In a move that should come as no surprise, the Miami Marlins have fired manager Ozzie Guillen. After spending nearly $200 million on Free Agents last winter the Marlins compiled a dismal 69-93 record under Guillen. A team that was supposed to contend for the N.L. East title failed to perform for the outspoken Venezuelan skipper, resulting in his dismissal after the first year of a four year contract. The Marlins will still be responsible for the $7.5 million remaining on Guillen’s contract over the next three years.
Guillen has always been a great source of one-liners and sound bytes, many of which are laden with expletives. Owner Jeffrey Loria must have seen that as an opportunity to recoup some of the money he so foolishly spent over the winter. After hiring Guillen, Loria signed up with Showtime, putting the Marlins and Guillen on cable TV where the fiery manager could be seen and heard without being censored. Surely this would be a hit. Not only was the show “The Franchise” just as terrible as any other reality show, it painted quite an unflattering picture of Loria himself. I quickly formed the opinion that Loria had no idea how to run a baseball franchise.
The show covered the period from Spring Training all the way through the fourth of July in it’s first episode. Then it ran weekly, covering the most recent one-week period in real time. Swing and a miss! I mean, who’s idea was that? After about eight shows, and before the season was over, the series came to an abrupt end. Much like the Marlins season- a big disappointment.
Loria could have saved himself some trouble if he had fired Guillen earlier- I mean way earlier. Only a few days into the regular season Time Magazine published an interview in which Guillen was quoted as saying he “loved Fidel Castro”. No, it didn’t take Guillen long to alienate the entire population of Miami. Guillen’s praising of the tyrannical Cuban dictator had Miami residents marching in protest at the site of the team’s new ballpark and demanding that Guillen be fired.
After issuing an apology, Guillen was given a short suspension before returning to manage the team. But the Marlins troubles were just getting started. The Marlins were having trouble scoring runs in their new ballpark. Heath Bell, the newly acquired and high-priced closer, was coughing up leads all over the place. Guillen assured Bell, in front of the TV cameras, that the closer’s role was his. But Ozzie caved to the pressure and stripped Bell of the role, resulting in an on-air meltdown by the reliever.
Not yet willing to give up on their playoff hopes, Marlins G.M. David Samson pulls the trigger on an early July trade that nets aging veteran 1B Carlos Lee from the Astros. To the surprise of no one in Houston (we were already celebrating the fact that we got a couple of decent prospects in return for Lee) that trade didn’t put the Marlins over the top. In fact, three weeks later Miami began dumping salary as fast as possible. All-Star infielder Hanley Ramirez, gone! Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, gone! The Marlins were not only bad, they were in a state of disrepair.
Fast-forward to the end of the season and the writing was on the wall for Ozzie. The team had failed, the TV show had failed, pretty much nothing had gone as planned. Every time a manager is fired we ask ourselves if he was to blame for the poor performance of the team? This time around I would have to say, YES.
Consider the facts. Like this year’s Marlins, Guillen’s 2011 White Sox were expected to contend and instead floundered. The White Sox went into the 2012 season with almost the exact same roster and were in contention until the last week of the season. This year’s White Sox team was manged by Robin Ventura, a man with no previous managerial experience. It all adds up to one thing. The Marlins made a poor choice in hiring Ozzie Guillen. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before another big league team puts Ozzie in charge.