Between the end of baseball’s regular schedule and the first set of post-season competition there often occur rewarding developments for true fans of the game. Here are two:
The Washington Nationals, favored by many cognoscenti to not only prevail at the top of the National league but go on to win the World Series, crashed and burned spectacularly. This development was greeted by rank-and-file fans as schadenfreudeically delicious, as the Gnats’ home media, fans, and seemingly the players themselves seemed to enter the season with an air of entitlement: think Hillary Clinton in 2008. The months-long meltdown was a thing of beauty, a slow-motion train wreck, its nadir the on-camera antics of clubhouse-cancer Jonathan Papsmear (added to the squad at the trading deadline) throttling probable MVP teammate Bryce Harper (a singular putz in his own right, but leave that aside for the moment) in the dugout.
The team’s executives knew exactly how to handle this. They sacked the manager, who had been under fire all year (despite winning Manager of the Year award in 2014) for his poor game-day strategies, lack of communication, and peculiar personnel moves. But they didn’t stop there. They fired everybody else: the 1st and 3rd base coaches, pitching and hitting coaches, bench and bullpen coaches, and defensive coordinator/advance coach. There were more pink slips in the locker room than at a drag queen burlesque show.
Great stuff, innit? Especially because not one of these condemned souls threw a single pitch, struck out a single time, made an error in the field, or played a third of an inning. But that’s baseball. While you can’t fire the whole team, evidently you can sack the entire management staff. After all you hired them.
Closer to home, the Miami Marlins finished the season not only failing to live up to the idiotic local media’s expectation of contending for a post-season berth, but also the more reasonable expectations (you’ve seen them here) of about a .500 season. They finished 71-91, losing 20 more games than they won, topping only the wretched Braves and even more wretched Phillies in the NL East. Their futile season may be distilled down to one anal/cranial inversion decision: firing the manager early in the season and replacing him with the General Manager, who had zero major league playing or managing experience.
Nobody in the media or (tiny) fan base with two synapses to rub together thought this was a good idea. Google it today and read the dozens of pointing and guffawing sportswriters and bloggers from coast to coast. Unfortunately, nobody in the Marlins’ ownership group had the required neural hardware to figure it out. But two days after the season mercifully ended, the Marlins announced a few changes, and addressed their peculiar mid-season manager switcheroo:
“Do I regret doing what we did? I think it’s hard to say that I don’t because it did not have the desired result on the field, it did not accomplish what we expected it to accomplish,” [Team President David] Samson said. “So, do I regret coming to that conclusion? Yes, I do. I regret everything that doesn’t work. —Sun Sentinel
My drinking buddy and retired sportswriter Vera Lu Senz can’t even pronounce this squirmy shrimp’s name without spitting in disgust — as evidenced above, just his way of speaking is to subject listeners to a fingernails-against-the-blackboard experience. But there’s two points to bringing it up: (1) As literally everybody pointed out at the time, this was a preposterously imbecilic maneuver, but this ownership team is so far removed from the game they truly never grasped it until it exploded in their faces, and (2) The exact same crew is right now casting about in search of a replacement. Why would fans reasonably expect a different, more successful outcome? At least they have a clear plan, right?
The club reportedly has already interviewed three candidates (Manny Acta, Bo Porter, Larry Bowa) for the next manager and intends to talk to as many as 20, not necessarily confining the search to individuals who previously managed in the major leagues.
“We just want the right person,” Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, said, adding the search “will be extensive, it will be exhaustive.
“I’m not going to say whoever our next manager is will fit any mold. We want a leader that will help this talented young core to the next level.”
Whoops. Evidently not. Except the search will be “extensive and exhaustive.”
We’re already exhausted, Mike.