The firing of Ozzie Guillen on Tuesday shouldn’t be much of a shock after reviewing the Miami Marlins meltdown season, one that was supposed to be the rebirth of a winning franchise.
Somewhat surprising is Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who wanted Ozzie in Miami for nearly two seasons, pulling the trigger so quickly on a contract that will pay Guillen $7.5 million over the next three seasons. While Ozzie will be laughing all the way to the bank, Loria is showing that money isn’t all that matters. Could it be righting a wrong (or two or seven) is Loria’s motivation these days?
I would love to be in the Marlins management meetings this week to hear who is falling on the sword for the 2012 season that wasn’t. As a fan, I hope the embarrassment of last season has motivated a top-down review of the franchise’s commitment to player development vs. instant solutions. It starts at the top, and moves to shed cancers, i.e., Hanley Ramirez, Heath Bell and Ozzie, could mean the Marlins are moving in the right direction.
The Fish Fiasco of 2012 started with the hiring of Guillen a few days before the 2011 season ended. Loria got his man, but many experts and fans wondered if Ozzie was the right fit for the young Marlins. With Ozzie on board, the Miami Marlins brand launched on 11/11/11 with much fanfare and very little fan love of the Skittle-esque new logo and uniforms.
Then it got worse.
In an effort to field a playoff-worthy product in season one of the new era and ballpark, Loria and company were hell-bent on making a free-agency splash. And word on the street was they were throwing big numbers at Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. But when the Marlins refused to bend on their stance of no no-trade clauses, the chance to sign Pujols and Wilson evaporated like a South Florida sun-shower. With Pujols and Wilson off the table, the Marlins tried saving face by landing Mark Buehrle and Bell. Talk about your major downgrades; not exactly pieces you build championships around.
Still, many fans (including yours truly) and pundits were caught up in the “new Marlins” vibe because the franchise was spending money instead of hoarding it.
In retrospect, the only way the Marlins had a chance to compete would have been if Ramirez returned to 2009 form; Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez improved on their 2011 performances; Josh Johnson returned from surgery as dominant as he was before; and Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano resurrected once-prominent careers. That’s an awful lot of ifs.
A full season later, only one – Stanton – fulfilled that promise, and the new Marlins were in a familiar place of old: the NL East cellar.
The silver lining? The Marlins righted this capsized season quickly. They got rid of misfits and shed major dollars in the process. Instead of an offseason spending spree, expect the Marlins to look for chemistry when hiring a manager and filling holes through trades and free agency.
Let the rumors start flying in South Florida for who will replace Ozzie. Expect to hear favorite son names like Jeff Conine and Mike Lowell, even if the likelihood of their hiring is slim. One thing’s for sure heading into the hot-stove season: 2013 will be the beginning of something more affordable, as well as something more sustainable in the long run.