Thank You Barry Much: Miami Marlins Fire Barry Bonds
After just one year’s time, the Miami Marlins ended one of baseball’s more curious experiments by firing Barry Bonds from his post as hitting coach Monday afternoon.
In a bad day for players that lead the majors all-time in a major statistical category, third base coach and reigning pinch-hit king Lenny Harris was also fired. Bullpen coach Reid Cornelius joined the pair in the unemployment line.
In many ways, it’s the two lesser firings that sting more for me. Harris obviously was a valued contributor of the 2003-2005 Marlins that remains the golden era for the franchise, anchored by that 2003 World Series championship. His pursuit, and successive padding, of the pinch-hit record remains one of the more impressive Miami claims on the MLB record books. Cornelius was a crafty veteran, which is what you say of players who were occasionally useful on teams that were occasionally entertaining. His Marlins playing career predates Jeffrey Loria, although he did come up in the Expos system during his tenure. The Fish days consisted of a 2000 season that saw him post Jose Urena type numbers, with mediocre efforts occasionally punctuated by no-hit bids that delighted a young fan surprised that journeyman hurler could do that.
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But my affection for the two former Fish aside, we’ll confine our focus to Bonds, and what to make of this coaching shakeup.
The answer is that it’s probably a step in the right direction.
As has been noted in several of the early reports, this is a move that has been met with a fair amount of surprise, considering the lack of waves caused by Bonds during the regular season. The only real examples on the table are a lukewarm endorsement by manger Don Mattingly early in the season, followed by a private critiquing of his efforts by Donnie Baseball that was not appreciated. The batting average rose from 2015 to 2016, and the Marlins closed the season with the fourth highest batting average in the bigs. Not necessarily a resume that screams hot seat, let alone being fired.
But you have to consider the timing of the move. First true day of the offseason, he’s gone. If this was something you were on the fence about, you might wait to see who shakes lose as playoff teams start being eliminated over the next month. Further, this is still a time of relative mourning for the franchise. If anything, you’d expect to see some cases of personnel or players being retained despite disappointing performances, provided they were a source of clubhouse harmony and comfort.
If you’re getting fired within a week of last Monday’s heart-wrenching ceremony, you seriously ran afoul of at least one key member of the organization.
There’s also the fact that for all that hitting improvement, it didn’t translate to scoring. Yes, Marcell Ozuna made an All-Star team. Yes, Christian Yelich had a power explosion that no one saw coming this soon. Yes, J.T. Realmuto blossomed into one of the game’s best offensive catchers.
But collectively, and this is the sticking point seeing as how it’s a team sport, the Marlins couldn’t score a run to save their lives. In terms of home runs, the only team Miami outpaced was Atlanta, which is perhaps a bad example to bring up considering the damage the Braves inflicted on the Marlins playoff hopes despite that deficit. Bonds was brought in to increase the offense, and he failed to do so to a significant degree.
Bottom-line, scoring was a problem and the team didn’t make the playoffs. The only team that doesn’t need to be changed is the team that wins the last game of the season. The only reason there is a danger for backlash here is the past history of the organization and the stature of Bonds himself.
If Frank Menechino was the one fired, you probably wouldn’t have noticed until Thanksgiving.
The biggest positive to draw here though is that all indications are that this was a manager driven decision. Bonds was Loria’s choice, and Mattingly rolled with it because he was just hired and it might have worked. Fast forward 162 games, and the Marlins manager decided it didn’t work.
In a very un-Marlins move, ownership let the manager make the call.
Time will tell if it was the right one. For now though, I see no reason to believe there was anything sinister going on here. Not a “Marlins Move”. Just a baseball one.