Would Firing Ozzie Guillen Be Catalyst for Marlins Rebirth or Panicked Error?
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Heads are about to roll in Miami.
The Miami Marlins have been one of the biggest disappointments of the 2012 MLB season. The team didn't open a new ballpark, sport new uniforms and bring in expensive free-agent talent to finish in last place. Yet that's where the Marlins sit in the NL East as of Sept. 21.
As a result of a season that finished far below expectations, big changes are coming to the Marlins' front office. According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, general manager Larry Beinfest will be fired, possibly before the end of the season.
Could manager Ozzie Guillen also be a casualty of the Marlins' housecleaning? MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reports that upper management is addressing the possibility, debating the pros and cons of making a change in the dugout. Former Marlins player Mike Lowell has even been discussed as a possible replacement.
Would firing Guillen give the team the fresh start it's looking for? Is a new voice already necessary after just one year of Guillen's tenure?
While Guillen surely doesn't want to move on after managing only one season of what was to be a four-year contract, it's certainly possible that the Marlins have become a job different from the one he believed he was taking.
Guillen likely signed on to manage a team that would contend for a division title and playoff spot, not what now appears to be a semi-rebuilding project.
Of course, it's not just about strategy or management philosophy when it comes to Guillen. He's a very strong personality with a brash approach that can clash with anyone working in a team environment.
If the Marlins had any doubt about what they were dealing with, Guillen demonstrated the problems his approach can cause when he made controversial remarks about Fidel Castro that provoked outrage and protests among the Cuban-American population in the Miami area.
That's not the sort of thing major-league teams typically have to contend with from their managers. Nor is Guillen's frequent outspokenness on his Twitter account.
So perhaps that's why the Marlins are considering the idea of hiring a first-time manager with no prior experience at any level of the game.
Someone who hasn't managed before and formed his own approach toward the job might be a bit more amenable to suggestions from the front office and upper management. He would almost certainly be less controversial.
The Marlins might not entertain such a move if not for the success that Robin Ventura has had with the Chicago White Sox and Mike Matheny has experienced with the St. Louis Cardinals. The White Sox are on track to win an AL Central title, while the Cards hold one of the wild-card spots in the National League.
However, the Marlins need to decide whether or not their current roster—or the roster they envision for 2013—is suitable for a first-time manager.
Though the White Sox broke in players like Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza this season, Ventura has a largely veteran team led by Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.
The Cardinals returned almost the same team—minus Albert Pujols, of course—that won the 2011 World Series. While the Cards don't run themselves, Matheny was in the position of just not messing up what was already working.
While Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle give the Marlins a veteran presence and have some young superstars in Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Johnson, this team doesn't have nearly the same makeup as the White Sox or Cardinals.
Is a younger team that will have several new faces next season in need of a seasoned manager, one who can provide some direction based on his years of experience in the dugout? Or is a first-time skipper, one who can grow with a team and be more patient with its development, better suited for what the Marlins have in mind?
Lowell would likely be a popular choice with Marlins fans. He's a Miami native and had an impressive seven-year career with the team.
However, Frisaro's article asks if Lowell even wants to manage. If it's something he hasn't previously considered or shown interest in, the Marlins might be better off going in a different direction.
Firing Guillen after just one season would be taking the housecleaning too far. He's already familiar with the team at hand and likely already has ideas on what changes and improvements can be made for next season.
During his tenure with the White Sox, Guillen showed he was adaptable. He took a team that was dependent on power and big offense and remade it into a team capable of winning games with "small ball," pitching and defense.
Guillen is capable of doing the same thing in Miami if he has the cooperation of the front office. That sort of team might play better in the spacious Marlins Park as well.
While the temptation to clear out most everyone associated with the disappointment of the 2012 season is understandable, the Marlins are already set to make big changes in the front office. The organization needs stability somewhere, and that comes with the coaching staff.
Guillen should get at least one year to prove he can manage the sort of team that the Marlins want to build for the future.
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