The 2012 season is over for the Miami Marlins and it ended as perhaps the most disappointing in team history. A new name, a new ballpark, a number of big offseason acquisitions, a former World Series winning manager and it all resulted in a second straight last place finish. Miami finished just 69-93 which was three games worse than last season when the Marlins finished 72-90 and were still considered a small market team. The last place finish in the National League East gives Miami back-to-back last place finishes for the first time since 1998 and 1999.
Ozzie Guillen, who guided the Chicago White Sox to a world championship in 2005, took over as Miami’s manager prior to the beginning of the season. Guillen was expected to be the guy that helped bring all the new faces together. Instead, it was the worst season for Guillen in his nine years managing. While Miami floundered to the bottom of the standings, Guillen’s former team, the White Sox, remained alive in the playoff race until the final week of the season. The Boston Red Sox have already fired Bobby Valentine after just one season and many believe that there is a very good chance that the Marlins could do likewise with Guillen, a move that Guillen himself called “unfair”.
So does Ozzie Guillen deserve to be fired? All indications point to yes. The Miami Marlins acquired big name free agents in the offseason and went just 69-93, the Marlins’ worst record since 1999. It was a ball club in complete disarray for most of the season and Guillen shoulders much of that blame.
Guillen, a native Venezuelan, lost a lot of the largely Latin community early on during the season when Guillen made comments commending Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s ability to stay in power when so many wanted him dead. Guillen made the comments while managing his home games in a ballpark in a part of South Florida known as “Little Havana” for its large number of Cuban defectors, many of which lost family members at the hands of Castro. Guillen did give a heartfelt apology concerning his comments and was briefly suspended for his remarks.
Miami got off to just an 8-14 start this season, but things seemed to turn around as the calendar hit June. Miami was 31-23 and tied with the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East. But from there on, Miami finished an abysmal 38-70.
The blame however can not solely be put on Ozzie Guillen. A number of players contributed to Miami’s horrendous year. Hanley Ramirez was in the midst of a second straight sub-par year and according to more than one source was a clubhouse nightmare before he was sent to Los Angeles in late July. Heath Bell, a former All-Star closer who had at least 40 saves in each of his previous three seasons, simply could not get the job done during the first half of the season. Had it not been for a number of blown saves from Bell early on, Miami would have went into the All-Star break with a winning record and in the thick of things in the N.L. East.
First baseman Gaby Sanchez, who was the Marlins’ lone All-Star in 2011, was hitting below the .200 mark for most of the year and was sent to the minors before being traded to Pittsburgh. Catcher John Buck also struggled at the plate for much of the year. Outfielders Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio also fought to stay healthy for much of the season.
But it’s not just the 69-93 on the field that has Guillen on the hot seat. Guillen hasn’t seemed to have a real good grip on his club for much of the year. Guillen has also made less than colorful comments for much of the year not including the ones commending Castro. Many of the off-color statements have been aimed at his players and others at ownership.
Heath Bell told a radio show in South Florida that Guillen lied about Bell getting a shot at closing again. Bell later backed away from his comments. After the trades of both Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez, Guillen just shrugged his shoulders and made statements that were in reality, nice ways of saying “good riddance”. Granted, Sanchez and Ramirez were gone at the time of the comments, but Guillen’s remarks couldn’t have given the remaining players much confidence that they were viewed as valuable parts of the team by their manager.
Just last week, when asked about the potential of being fired at season’s end, Guillen took a shot a Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria. “If Jeffrey doesn’t think I’m doing the job I should do … it’s not the first time he’s fired a manager,” Guillen said. “Look yourself in the mirror and ask why so many (expletive) managers come through here.”
While calling a firing after one year unfair, Guillen doesn’t seem to care that much whether he is retained or not. But judging from his overall record, there’s no doubt that Guillen is a good baseball manager, but he may not have been the right fit for Miami. If given another year, Guillen could turn the Marlins around and end up being the right guy for Miami long term. It’s not uncommon for good teams, players or managers to have a bad year here or there, but Guillen has perhaps ruffled too many feathers along the way. Whether or not the Marlins retain Guillen may be known in the next week or so, but if Guillen is let go, it will be a firing that has been earned.
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