Sanity held hostage by the Florida Marlins, Day 7. ...
The Marlins aren't talking, and early this week, they're not even playing in the continental 48. They're tangling with the Mets in Puerto Rico, as good a place as any for a baseball club on the lam to hole up.
|Jeffrey Loria, who has no problem looking past Fredi Gonzalez, has no long-term plan to replace the ex-skipper. (AP)|
Occasionally, they pull a rabbit from the hat (the hare-raising 2003 World Series title over the Yankees).
Mostly, though, they traffic in fun-house mirrors and credibility lost.
Valentine's Day has not come to Florida in June, and it's looking like it won't be coming anytime soon, either. Loria informed the Marlins before Tuesday's game that interim skipper Edwin Rodriguez will finish the season.
This whole Bobby V embroglio has been botched in every way imaginable, starting with the point that you don't fire a manager as respected as Fredi Gonzalez unless you've got a deal in place with someone else better.
Not only do the Marlins currently appear to be lacking in an upgrade, but when they fired Gonzalez in Baltimore last week, they explicitly said they would hire a replacement pronto, because they still think they can win this season and it was time to get cracking.
A week later, Bobby V was in, then he was out, then maybe he was back in ... and no Marlin, including Loria, appears to have any clue as to which way is up.
Essentially, what you've got is this:
The Marlins currently have plans for a fish-filled aquarium behind home plate when their new ballpark opens in 2012, but they've got zip right now in terms of plans for a permanent manager for a team the Marlins' delusional brass thinks can win this year as is.
If Loria was a film director, he would have made Waterworld.
In each of the three seasons under Gonzalez, the Marlins' record improved: From 71-91 in 2007 to 84-77 in '08 to 87-75 in '09. This while the Marlins' payroll ranked last in the majors in two of those three summers -- and 29th in the other.
That Gonzalez is regarded highly enough that he will replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta following this season is one of the game's most poorly kept secrets. Done deal, according to sources with knowledge of Braves GM Frank Wren's plans. So shed no tears for Fredi, he's going to come out of this better than he was before, which proves that sometimes good things really do happen to good people.
The Marlins only increased their payroll to $57 million this season -- fifth-lowest in the game -- after the players' union put the screws to them last winter for violating baseball's revenue-sharing provisions by pocketing that money instead of sinking it back into player payroll.
But even by the Marlins' low standards, their current condition is Romper Room.
Remember when shortstop Hanley Ramirez ripped Gonzalez for his lack of big-league experience last month (following what was Gonzalez's most pitch-perfect moment as Florida manager -- when he benched Hanley for dogging it)?
Currently, pitching coach Randy St. Claire is the only Marlins' field staff member with any time at all in the bigs.
The current bench coach started the season as the roving minor-league infield instructor.
The current hitting coach started the season as the roving minor-league hitting instructor.
The current third-base coach was their roving minor-league infield instructor last year.
Not one single member of the current staff was in the majors with the Marlins last summer.
In Loria's funhouse-mirror world, all signs last week pointed to the imminent hiring of Valentine, a chum of Loria's for the past quarter-century.
Was it a coincidence that Loria gassed Gonzalez within days of Valentine's interviewing for the Orioles' job?
Was it coincidence that Bobby V publicly pulled out of the running for the O's job on the same day Gonzalez was fired?
No, where there's a grotesquely fat man at the circus, there's always a contest to guess his weight. There were strong rumors last November that Gonzalez would be fired and replaced with Valentine, and Loria did nothing to discourage them for the longest time. Bobby V's shadow had been over Gonzalez's manager's office for months.
Question is, and this is where things get murky, why in the world would Valentine want to manage the Marlins, other than that Loria's a friend?
Among other things, he would have to obtain a blood oath that Loria would spend money to get players (and there are people who believe this is where talks broke down).
He will demand a premier contract for himself (and there are people who believe money trumps friendship, and this is where the talks broke down).
His outsized personality demands room to work and total control. The last thing any Marlins manager has under Loria and club president David Samson, a phony little man whom many former Marlin players and staff believe to be as wicked as they come, is the freedom to operate without interference.
Valentine just turned 60, and most likely, his next managerial gig will be his last. He wants to win, he does not have time to wait and he does things his way.
Currently, the Marlins' bullpen is in shambles. Their bench is a joke. Their owner is wildly unpredictable and inherently meddlesome. Samson -- the man who said last week the Marlins want a new manager in place by the All-Star break -- is as Machiavellian as anyone in the game.
So here they are, nearly a week later.
After all of that, Rodriguez, clearly a downgrade from Gonzalez, will remain in place for the summer.
And Bobby V, with his whip-smart baseball acumen and Hollywood smile, remains the elusive heartthrob who appears destined to leave scars on both the Marlins and middle-aged female fans throughout their aquarium.
A permanent manager to be named sometime this winter (presumably before, say, Valentine's Day)?
Who would be crazy enough to go near this job?
Bottom line is, what Loria wants is what the Marlins will get.
And sanity will continue to be held hostage in South Florida, with no clean ending in sight.