Loria has undergone a great deal of image restoration this offseason, giving fans 325 million reasons to take him more seriously, patience has never been a strong suit for Miami’s owner. At seven games below .500, Redmond is currently one game worse than the six games under that got his former skipper Jeff Torborg fired during the magical 2003 season. That Marlins team was 16-22 when Torborg was traded out for Trader Jack, and after a couple weeks of adjustment would put up the best record in baseball the rest of the way. It’s worth remembering that Torborg had earned the right to start the year as skipper after piloting a promising team to a 79-83 record the year before, a performance that bears a lot of resemblance to Redmond’s 2014 tally of 77-85. It’s also worth noting that during that adjustment period, the Marlins did bottom out at 19-29 before righting the ship; for all the ballyhooed anything-can-happen aura around that club, they were never worse than ten games out.
As such, 2003 provides a pretty fair litmus test for Redmond’s job security. Not only is this a team with a history of owner mandated coaching changes, but it is also a team with a very real sense of its history, one that puts a lot of stock in past methods. The “2003 test” presents two hurdles to Mike Redmond. First, avoid getting swept by the preseason pick for cellar dwelling Philadelphia Phillies this week. Should Miami drop to ten games under this week, expect Redmond to fired. The franchise has never recovered from a deficit of greater than ten games, and will likely still be desperate to spark a turn around. If the team can go 2-4 or better, the next hurdle is the quarter pole: forty games in the books. And Torborg didn’t even quite get that, managing only 38 games. But in 2003, it was apparently decided that 25% of the season was enough of a measuring stick for a manager. My money is on Redmond having that long to restore his image. That gives him the next twenty-seven games to work with, a stretch during which he probably can’t afford to do much worse than 14-13.
Now on one hand, April is ridiculously early to be entertaining a coaching change. But on the other, this is a club that invested heavily in improvement; if not quite playoffs or bust, than certainly a winning record and another healthy step forward. Let’s take a look at the six winning seasons in franchise history, and see how far below .500 they fell before finishing in the black at year’s end:
- 1997- 0 games won World Series
- 2003- 10 games won World Series
- 2004- 2 games 48-50
- 2005- 1 game 45- 46
- 2008- 1 game three games into season
- 2009- 6 games 19-25
Now let’s take a look at the past in season managerial moves by current ownership
- 2003- 16-22 McKeon in for Torborg
- 2010- 35-37 Edwin Rodriguez in for Fredi Gonzalez
- 2011- 32-39* McKeon in for Rodriguez (Rodriguez resigned, not fired)
So at the end of the day, Loria has fired managers for doing much better in terms of winning percentage than what Redmond is providing currently for a team that is dangerously approaching territory where it will have to make franchise history to even have a winning season, let alone make the playoffs. A tall order, especially since 2003 was not only an outlier in team history, but the history of the entire league. One factor that could save Redmond is the club’s perceived track record of managerial instability since McKeon’s first departure following the 2005 season. Joe Girardi won Manager of the Year, only to be fired. Fredi Gonzalez came close to grabbing that award himself and was very highly regarded in baseball circles. His firing was also criticized heavily. Replacement Edwin Rodriguez quit mid 2011, but called out the front office as impossible to work with. Ozzi Guillen bombed spectacularly. Moving Redmond could be viewed by some as more of the same. But moving Redmond might also be the most logical of all the moves detailed above. The Marlins have had a top ten defense during this stretch. And while their team ERA does come in at 29th in the league, this is a number still hugely inflated by a handful of catastrophic outings; some very good work has been done. Hitting has been the major issue- minus Dee Gordon- for a team with a lot of offensive talent; certainly better than the anemic .234 average they’ve shown so far. The club has consistently failed to “click”, and when it comes to those intangible reasons for failure, mixing up managers isn’t just a tempting solution, but a reasonable one.