There are only 30 Major League managerial gigs. If you aspire to leading a team at the highest level, especially as a young manager looking to make his mark, a vacancy at any one of them is a huge potential opportunity.
Mike Redmond was announced as the new manager of the Miami Marlins last week and he will come to the job full of enthusiasm and a belief that he can succeed where others have failed.
However, joining up with the Marlins is not the easiest of starts for a rookie manager.
There are great surprises and sorry disappointments in every MLB season and the Miami Marlins were firmly in the latter category in 2012.
This was supposed to be the start of a wonderful new era for baseball in Miami. The team was finally moving into a new ballpark, they splashed the cash on the free agent market by signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell and they set it all off with a new name, logo and uniform.
The message was clear: the days of the Florida Marlins fielding cheap teams in front of small crowds was over.
The first statement of intent in the Marlins’ magical offseason was the heist of a big-name manager from another team. Ozzie Guillen was taken from the Chicago White Sox and given a lucrative four-year/$10m contract. In one of his first acts when the 2012 season began, gaffe-prone Guillen offended the sizeable local Cuban-American community by stating his admiration for Fidel Castro. He survived calls for him to be sacked but was given a five-game suspension by his team.
Perhaps we should have realised straight away that the dream was going to turn into a nightmare.
The hope and optimism quickly disappeared. After all the pre-season changes, the Marlins ended up losing 3 more games than they had in 2011 (69-93 rather than 72-90). They finished the season with Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante all playing for other teams after being traded away and the rumours came true soon after the season ended when Guillen’s tenure was brought to an abrupt end.
The Marlins are not shy about giving managers the boot. The Atlanta Braves won 14 of their 18 games against the Marlins in the season just gone, on their way to a Wild Card berth, and manager Fredi Gonzalez must have found each victory a little sweeter than the standard variety considering he was kicked to one side by the Marlins’ top brass during the 2010 season, only to be picked up by the Braves to succeed the legendary Bobby Cox.
Gonzalez’s predecessor didn’t have trouble finding another job when he was sacked either. Joe Girardi won the National League Manager of the Year award in his first – and only – year in charge of Florida in 2006. Girardi got into an argument with owner Jeffrey Loria and was discarded, an episode that damaged Girardi’s standing so badly that he became the New York Yankees manager in 2008 and has been in situ ever since, capturing a World Series along the way.
It’s enough to make you think that maybe it’s not the manager, ballpark and uniforms that are the problem with the Marlins.
You can’t sack an owner though, so it falls to Mark Redmond to battle against the madness and to turn the team around. There is talent on the roster – the disappointing Heath Bell has already been jettisoned to the D-Backs – and good reason to believe that improvement is a very realistic proposition so long as expectations are suitably restrained.
Redmond was the back-up catcher on the 2003 World Series-winning Marlins team and by all accounts knows the owner and president of baseball operations, Larry Beinfest, well so he will be going into the situation with his eyes wide open.
This is also a man who, during his playing career with the Marlins, tried to help his team get out of a slump in form by taking batting practice stark naked.
Maybe Redmond has just enough madness in him to make the Marlins’ madhouse a winner again.