Editor’s Note: Again fellow Maniacs, I apologize for the extended hiatus from the site. I promise that I will work hard this month to rebuild the brand that is Marlin Maniac once more! -MJ
I perked up when the news of Fredi Gonzalez’ firing came out. It was interesting timing, as the Marlins had won the previous evening. However, the move was quite unsurprising, as owner Jeffrey Loria had been wanting to fire Gonzalez since the end of last season.
Now, the news has come out that former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine is scheduled to be hired within the next week. He should be taking over the team after the series in Puerto Rico, allowing native Puerto Rican Edwin Gonzalez to be the interim manager for the series. Valentine had been rumored to be on the Marlins’ radar at last season’s end, but Gonzalez retained the job by the skin of his teeth over the winter.
Now my question is this: who cares?
What was Fredi doing wrong, and what will Bobby V do correctly? I know that Fredi took a lot of flak for managing the bullpen poorly and writing some really terrible lineups. For the most part, I have not seen his defensive replacement being questioned. His leadership in the clubhouse has also been questioned, but how can we as laypeople not privy to that information comment on that?
Here’s what I know:
– This season, Fredi trusted lefty specialist Taylor Tankersley with more dangerous situations than Brian Sanches and Clay Hensley. He also entrusted Jorge Sosa with the same amount of leverage as Burke Badenhop. I don’t need a chart to say that this was bad, but it was also an aspect of how poor the Marlins’ bullpen really was.
– The three most common lineups that Fredi threw out this season (23 games total) are all plausible. Each of them likely contains the five best projected hitters on the team in the first five lineup slots. That’s good.
– He also batted Wes Helms and Brian Barden at the top of the lineup five times this year. Bad.
These things add up to probably a below average manager, but how much better will Bobby V be? In the Mets’ 2000 season, the year they went to the World Series, Valentine ran a lineup that led off Melvin Mora (.319 wOBA) and batted Benny Agbayani (.377 wOBA) eighth nine times during the season (the most any one lineup showed up). Of course, this doesn’t mean he’ll be awful, but it means that most managers will run nonsensical lineups based on bad traditional wisdom fairly often, and we as fans are at the mercy of such moves.
Managing on the field is more or less automatic. Even the most egregious lineup order switches can’t cost a team more than a few wins a year. There is not much of a way to separate between bad managers and good ones. Fredi was (and Bobby V will be) at the mercy of the talent on the Marlins’ roster, and right now that talent is that of a .500 or so team. If Loria honestly believes this team would be playoff bound with a new manager, then he is more delusional than you and I think. I would not put it past Loria to be delusional, but let’s hope that isn’t the case.