Edwin Rodriguez's resignation as the manager of the Florida Marlins came as quite the surprise, particularly to those of you who could remember that Edwin Rodriguez was the manager of the Florida Marlins.
It's not his fault, really. The Marlins have a deep and abiding respect in the manager's position, so much so that when Jack McKeon enters his octogenary years in uniform, as expected this week, he will be only the franchise's 10th manager in 14 years.
|One-day skipper Brandon Hyde adds his name to the illustrious list of Marlins managers since 1997. (Getty Images)|
They have gone from Jim Leyland to John Boles to Tony Perez to Jeff Torborg to McKeon to Joe Girardi to Fredi Gonzalez to Edwin Rodriguez to Brandon Hyde and now back to McKeon -- all because they believe that good scouting and a low payroll are more than enough to trump clubhouse leadership and managerial stability.
And they have those two championships.
They also have the reputation of being the Wackiest Ship in the Army from the top down, so maybe that's it too. But let's focus on what we know.
This is an operation that clearly regards the manager as an adjunct to the real brainwork, an idea whose time came and went before it truly took hold. Managers have always been valuable, and always will be, for no better reason than the fact that the players believe they should be, and essentially stop playing for anyone who doesn't command their respect.
And when players are given a reason (well, an alibi) not to excel, they will take it. The days of "We'll win it despite you" no longer exist, because that takes hating the manager, and players don't expend that much effort. They know they can outlast most managers simply by virtue of contract size.
But a manager must be perceived as strong enough to be the last word on lineups and rotations and bullpen use -- even following the signs.
Whether the Marlins tuned out Edwin Rodriguez is anyone's guess. There hasn't been the telltale bitching and complaining from the Marlins players, and by any explanation the marlins problems are really about the injury to Josh Johnson and the obliteration of Hanley Ramirez.
But the choice of McKeon suggests -- screams, in fact -- that the Marlins' continuity issues are a problem. McKeon is who you go to when you don't have a better idea, or when you think you're going to hire a big-name manager the first chance you get. And the Marlins haven't paid big money to a manager since Leyland resigned, so it seems reasonable to assume that they actually don't have that better idea.
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There has been a burst of firings/changes this month, seven in the past 12 days. Rodriguez, Bob Geren in Oakland, plus hitting coaches Jon Nunnally (Cleveland), Thad Bosley (Texas) and John Mallee (Florida, hmmmm) and pitching coaches Mark Connor (Baltimore) and Brad Arnsberg (Houston). So maybe it's just the season turning.
Or the pre-trading-deadline panic. There's always that.
But Florida is, and has been, the place where this goes on more than anywhere -- they are, in that way, the Oakland Raiders of Major League Baseball. They clearly have bought into the notion that the manager is not central to the plan, and that even McKeon's mega-advanced age (he is the second-oldest manager ever, behind only Connie Mack) is a deterrent to the notion that, well, someone has to do it, and Jack's around all the time anyway.
Makes you wonder what would have happened if Rodriguez had resigned at night and the only guy around was the janitor.
In any event, Florida is a place that needs stability up top and down the line. General manager Larry Beinfest knows that, but is swimming against a historical tide that long predates him. These guys roll managers, period.
And they still have those two championships. Go figure that out over about 16 tall-boys.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.