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Jeff Loria and his cohort have proven themselves fickle and untrustworthy when it comes to managers, so Mike Redmond's ride might be a short one.
On Thursday, the Miami Marlins hired former catcher Mike Redmond to be their fifth full-time manager in three seasons. Redmond is young; his playing career ended in 2010, so he is only 41 now. That's 28 years younger than Davey Johnson and millennia younger than Jim Leyland, who ages in dog years. It's as if Jeff Loria and pals are repeating themselves while working through managerial categories: the young, inexperienced manager (Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, and now Redmond), the veteran manager (Jack McKeon, so veteran he's older than time), and the coach who just happened to be there (Edwin Rodriguez). Ozzie Guillen was just the shiny bauble who happened to sit at the midpoint between the McKeon and Redmond extremes. It's predictable, none of it matters at all, and as such I refuse to care about it.
Hiring a manager will do nothing to fix the Marlins' problems, as the Marlins themselves have demonstrated again and again.
In the modern game, managers may have some strategic predilections and tendencies, but they don't shape the rosters as they did before the rise of the general manager more than 80 years ago. One-run strategies, morale-building and clubhouse chemistry, reliever usage, bunting, and so on all have a place and can have some impact on the team's final record, but in a small way: managers are not destiny, but roster composition is.
The game of manager roulette has neither boosted the Marlins to the postseason nor arrested a three-season decline that has seen them drop from 87-75 to 69-93. If the team does turn around under Redmond, or Heaven forfend enjoy something resembling the Showalter Miracle, it won't be because of his canny tactics, his infectious laugh, or the way his limpid eyes reflect the radiant red of a Florida sunset. Rather, it will be because he had a healthy and productive Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison, better seasons from Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Mark Buehrle than they received this year, stunning sophomore seasons from recent acquisitions Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner, and oh, a real center fielder. That would be novel.
Center field gets at the heart of Redmond's irrelevance to the proceedings. No Marlins player has started more than 101 games in center field since 2005, when Juan Pierre was last in town. The heavy turnover mostly wasn't due to injuries, it wasn't due to strict platooning. It wasn't even due to managerial caprice. Rather, the Marlins front office simply abdicated. Not even the worst manager would choose to list Reggie Abercrombie, Alfredo Amezaga, or converted Double-A second baseman Chris Coghlan in center field over, oh, a real center fielder, but aside from acquiring Cameron Maybin from the Tigers in the Miguel Cabrera trade four years ago, the Marlins simply haven't made a serious attempt to address the position. None of the many skippers that have passed through were offered prime Torii Hunter and turned him down.
What is far more plausible is that at least one of them asked for a Torii Hunter and was told he would take his Emilio Bonafacio and like it if he knew what was good for him. Nothing spells victory like another season with a utility infielder in center. Ownership and the front office abdicated in another way this year, when they went out and signed celebrity manager Ozzie Guillen, famous for speaking without thinking, apparently not realizing that he wasn't going to leave his mouth in Chicago. They failed to do their due diligence with him, or ignored it. It's as much a mistake in scouting and evaluation as any blown draft pick or lopsided trade.
We know the Marlins spend munificently -- sometimes. Briefly. When the mood strikes. This year, intending to put a bow on their new stadium, they upped their payroll from approximately $57 million in 2011 to roughly $108 million in 2012 -- at the outset; it was lower by the end as they started deaccessioning parts at midseason, not bothering to keep up the pretense of seriousness for even a whole year when the fans didn't give them instant gratification with their wallets. What they don't do is spend wisely, which is why the team has been in either stasis, with five 80-win seasons in the seven years after their 2003 fluke World Series win, or a tailspin. Carrying even a single replacement-level player can greatly damage a team's chances, so it's the height of irresponsibility to say, "I suppose we'll just have to do without a center fielder this year" and hope that you stumble over a Cody Ross or Justin Ruggiano along the way.
In preparing to write this article, I went to Baseball-Reference's managers page to consider a very special list, that of the one-year managers. If you sort the "years" column, you will bring to the top all the managers who got one shot and one shot only, or didn't even make it through a full year -- managers such as Jerry Royster, Cookie Rojas, and Phil Regan. A few more got extended chances when someone else was fired early in the season, for example , Jim Essian, Al Pedrique, and Luis Pujols. Some, like Bucky Dent or Maury Wills, technically managed in two seasons but in actuality got fewer than 162 games before the "Oh my God, what have we done!" reaction set in.
Now, some of these managers, by reputation, were pretty bad. I would argue that others never received a fair chance. What all of them, bad or unproven, had in common was losing records, and since no manager in history, not John McGraw, Casey Stengel, or Billy Martin nor Tony LaRussa, Buck Showalter, or Bruce Bochy can take a team without the requisite talent to be good and make it good. He can tinker around the edges in one direction or another, but no one was going to take Luis Pujols' 2002 Tigers and make them winners in that same season. Therefore, some of these men were judged guilty without getting a fair trial.
The same may apply to Mike Redmond, in fact, is likely to apply to him now that he's the manager of the Marlins. A first-time manager wants to take any opportunity he can find to break in, but as the one-year boys show, if you pick the wrong opportunity, or the wrong one picks you, you might not get another chance. Sure, Redmond received a three-year contract, but Loria is just going to fire him in a year anyway, when the team again fails to overcome its inherent limitations. Joe Girardi won the 2009 World Series with the Yankees. Gonzalez won 94 games with the Braves this year and went to the playoffs as a wild card. Jack McKeon is... still breathing. It's not the managers that are inadequate, it's the Marlins.
Until the men running the team accept that, it has no chance at all to get better. It's really part of their personal psychodrama, not ours, and its resolution will benefit or destroy only them. Given that they have proved, over these long years, that the latter is more probable, why should we bother to watch? We've seen this movie before, and it doesn't get any better with repetition.