Few coaches survive 1-16 records during a given month — no matter how much love and support is thrown their way in a clubhouse. It’s an even more precarious situation for Florida Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez because his I-want-to-win-now owner, Jeffrey Loria, already fired hitting coach John Mallee 10 days ago. Good move? Um, no. The results since Mallee’s unpopular dismissal have been even worse — continued ineffectiveness at the dish and a 1-9 record. Yep, Mallee was the problem, alright.
Friday night’s loss to Tampa Bay gave Florida its second eight-game losing streak of the month, dropping the Fish six games under .500 to 32-38. If not for Anibal Sanchez’s win over Arizona on June 10, the Marlins would be 0-for-June. And this is from a team that was 30-20 on May 28, only two games behind the NL East-leading Phillies. In three weeks, the Fish have seen the Braves, Mets and Nationals waltz by them en route to an – unfathomable a month ago – plummet to the cellar, 11.5 games back of Philly.
Since new hitting coach Eduardo Perez hasn’t goosed the offensive attack as hoped, the Marlins brass did the next best thing (not) by signing and moving up a few retreads in Dewayne Wise (cut by the Fish in spring training) and Jose Lopez (jettisoned by Colorado last month), and sending former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan down to triple-A New Orleans, purportedly to get his confidence back.
Maybe while Coghlan is in the Big Easy, he can look for the Marlins’ once-promising season while he’s at it. I suggest a Bourbon Street gutter. While Cogs is busy searching for his and the Marlins’ mojo, the 33-year-old Wise will be platooning in center with Emilio Bonifacio – not exactly a potent offensive combo. Rodriguez went so far as to say Wise was brought up for his defense. Exactly what a team in an epic hitting slump needs, right? In addition, Hanley and his anemic .201 average (1-for-13 since returning from the DL) is back in the lead-off spot, not exactly a huge improvement over Coghlan’s .230 average.
What’s next, voodoo dolls and exorcisms?
Shuffling of this magnitude is never a good sign for an incumbent manager because it looks like he has lost control of the team, even though every Marlins player would say otherwise. Hanley Ramirez, whose poor start to the season has as much to do with the Marlins slide as any other excuse, went out of his way to endorse his manager on Thursday saying Edwin was “the best guy we ever had here” to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.
Being liked by players, however, carries very little capital (just ask Mallee) if the losses keep piling up faster than a J.J. fastball. Wins are all that matter – especially to Loria. Not winning means further shake-up is imminent. Bottom line: The few grains of sand left in Rodriguez’s hourglass may very well run out by Sunday if the Marlins drop the series to the Rays.
There’s already buzz in South Florida surrounding who gets the reins when Rodriguez’s eventual ouster comes. Bobby Valentine is getting play, but it’s hard to imagine him in the mix after he threw management under the bus following Florida’s sloppy handing of his courtship last summer. Ozzie Guillen is getting a lot of traction, too – some folks have even been talking about trading Marlins players for Guillen. While I like Ozzie’s passion for the game, he doesn’t seem like the right beacon for a young team.
The most interesting name getting local buzz, albeit completely unqualified, is Jeff Conine, thanks in large part to South Florida Sun-Sentinel poll posed by writer Mike Berardino that had Niner running a close second to Guillen as the top choice. (Cast your vote here.) I have no idea if Conine has a desire to manage, but it would seem odd to put him at the helm without any previous managerial experience – although Perez never held a coaching position before being named hitting instructor. Niner as manager would be a great PR move, especially going into the new stadium next season. But as a baseball move, it seems far-fetched.
But maybe all it takes is getting a new guy at the top. Worked out okay in 2003. Marlins were 33-37 at one point during that magical season, only one game better than the 2011 version.