Why Is Fredi Gonzalez on the Hot Seat?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Note: The final Week in Review of the 2009 season will be posted later today.

Reports are circulating that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is pissed, and he may take out his frustrations on Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. Apparently, Loria is miffed that a team with a payroll of $35 million did not make the playoffs, and he thinks the coaching staff is to blame. I was about to deconstruct this entire line of though entirely, until I read this morning's Miami Herald and found that Israel Gutierrez made largely the same argument that I would have, so I'll quote him instead.

If it's true that Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez is on the verge of being replaced, and team president David Samson did nothing to dispel the rumors that have suddenly circulated, then Jeffrey Loria has officially become a meddler.

And not just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill delusional owner who wants so badly to win that he will more than occasionally make a mockery of his organization.

No, Loria would be worse. He would be the delusional owner who wants to win so badly that he makes a mockery of his organization -- but doesn't spend any money in the process.

He's a persistent beggar and a demanding chooser. He's George Steinbrenner with an empty wallet.

It would be a joke, really, that the owner who dishes out the lowest payroll in the majors replaces the manager who guided his team to 87 wins and a second-place finish in the division. Especially when even the most optimistic of baseball experts considered the Marlins a sleeper team with a decent starting rotation and little else.

The Marlins brass, however, considered this team playoff caliber. And now those unrealistic expectations are about to cost Gonzalez his job?

It's beyond ridiculous. It's profound in its stupidity.

You can read the rest of his take here. For the record, this is the same front office that considered Emilio Bonifacio to be worthy of starting at third base and hitting leadoff. And they think Fredi was the problem this year. The front office has complained about Gonzalez's handling of late-game situations, but Gutierrez points out that the Marlins were 30-20 in one-run games this year, so what exactly are they concerned about (except for the decision to platoon Matt Lindstrom and Leo Nunez in the closer spot, which was essentially forced upon Gonzalez when the front office failed to acquire bullpen help for the stretch run)?

What Gutierrez does not mention, but is worth discussing, is that good managers rarely add more than a few wins over the course of a season. Baseball is in many ways an individual sport, it's hitter vs. pitcher, with some occasional teamwork occurring on defense. The Marlins really only have themselves to blame for not making the playoffs this year. There is nothing Fredi could have done to prevent Ricky Nolasco from forgetting how to pitch effectively at the beginning of this year, for instance.

Hopefully David Sampson, Larry Beinfest, and Michael Hill will come to their senses and talk Loria out of firing Fredi. If not, then the Marlins will have become the bizarro Yankees.


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