Does the team’s decision to bring back Don Mattingly as manager mean the Marlins are stuck in neutral or are they truly moving forward?
Bringing back Don Mattingly as the Miami Marlins manager is a chance team CEO Derek Jeter feels is worth taking. Regardless of a 53-101 record and plenty of questions as to the reasons why such a move was made this past week, Jeter is banking on a future with his former one-time New York Yankees teammate steering the ship full of “what if’s”.
Mattingly, one of the carryovers from the former ownership group, is the right man to continue to help build continuity and serve as a bridge from what was old to what should be new.
As I have spoken about before, that as a fan of the game, I love this move having watched Mattingly play baseball in my younger days and appreciating the work ethic the baseball star had. As a writer, it’s a bit different. This move is either going to finally pay off, or it’s going to be one of the worst decisions of the Jeter era of Miami Marlins baseball.
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For the majority of the season, the writing has been on the wall. Poor hitting combined with a young pitching staff that has been dominated at times and erratic at others, not to mention injuries, has been a recipe for the end of the manager’s tenure. Jeter believes it’s just the beginning.
Mattingly came into a situation in 2016 with a roster full of rising stars. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Jose Fernandez. They all left a mark in South Florida. The tragic accident that took Fernandez‘s life may have played a role in how Jeter, Bruce Sherman, and the front office developed this new roster. For what it’s worth, fans misunderstand at times that even with that kind of star power, this franchise wasn’t winning baseball games. It was a playoff contender in Mattingly‘s first season, but the wheels did come off. Tragedy does that.
2016 was the closest this team has come to a playoff berth since 2009. Marlins haven’t made the playoffs since 2003, the last time they brought home a World Series title. Their last winning season is a decade ago. Those facts don’t bring fans to the ballpark. No matter how hard Jeter is trying to make Marlins Park a destination, the South Florida community that is rich and Hispanic tradition, hasn’t bought into the changes made to the stadium, the front office, and a roster of players who are still young and mostly naïve in terms of baseball success.
With all due respect to Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, and Starlin Castro, it’s going to be the players the Marlins have brought in to their minor-league system who are going to make a difference in the perception of this sports team and fans who have waited so long for a winner that most of them have given up rooting for the home team.
Baseball insider Craig Mish was right. It’s hard to see this as a reward for Mattingly who is going to endure 200 losses in the last two seasons. But if the hunch is correct and Jeter, president of baseball operations Michael Hill, and Dick Scott are right, then winning should begin somewhere in the middle of next season.
Where as Fernandez was the only true legitimate star of the pitching staff, Mattingly has many to choose from for the future. It starts with Sandy Alcantara. And then it continues with Caleb Smith, Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera and Nick Neidert.
There wasn’t any outfielder depth as Miami walked into Spring Training this season. Now it should be interesting with Jesus Sanchez added to the 40 man roster. J.J. Bleday, Kameron Meisner and Peyton Burdick are the future of this franchise.
Combined with Brian Anderson, this future is as bright as the hot Miami sun. It’s cautious however as Mattingly got a two-year deal with options but if Miami struggles at the gate, a move may still be made. That is either the beauty or the curse of baseball.
The Marlins have eight baseball games left in the season. Futility it’s something this organization is living with. Hopefully, those issues will change and hopefully Mattingly will be around to see it. For now, it’s a decision the fans must rally behind for its reasoning. We all may not like it, but in my eyes as a writer, it was the best move to make.
If the Marlins start winning next season, it’s only fair that Mattingly sees it through since he was part of this new blueprint. It wouldn’t be fair to him to remove him from a situation he had no control of, and then watch somebody else come in and find success.
We’ve all complained about Jeter’s moves to destroy this team’s recent past. We believed it was cruel and some of the worst management decisions ever made. Now he has made a new decision, hoping it pays off in 2020.
With it comes the question of whether he is a serious baseball businessman, or just a former icon who has a dream of running a major-league team and has failed miserably.
We baseball fans are going to soon find out.