From the Sun-Sentinel
Joe Girardi, who guided the surprising Marlins into playoff contention dfespite baseball’s lowest payroll, will soon be out as manager after just one season.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Girardi’s chances of returning next year are “zero,” according to a source who has spoken with the Marlins’ front office.
As I blogged here before, in spite of the Marlins’ amazing year Girardi’s job has been in jeopardy since a disagreement he had in August with team owner Jeffrey Loria. Girardi was almost fired that day.
With two years left on his contract, Girardi would be owed an estimated $1.5 million if no other club picks him up. The Cubs, expected to part ways with Dusty Baker, have been mentioned as a possible destination.
The Marlins are already compiling information about Girardi’s successor, with a trio of third-base coaches likely to receive interviews: Fredi Gonzalez (Braves), Joey Cora (White Sox) and Manny Acta (Mets).
All three have Latin roots and speak fluent Spanish, which would be considered a significant upgrade from the current English-only staff. Gonzalez, who spent a decade with the Marlins as a minor league manager and major league coach, was the runner-up to Girardi after interviewing last fall.
Other possible candidates to replace Girardi include Triple-A Albuquerque manager Dean Treanor, Japanese League manager Trey Hillman, Braves special assistant Jim Fregosi, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, Mets bench coach Jerry Manuel and Marlins broadcaster Cookie Rojas, although Rojas is more likely to fill a coaching role.
Rojas? He is 67 years old and only once been an established manager in MLB. That was with the 1988 California Angels.(Rojas was replaced before the season ended.) He did do a short 2-game stint with the Marlins in 1996.
It is sad we’re speculating on replacements when this team has far exceeded expectations. Currently the Marlins stand at 76-77. At least 10-15 more wins than the experts were predicting at the season’s start. I had the Marlins coming in at 65-97.
With nine games to go in the season the Marlins playoff chances look to be about zilch. They are four games back in the wild card hunt.
The last straw for Girardi, 41, apparently was his ill-fated decision to bring back prized right-hander Josh Johnson after an 82-minute rain delay at Dolphin Stadium on Sept. 12.
With the Marlins still clinging to wild-card hopes, Johnson tried to stay loose by playing catch with Dontrelle Willis in an indoor batting cage. That Johnson left four innings later with cramping in his forearm and was subsequently shut down for the year with a strained ligament did not help Girardi’s case.
Sunday’s 10th-inning meltdown in Atlanta was another strike against Girardi, who had never managed at any level before this season. Marlins management was disappointed Girardi inserted little-used center fielder Reggie Abercrombie as a defensive replacement instead of the more polished Eric Reed.
Two Abercrombie misplays opened the door for the Braves to rally from a four-run deficit to hand the Marlins a crushing 8-7 defeat that essentially ended their playoff chances.
The Johnson move was dumb but I don’t see Girardi’s firing connected to that or the Abercrombie move. Knucklehead award winner Loria is pissed and wants to fire Girardi. It is as simple as that.
Nonetheless, Girardi is widely considered a strong candidate for National League Manager of the Year after guiding a team with 22 rookies and a $15 million payroll into playoff contention. Not since Davey Johnson bolted the Orioles after 1997 has a newly named Manager of the Year failed to return the following year.
It’s happened only one other time since the award was instituted 23 years ago. Bobby Cox, named the American League’s top manager in 1985, left the Blue Jays to return to the Braves as general manager.
Barring a miracle it will happen again. Do you wonder why I’m ambivalent about the Marlins staying in South Florida? Its because the team’s ownership won’t make a commitment to the area either. They just want a city or state to bend to their blackmail and when not given their way, they dismantle the franchise. Just like a spoiled child who doesn’t get his way. Jeffrey Loria is a spoiled child.
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