Much was expected from a team suddenly willing to spend big money on top free-agent talent in hopes of fililng a brand new ballpark. Instead, the Marlins have arguably been the most disappointing team in baseball, with new uniforms covering up what looks like the same ol' product in South Florida.
Trading away established players certainly looked familiar to Marlins fans. This week, the team dealt Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers. Infielder Hanley Ramirez—once viewed as the franchise's superstar—and his salary were essentially dumped to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pitching ace Josh Johnson could be next to go.
So the Marlins sit in fourth place in the NL East, 14 games behind the Washington Nationals and 10 games from two wild-card spots that were supposed to help fledgling teams such as Miami contend for the postseason.
Should this disappointment fall at Guillen's feet? Should the manager ultimately take the blame for his team's underwhelming performance?
Dismissing Guillen after one season would hardly be unprecedented for the Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria. This is an organization that fired Joe Girardi after he won NL Manager of the Year in 2006 in his first season in the Marlins dugout.
However, Loria seems to get along far better with Guillen than he ever did with Girardi.
Or maybe Guillen just knows how to be more friendly with his owner. Buddying up with Jerry Reinsdorf during his eight seasons as Chicago White Sox manager may have helped with that. Winning a World Series in his second season also surely gave him more leeway with upper management.
But when a team underperforms the way the 2012 Miami Marlins have, it's natural to look at whether or not the players have quit on the manager. Are the Marlins playing hard for Guillen?
Of all the problems plaguing the Marlins, player disapproval doesn't appear to be one. Would pitcher Mark Buehrle have told reporters that he didn't regret signing with the Marlins if that were the case?
“Obviously this year didn’t work out the way anybody wanted," Buehrle told reporters, including The Miami Herald's Clark Spencer. "I think they made some key trades to get some certain guys, and I think with what we’ve got coming in here next year we’ll be all right. So I’m not regretting anything.”
Of course, Buehrle followed Guillen to Miami, and he's set to be paid $48 million over the remaining three years of his contract with the Marlins, so maybe his is not the most objective opinion to consult on this matter.
Trading Ramirez was a pretty strong endorsement of Guillen. Surely, the front office hoped that Guillen's fiery approach would snap Ramirez out of his lethargy and return him to the All-Star-caliber player that he once was. But Ramirez could never really get going and seemingly refused to make the necessary adjustments in his game that Guillen's staff suggested.
How often does a team side with a superstar player over a manager? We see coaches get fired throughout professional sports because they're easier to replace than players.
Yet the Marlins had clearly seen enough of Ramirez's act and wanted to broom his apathy out of the clubhouse and start anew. This week's trades were a message to the team that more is expected and if players aren't going to perform, they won't receive the backing of management.
Who did get support from the front office, whether it was stated or not? Guillen.
Loria certainly had an opportunity to fire Guillen when he made his remarks about Fidel Castro and turned much of the region's community against him and the team. Some owners would have catered to public opinion and gotten rid of the figure who threatened to sabotage the franchise's revival before it could even get started.
So has Guillen already worn out his welcome in Miami? It doesn't appear so. If anything, Guillen may have become more subdued in his approach since the Castro incident. Choosing him over certain players could be viewed as an attempt to push Guillen into being the manager we're more accustomed to seeing.
Can you imagine an emboldened Ozzie Guillen, one who's been encouraged to be more outspoken toward his players and the media, trying to hold everyone accountable for the team's performance? That's the guy the Marlins hired, and he's been given the opportunity to be that guy again. Watch out.
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