The Marlins’ decision to fire manager Mike Redmond was, perhaps, not terribly surprising at this point given the team’s high expectations and lackadaisical start. But the club shocked many around the game by shifting GM Dan Jennings into the dugout to take his place. President of baseball operations Michael Hill said before the announcement that the club was looking for a “new voice” to help trigger a turnaround, and it turns out that his front office partner will attempt to do just that.
Here are some reactions from around the game:
- It does not appear that the decision to turn to Jennings was made at the spur of the moment, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the club had discussed the possibility earlier in the year. Regardless, says Rosenthal, it is an “outrageous” decision that constitutes an “insult” to other qualified potential candidates. The veteran reporter’s strong words were based, in large part, on the club’s apparent decision not to interview any minority candidates.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria discussed the situation, including the so-called Selig Rule on consideration of minority candidates, with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.) On that topic, Loria said that he had contacted commissioner Rob Manfred to explain that the situation required an immediate change, without a full hiring process. He also noted to Morosi that the organization had made numerous recent managerial hires of minorities, and would comply with the rule in full if another search occurs after the season.
- Of course, it is far from a given that Jennings will step down after the year; as Loria noted, there is no interim tag on his new title. The controversial owner told Morosi that he is looking for “structure, accountability and energy” from the new skipper. He also rejected the notion that the hiring was a major surprise, saying: “I’m not a maverick.” Loria pointed to other recent hires of managers who did not have professional experience in such a role.
- In earlier comments to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Loria did indicate that the club’s structure will be revisited after the season. “Dan still is going to be very much involved in trades and things,” he said. “We’ll internally figure out what will happen at the end of the year, but our hope is that it stays like it. The only difference is that our GM is now the manager. We just dropped the general.” Loria also said that he played a role in the process but did not personally dictate the move from Redmond to Jennings. But he left no doubt about how he felt regarding the team’s performance, using interesting language to drive home the point: “We’re supposed to be the Fish. The Marlins. We shouldn’t be the Flounders. A Marlin isn’t a flounder. We’ve got to get it going.”
- There are plenty of questions about the hiring of Jennings, says Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but he advocates maintaining an open mind. As he rightly notes, the game has already evolved greatly in how it allocates authority between the front office and field staff. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com explains, meanwhile, that Loria’s penchant for change makes a lengthy tenure for Jennings unlikely.
- For Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link), this is a boom-or-bust move. Among other challenges, Jennings will take on the day-to-day spokesperson role occupied by the modern manager — a stressful undertaking — and could face added difficulties in gaining trust within the clubhouse. Pulling no punches, Olney’s colleague Jerry Crasnick argues that the move is ill-conceived, predicting a rough transition and wondering whether things will end well.
- From my perspective, it seems that the last point from Olney, regarding the organization’s relationships with its players, could be precisely where the Marlins are focused with this gambit. Jennings is, as all of the above articles reference, an affable and universally respected figure around the game. But there will be no question amongst the team’s players that the front office is present at all times; to a greater or lesser extent, after all, each man on the roster owes his job to Jennings, and Loria acknowledges that the former GM will continue to have heavy input in higher-level decisionmaking. That does indeed seem to offer some prospect of significant tension; on the other hand, it very likely brings added urgency to players’ day-to-day efforts. The notion of a player needing to step up in a contract year is commonly cited as a motivating factor. Now, the Marlins stand to find out whether a similar (but perhaps more invasive) kind of pressure can help to drive performance.