Forget the liquid absurdity of it all, just for a moment. Forget that the Marlins are moving their GM into the dugout. Forget that the Marlins fired the manager they just extended in September, getting rid of him after a month and a half of disappointment. Forget that the Marlins are expecting a manager with no coaching or playing experience to step into a clubhouse and lead a cast of 25 disparate personalities and talents. From superstars to veterans to rookies to fringe players, with a baseball deity at the end of his career thrown in, and he'll have to take control while swimming upstream in the river of "The Marlins just did what?" that seems to flood that clubhouse every year. Forget all that.
Just kidding. Remember it. Breathe it in. Stare at it. Marvel in it. Be glad it all exists, that there's one team that's equal parts Shakespeare and a show on Bravo you can't stop hate-watching.
Okay, now you can forget all of that. At least, push it aside. Let's evaluate the Marlins as objectively as possible. Maybe we can build a little platform above the jiggling mounds of guano, climb atop and pretend we can't see anything below us. The Marlins have a new manager, and, hey, maybe the players are jazzed. Maybe Dan Jennings is a tactical genius who has their respect. Maybe the players won't think, "Dude, you played a month of spring training back in 1984. What do you know about my season-long grind? Who are you to tell me what works on that field?" Maybe.
When I wrote that Jennings had no coaching experience, that wasn't exactly true. He did coach for a high school in Mobile back in 1985. So, yeah, he's been a field general before. And if you can manage players dealing with the pressures of hormones, acne and the demonic lyrics of Judas Priest, surely you can manage a superstar like Giancarlo Stanton. If it works, it'll be a great story. People seem to think Jennings has a rare charisma. Maybe this will work.
Focus instead on the paradox we've been offered, then. It's a doozy in two parts.
The Marlins believe that a manager can be so important, he can nullify on-field talent
This move is the front office saying, "We were not wrong." According to this mindset, the only thing that could have derailed this team was a lack of motivation, a missing spark. That was Mike Redmond's one job, and he couldn't do it. As a result, this team -- this beautiful, well-constructed team -- wasn't allowed to spread its dorsal fin and really take off. With that remaining obstacle out of the way, let's all sit back and watch this team go.
Except, everyone knew the Marlins were a second-tier contender before the season started, a possible postseason team if this happened and if that happened, a division winner only with a lot of good fortune, surprising developments and unusually healthy players. Teams on that wild card fence can get pushed over so very easily. It takes a month of slumping, an injury here or there and possibly just some good ol' fashioned bad luck. The Marlins should be 18-20 according to their expected record. That's about a game or two away, in either direction, from where they probably should be.
Instead, this is a vote of confidence for the person who put it all together. It's a way to say, "No, Mat Latos's velocity is down because he wasn't managed correctly. Michael Morse is struggling because the wrong words were being whispered in his ear. The sharp, sudden decline in Martin Prado's plate discipline has nothing to do with age and nagging injuries -- it has to do with the fire in the clubhouse, or lack thereof." This confidence in the plan can explain away the entire roster. Jarred Cosart wasn't deceptively effective in 10 starts last year. No, he's really that good, the rest of his professional career is misleading and his problem is a bad manager. Pick a struggling Marlins player and try it!
Dee Gordon should probably be hitting .500, really.
The tools and materials were there, and the blueprints were solid. But they asked for a bridge, and the project manager was in the middle of a rickety gazebo. That's how important managers are. They can turn good teams into bad teams. They can fundamentally alter a team's ability to win.
The Marlins believe that an executive can manage, even if he has no coaching experience
The subtext is, hey, it can't be that hard. And now you have the paradox. We have Managers are important up against Hey, this guy can probably manage. Jennings is stepping into a clubhouse that's used to calamity, even if it's new to a lot of the individual players. And he's supposed to be the person to turn this ingenious roster into the one that fulfills his vision of it. Because, well, it shouldn't be too hard.
Maybe this all underestimates the brilliance of Jennings, that he really is a baseball renaissance man with a gift for communication that this club desperately needs. Still, here's a quote from a few months and 38 games ago:
"Mike Redmond was an overachiever as a player, and brought that workmanlike, grinder attitude to the field as a player. Those were the same qualities that made him attractive to us as a manager. I think those qualities have rubbed off on his team. We brought in players who have had similar characteristics, because it's a grind. In a 162-game season, you're always going to face adversity, no matter who you are. You have to deal with it."
That's from the press conference last September in which the Marlins announced an extension for Redmond. What could have possibly changed that much? What could Redmond have done that wasn't bad enough to be fired immediately (remember, there have been whispers for weeks), but bad enough to force the team to give up on him after six weeks of mildly disappointing play? Whatever it is, it got under Loria's skin like a tick, and everything had to change now now now.
The paradox can be solved, though. It's possible the Marlins still believe that managers are of the utmost importance. It's just that they stopped worrying about 2015 once Redmond was dropped into the rancor pit. There's a very Loria reason for going in-house.
Positives for Loria, if Dan Jennings: 1) smart baseball man; 2) Loria has long admired and valued him; 3) saves money;already paying 2 mngrs— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) May 18, 2015
The Marlins are still paying Ozzie Guillen. They'll pay Redmond for three more seasons. Might as well save money and focus on next year? I guess?
Over at Fish Stripes, there was a Redmond extension roundup last year. A comment below sticks out:
Redmond didn't exactly earn an extension with excellent managing ... but the stability of keeping him around and not suffering yet another rookie manager and their rookie manager mistakes is worth the cost of admission for the Marlins.
Instead, here's the rookiest of managers. In a legacy of brash, erratic, impetuous Marlins moves, ordered by a brash, erratic, impetuous owner, this might be peak Marlins. It confuses everyone, it saves money (only after money is tossed away) and it makes the whole organization seem completely disheveled from the top down. That's the blueprint of the Loria Era.
The only thing that makes me think this can work is that Jennings could clearly deal with the personality of Jeffrey Loria and win him over. If he can win Loria over, well, 25 disparate personalities can't be that hard. If you look at it like that, heck, maybe this does have a chance to work. Jennings could be made of pure magic, now that you mention it, pure magic. He can get along with Loria. He can get along with Loria.
If he can do that, I'm not sure why I just spent 1,300 words doubting him. Now let's pull up a seat and watch the ludicrous Marlins spin around and around and around like a 40-foot metal flamingo for the next decade. It never, ever, ever gets old.