Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Marlins Find Their Manager - For Now

In a surprise move, the Florida Marlins' owner, Jeffrey Loria, announced that Edwin Rodriguez, who made history as the first manager from Puerto Rico, would manage the team through the end of the season. The Marlins had been actively pursuing Bobby Valentine since Fredi Gonzalez was fired last week. Indications are that negotiations with Valentine bogged down and then dissolved.

Loria, who indicated that he wanted to quickly turn the season around last week when Gonzalez was fired, apparently learned that a quick fix with a big name wasn't going to be as easy as it sounded. One can only speculate that either Valentine wanted more money, more control or more autonomy than Loria was going to give him. Valentine, known as a disciplinarian and strategist, would have been a nice choice to lead a young and sometimes undisciplined team. But that's not going to happen. So where does this leave the Marlins?

Guys like Valentine and Buck Showalter, both now working as analysts on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, will only take a managerial position if they get to run the show. They are both immensely experienced with big reputations who also happen to have good and cushy jobs. It would take a heck of a sweet deal to pry them into the right situation. The Fan can imagine that with a new stadium in their near future, Loria would have loved to go into that era of the team's history with a big name manager. But Loria either doesn't have the money to spend right now or doesn't like to spend it.

Which works out perfectly with a guy like Edwin Rodriguez. The Fan doesn't know, but can imagine that Rodriguez is still making whatever his salary was as a minor league manager. That would certainly work with Loria's MO. It looks like Loria has a cheap option for the rest of the 2010 season. But who is Edwin Rodriguez?

We know he was born in Puerto Rico as his history making position has been clear news and rightly so. He is 50 years old and he was once a prospect in the Yankees' organization. He did get cups of coffee in three separate seasons, the first one (1982) for the Yankees and the final two with the Padres (1983. 1985). He played in the minors until 1987 and then he retired.

After his retirement, Rodriguez scouted for the Twins for seven years. He started managing in the low minors in 2005 and rose through the ranks in the Marlins' system. He was given the reins of the Marlins' Triple A affiliate in December of 2008. Without doubt, he must have been part of some of the minor league careers of several of the young players on the Marlins.

During the Marlins game on local Florida television, they showed the scene in the dugout when Loria told his team about his decision to keep Rodriguez in the dugout for the rest of the season. It was quite touching to see the players' reactions as there was cheering and hugs all around. That's a good thing. The Marlins' broadcasters mentioned that several players told them that Martinez has already shown them that he is a great communicator and wants to learn from them as much as he wants his players to learn from him. That's also a good thing.

And the Marlins have beat the Mets two straight. Remarkably and fittingly, the series was scheduled long before to take place in Puerto Rico. How's that for a fairy tale story? Who knows, perhaps the Marlins have found a diamond in the rough in their new manager. The big question is on how the players will react when, young as they are, they screw up or act badly and Rodriguez has to make a stand. Will he hold the respect of his players? Time will tell.

But no matter how good Rodriguez might be, the facts still remain that the Marlins are a starter and a reliever short and play lousy defense. They will make dumb, young mistakes no matter who is managing. They have a lot of young talent but besides Helms, have little veteran stability. Rodriguez may add a win or three if he does a really good job. But it seems highly unlikely that he will take the Marlins as they are currently constructed much higher in the standings than Fredi Gonzalez would have. It would be a cool story if he did though.

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