The Miami Marlins fired their manager Mike Redmond Sunday following their 0-6 loss to the Braves and in less than 24 hours the club will announce his replacement: General Manager Dan Jennings. Wait, what?
dan jennings is indeed the next marlins manager, according to sources.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 18, 2015
1. How does that work?
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, apoplectic, tries to explain:
The choice of Jennings, confirmed this morning by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, will be announced at 11 a.m. ET on Monday. The Marlins previously have discussed Jennings as a candidate when making in-season changes, according to major-league sources. So at least for them – or should I say their owner, Jeffrey Loria – this is not crazy talk.
For the rest of the industry, it will be. And I am quite certain that if this move happens, many will consider it a mockery, even by Marlins’ standards.
Jennings, if you don’t know, is the Marlins’ general manager. He started his front-office career as a scout in 1986, joined the Marlins as vice-president of personnel in 2002, became their GM – a position he long coveted – after the 2013 season.
His only previous managing experience, if you want to call it that, was after he graduated college at Davidson H.S. in Mobile, Al., according to his Wikipedia biography.
So, why the heck would Jennings become the Marlins’ manager, on an interim basis or otherwise, when by any reasonable measure he is not qualified for the position?
The answer to how on earth this could possibly happen, both according to Rosenthal and to probably most of baseball, is derp. Derp derp. The Marlins. That's how this happens.
But let's brush aside how dumb and crass and unprofessional this all feels and answer the remaining big questions:
2. How bad could Dan Jennings be?
It depends. The last time a Major League team hired someone with so little big-league coaching/dugout experience was when the Royals hired Trey Hillman out of Nippon. I'm going to be generous here: it was a gloriously horrible shitshow of epic proportions.
There are a number of sad stories that come out of the Royals-Hillman era, but none that so identify why experience is needed as the anecdotal story of Hillman's early bump with #Leadership. The anecdote goes like this, from Joe Posnanski:
One of the first things Hillman did as new manager of the Royals was call a team meeting at home plate after a spring training game. He then yelled at his players in full view of the public -- while people were filing out of the stadium -- for some base running blunders they had made. Now, some people LOVED that. It showed guts. It showed that he was serious about discipline. Moore would say that he watched Hillman pull that Herb Brooks stunt and thought, "He's going to be one of the great ones."
And that's fine but ... many of the players lost respect for him. They thought he was showboating -- he certainly could have yelled at them behind closed doors. They thought he was compensating -- he was ACTING the way he imagined a big league manager acts rather than BEING a big league manager. Mostly, they thought he was small-time. A Little League coach. And whatever point he was trying to get across, well, it didn't take.
Welp. That's why you want someone with Major League experience. So you can get this, um, Mickey Mouse poo out of your system when nobody is looking.
It's not just as easy as delegating to the coaches, hoping Jennings isn't Hillman, and praying for the best. He could be pretty bad -- and if we're being honest, the likely scenario is that he will be.
3. What's the big deal, don't we all agree that managers don't do much anyway?
It's true. The consensus I choose to listen to says that the best manager you can get is the one that hurts your team the least. It is rare indeed to find a manager that actively helps your club win games. Instead, the best managers are the ones who get out of the way, who don't tinker with players, who set a lineup, who delegate to their coaches.
By all accounts most of what a manager really does and what should be considered important all happens off the field -- managing the various personalities and culture clashes in the clubhouse, knowing when a player is injured more than he is letting on, when to give players a day off, decisions like that.
What can save the Marlins?
It makes me and my many sabermetrically-informed friends uncomfortable to say so, but the problem with managers is that so much of what they do can't really be measured. Not things like "don't bunt so often" or "knowing when to pull your starter" (though that is certainly important) so much as things like "clubhouse harmony" and "helping players out of a funk" and "not being an embarrassment while waddling out to the mound like a goofball wearing a player's uniform for some reason."
4. What's the best case scenario here?
Here's the best case scenario: Dan Jennings is a baseball savant. He gets the rhythm and flow of a game over and above his acumen for managing contracts. His experience with those contracts gives him some special insight into the players' minds and perhaps will be used to build those day-to-day relationships needed for managing a 162-game season.
On top of all this, he gets players back from injury (Fernandez), the team has some positive regression (Morse, Latos), and the team gets better on its own without much tinkering.
His tenure is an interim one and one in which Owner Jeffrey Loria uses to find a highly-qualified candidate after a thorough and fair hiring process which includes a number of minority candidates. That person takes an already-improving club to the playoffs and they make a deep run behind Giancarlo Stanton's glorious bat and in front of Jose Fernandez's glorious smile.
It could totally happen!
5. And the worst?
Here's the worst case scenario: Dan Jennings is who we think he is, a Loria lackey with zero managing, big league, coaching, or dugout experience. He uses his experience negotiating contracts to lord over players, alienating them from day one.
He's a megalomaniac who thinks he can walk right into a managing job -- hey, no problem! -- with no one the wiser. He doesn't know how to delegate (why would anyone think a GM that agrees to become the manager would have a problem with delegation?) and supercedes his coaches with his own dumbpinions.
By ignoring his coaches and alienating his players, he blows through the talent on the roster, blows out a few elbows, and possibly ruins a top 3 talent in the game with Stanton. The club collapses, loses the rest of their games this year, the few remaining fans never come back.
If you want a ray of Florida sunshine on this more likely of scenarios, consider this: it will take an apocalypse like this worst case scenario to solve this problem once and for all. MLB would eventually have to step in and force Loria to sell, even if that means the club moves away from Miami. I know which one I'm rooting for.