The Managing the Marlins Debate… Reeling In A Winner In Miami

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

It seems that the best laid plans of Marlins and men often go awry, and that is exactly what happened to the Miami baseball club during its search for a new manager.

Once again the Florida Marlins have a made a spectacle of themselves, this time through a very public firing of team manager Fredi Gonzalez, and an even more publicized courtship of potential manager Bobby Valentine. Valentine, a longtime friend of team owner Jeffrey Loria, seemed like a lock for the job, so much so that he withdrew from consideration for the Baltimore Orioles managerial position. Ultimately, the team did not land Valentine, and now the Marlins are left with a coaching staff lacking major league experience and a public perception of being a disorganized ball club.

But the saga of Valentine’s interview process is not the focus of today’s debate as much as the question, “Is the Florida Marlins job even worth taking if YOU are Bobby Valentine?”

Does a fish breathe water? (Well, actually, it sort of derives oxygen while passing water through its gills, but you get where I’m going with this…)

Of course the job is worth taking. If it were not an enviable position the Marlins would not have a list of ten candidates to interview, nor would the team feel comfortable passing on a guy like Valentine, which they did.

Five years after entering the league the Marlins won the World Series in 1997. Just six years later the team did it again, in 2003. I am certainly no Nostradamus, but even I can see a pattern here with 2010 being seven years since the last championship. Even if the Marlins do not win it all this season, this talented team is due, and it has the potential to be among the best clubs in baseball.

If you don’t believe me, perhaps you should ask my competitor in this debate, Loyal Homer, who highlighted the team as his pick for the 2010 MLB Sleeper earlier this season. Or perhaps you prefer a more statistical and data driven argument to persuade you that the Marlins are the real deal. Then I would suggest you take the word of Sport Geek, who declared the fish the “best rotation for the money.” So, in the immortal words of LeVar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it!” (I bet you are humming the Reading Rainbow theme right now.)

Obviously, the Marlins have a fair share of drawbacks – most notably a thrifty payroll and a dwindling fan base set against the backdrop of stadium transition drama. But, are these really even obstacles to success?

The Marlins have been able to do terrific things with a small payroll in the past, and the amount the team spends on salaries has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2010 the Marlins rank 26th in the majors in total team salary, with a payroll of approximately $55,641,500. While that number may seem paltry compared with the Yankees more than $206M roster, it still affords the Fish a roster of talented players. Guys like Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Jorge Cantu are leading the charge in 2010 and keeping the Marlins competitive.

The standings don’t lie. At this writing the Marlins are 7.5 games out of first place in the NL East. Compare that with the opportunities that Valentine, and other managers seeking a position in the big leagues, have… and it starts to look like a great opportunity. The Baltimore Orioles were 24 games out of first and ranked dead last in the AL East. The Marlins are in a better position than many, trailing the division leader by a smaller margin than 12 other MLB teams. The Marlins are no doubt a competitive team. Pair that with the fact that Valentine could use his friendship to leverage Loria to acquire a couple of difference making players via trade or free agency, and we are talking about a seriously dangerous team that could compete for the division title. Or even the Wild Card.

Similarly, the fact that the Marlins are not drawing the biggest gate receipts, in baseball is a blessing in disguise. It allows them a bit of anonymity in an otherwise big market city. It seems that the Marlins don’t get near the media exposure that other large East Coast cities get, or even as much as the Miami Dolphins seem to draw. That allows the team to fly under the radar. Players can actually focus on baseball without the distractions of a TMZ reporter asking them who they are dating or how their dinner was. The Marlins have snuck up on the league twice before and a manager would be a fool not to think they can do it again. The fans and the exposure will come. The new stadium in Little Havana alone promises that, but there is no better way to put butts in seats than bringing home some postseason hardware. The low profile of the Marlins gives them a good chance to do that in an otherwise high exposure division.

Even if the Marlins passed on Valentine, the position definitely has worth. It has a lot of advantages to coaching in some of the cities that have vacancies (yes, I mean you Baltimore), and even some places that aren’t searching for a new manager. But who knows the door may not be closed on old Bobby yet. He could always try again later, with a pair of shades and a mustache (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you HAVE to click this link). The point is, regardless of its perception, the job has value. Most candidates would be a fool not to take it.

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