July is upon us, which means we’re due for another Miami Marlins makeover.
Didn’t think I’d be typing that again this summer. The team looked pretty good in spring training, with Giancarlo Stanton back healthy and ready to rip, plus solid additions like Dee Gordon, who’s only leading the majors in batting, not to mention the larger promise of Jose Fernandez sailing through his Tommy John rehab and on line for a solid second half of the season.
All the same, the losses started piling up so quickly and so high that manager Mike Redmond got fired, offseason contract extension or not, and before you knew it Stanton being on something like a 60-homer pace was of little consequence. The Marlins, sitting at 31-46, are worse than every team but Philadelphia and Milwaukee and the bottom’s still not in sight.
That’s because Stanton broke his wrist and he’s out for six weeks or so. Who’s going to set that home-run sculpture into a fit of synchronized chaos now? It’s down to just the regular Marlins chaos now, unplanned and unstoppable.
Anyway, the trading deadline is July 31 and Jeffrey Loria doesn’t like paying guys past June if they’re not going to make the playoffs. This would seem the natural time to get together with team president Michael Hill and the general manager to determine which guys will bring the most in trade.
Wait a minute. Dan Jennings isn’t the GM anymore. He’s the Marlins’ manager, and tooling along at 15-24 since replacing Redmond on May 18.
If you’re wondering why players wouldn’t be all that excited about somebody from the front office writing out the lineups and determining how much each guy plays, it’s because of conflicts of interest just like this one.
It’s not a matter of trying to win the division anymore. It’s shuffling through contracts and digging through the minor-league organizational charts of other teams to find somebody that might make you a little better next year, or the year after that.
The manager shouldn’t be buried hip-deep in that process, but Jennings clearly isn’t the final answer there and never was. He’s holding a space until Loria figures out what he wants to do next, and then it’s back to the front office for DJ, a super scout and a super guy but not the superglue you need to hold together a clubhouse that’s been torn up and put back together so many times before.
Even the Phillies understand this side of the equation. Ryne Sandberg resigned as their manager last week, muttering something profound about “Wins and losses was a big thing that took a toll on me,” and the team replaced him Monday with the interim solution of third-base coach Pete Mackanin.
Mackanin is 63. He’s been wearing a baseball uniform his entire life. Probably doesn’t know how to tie a necktie. He’ll take the toll now, as well as anyone could, knowing it’s the role he was born for and the only one he’s suited to play.
Jennings, on the other hand, is miscast. It’s not his fault, but it is his curse. The manager is supposed to have his players’ backs in feuds with umpires and reporters and team presidents and even owners, or at least that’s how they see it.
Instead, as another potential Marlins makeover looms, Miami’s manager is a visitor from the front office, beholden to Loria for the job that matters most, the one he wants to return to, which is managing the roster instead of the team.