|Redmond shows off his 2003 World Series championship ring at Friday's press conference. (Getty Images)|
MIAMI -- The Marlins made some monster moves and some even more monstrous statements last winter, and ultimately they fielded a team that can only be seen now as a monstrosity. They tried to transform on the fly from small-budget to high-profile.
They hardly seemed like themselves.
And now, after an expensive, surprising last-place finish, it's no shock they are back to their old ways. Judging by their toned-down new manager and even more toned-down rhetoric, they are trying to go back to being the old Marlins again.
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They went from perennial overachievers to abject underachiever in short order. Now they are endeavoring to get back to what they did best.
"We lost our way," Marlins president Larry Beinfest said at the press conference to introduce new non-famous manager Mike Redmond, who replaces the fired Ozzie Guillen, a high-priced, one-year disaster.
Redmond is a longtime backup catcher with a profile to match. He is the classic overachiever.
He is also the opposite of Ozzie.
Redmond is the first major move intended to bring them back to where they were. Redmond was introduced at a news conference here, and the way Beinfest waxed poetic about the man who was the Marlins' backup catcher for seven years, it almost seemed like the overachiever is seen as the new savior.
Last winter the Marlins imported Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, and they hired Guillen, and then they talked a big game about what they expected. Redmond may be beloved around the Marlins organization as a likable, energetic team-first fellow but most importantly he represents a return to what they were. And what they hope to become again.
"Things are going to get better," Redmond said. "I will give every ounce of effort."
Perfect. Said like a true overachiever.
Beinfest wouldn't say whether it's possible Redmond will be the big acquisition of the winter. But it's easy to understand they won't be repeating their whirlwind winter meetings, when they expanded their payroll and publicity by tons, and even tried hard to land the all-time great Albert Pujols and all-time overrated C.J. Wilson, who both went to the Los Angeles Angels, who were themselves disappointing (even though they were 20 games better than the Marlins).
Redmond's first advantage is that, as a neophyte who has yet to manage above Class-A, he fits into a managerial budget that already has $2.5 million a year going to Guillen for the next three years. Redmond, however, a longtime CAA client, did manage to coax a three-year deal from Miami. Good for him.
No matter, it's a long way from Dunedin, Toronto's high A-ball club. No matter, Redmond didn't hesitate to answer the question of Beinfest and GM Michael Hill about whether he was ready. Redmond said, "I was ready last year."
Beinfest praised the other interviewees -- Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, former Phillies and Padres manager Larry Bowa and Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon. But it was all over after Redmond's interview. And maybe even before it.
"There was only one man for the job," Beinfest said.
"He's genuine," Beinfest also said. "There's nothing fake about Mike Redmond."
Redmond won't draw attention to himself for things he says, a plus. He won't comment about Fidel Castro, either.
Redmond, a Marlin from 1998-2004, seemed both gung ho and intelligent in the press conference, which is a rare combination. Even without any real comparable experience to speak of, he was the favorite from the start.
They recall him as a man always seen as a backup player and future manager, a young man who always talked strategy on the bench, and who frequently pumped up the more talented Marlins player.
He is absolutely admired by everyone throughout the organization, as Beinfest said. In that way the hire is very reminiscent of the Cardinals' gamble on Mike Matheny, which paid off in another NLCS appearance for them.
Except Matheny was a better player (a four-time Gold Glove winner), and much better known.
Redmond hit an impressive .287 for his career and is best remembered for never complaining about playing in 100-degree heat and against the toughest pitchers (he wore out Tom Glavine and even Buehrle, going 21 for 48 and 16 for 37 against the two tough lefties). And also a naked batting practice incident that's well-known in these parts and, as legend has it, helped get the Marlins out of a slump.
But he is really recalled as the embodiment of what the Marlins are hoping to become again – overachievers.
The highest-priced remnants of last year's superstar golden hunt -- Reyes and Buehrle -- return. But beyond that, they will depend on youthful imports like pitcher Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly, injury returnees like Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio and surprise up-and-comers like Donovan Solano and Justin Ruggiano.
Plus, they will try to add a few key pieces. Beinfest mentioned most prominently a third baseman and a left fielder (they are hoping to move Morrison from left field to first), but he also knows a reliever or two are needed. He didn't say whether they will try to land big- or even medium-money acquisition ("premature to say," he said), but in perhaps a hint he fondly recalled the days when the Marlins would find the golden nugget for a dime or two, and sometimes not much more than that.
Beinfest recalled when they acquired Dan Uggla for 50 grand. And when they got Cody Ross for a dollar. That's not a joke, $1 was the cash consideration for Ross, though Beinfest couldn't recall whether they wrote a check, handed over eight bits or bought lunch.
There may not be any big imports this winter.
There definitely won't be any more big talk. No more talk of October and all that.
"We have to be realistic," Beinfest said. "We need to get better. We are coming off two very disappointing years; 2012 was the most disappointing year in this ownership's tenure."
The disappointment is from top to bottom, though only Ozzie has paid so far.
The Marlins have "blatant holes we created ourselves," Beinfest said, honestly.
The numbers, Beinfest said, are not pretty.
"The offense has to improve," he said. "The pitching has to improve. RISP has to improve. The defense has to improve."
They figure they've improved in the manager's office by getting back to their roots. And that's a start, anyway.