Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Something's Not Right With The Marlins

  • Change the dynamic and you change the results:

It's no secret that I'm an admirer of the way the Marlins run their franchise. They're ruthless; unsentimental; smart; gutsy; and use every tool at their disposal to find players and win under a budget.

They've been one of the best run franchises in baseball since Jeffrey Loria took over and the results on the field----while spending a comparative pittance to other franchises----are nonpareil. Stat zombies don't know what to say or do about the Marlins because they don't fall into the twisted narrative of their so-called "revolution". Because of Moneyball, a new day was supposed to dawn as teams shunned old-school scouting and focused on "objective analysis".

This, of course, was a fantasy.

The silliness that a human being playing a difficult game could be boiled down to the sum of his statistical parts is one of the reasons for the legion of failures that were under the mistaken impression that because a strategy worked on paper, it would work in reality.

The Marlins have been the ghost in that machine for years.

But there was a slight alteration in strategy for the Marlins in the winter of 2009-2010 and their sluggish start may be the residue of that change of course.

In what can only be described as a bizarre bit of behind-the-scenes machinations, Major League Baseball and the Players Association stepped in with the Marlins and essentially forced them to spend more money on payroll. What made this so disconcerting is that teams like the Pirates have been operated in such slipshod (I'm being kind) fashion that if ever there was an organization that needed an intervention, it's the Pirates.

For what possible reason was there to mess around with the Marlins? All they've done in recent years is win within a budget and not only singlehandedly destroy the Moneyball template, but also make MLB's attempts to classify the haves and have-nots as so pronounced and relegated to their collective fates that the only way to address the problem was to institute some form of salary constraint for all.

Maybe that's the problem.

No one seems to know why the Marlins accepted the terms of the deal with MLB to raise their payroll. Speculation centered on the team not using the haul from revenue sharing as it was intended----to spend on players. But what business is that of MLB? If a team can use their own smarts to succeed where others fail, why should they be punished for it? It's strangely similar to an inventor coming up with a product with which no one can compete due to his creative genius, but the government steps in because they feel it's "unfair" to the less savvy.

Like something out of Ayn Rand, the miserable bottom-feeders like the Pirates are made to look worse because of their lack of aptitude and ingenuity because of the Marlins, and the Marlins were punished in the pocketbook over the winter and may be suffering on the field as a direct result.

In years past, the Marlins definitely would've traded Dan Uggla and possibly Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu; they also would've listened to offers for Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.

It's what they do.

But because of the newly instituted decree that they had to spend more money, they kept almost the entire 87-win squad from 2009 intact.

Was that the genesis of the slow start?

There was an underlying energy that was created by the constant change with the Marlins. It was an understood dynamic that the players----young and old----would get a chance to play; replenish their careers; burnish their resumes; and earn money down-the-line if they performed, most likely elsewhere.

Because they held the team together, have the Marlins slipped into a comfort zone that's affecting their on-field play?

Their bullpen has been shaky; the rotation up-and-down; Cody Ross hasn't started hitting homers yet; and Chris Coghlan is in the middle of a horrific sophomore slump. The Marlins have the players to compete and with the National League appearing so laden with parity, they'll be in the race throughout; but the way the front office utilizes preemptive strikes to shake the club's foundation, did they miss an important element in their success by standing pat?

After a very public vacillation on the job status of manager Fredi Gonzalez last winter (Bobby Valentine was on their radar), is the front office going to do something drastic if they continue to struggle? Gonzalez has done a great job from what I've seen and firing him would've been crazy; but the mere consideration of replacing him is part of the Marlins apparatus. (If they do dismiss Gonzalez, he's managing the Braves next year. Bank on it.)

You have to wonder if they're thinking the same thing----that they've sabotaged a vital component of their success by keeping everything together. You also have to wonder what diabolical scheme Loria and Larry Beinfest have cooking to do something about it.

  • And who expected the Mariners to hit anyway?

We'll ignore the Milton Bradley tantrum. It's Milton Bradley. As long as he doesn't commit an arrestable offense, his employer's ahead of the game; but Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is desperately seeking offensive help; the club isn't scoring, nor is it winning----ESPN Story.

Is this a shock?

Did anyone expect this team to hit? With Ken Griffey Jr as the primary DH? Casey Kotchman at first base? While most of the attention has been focused on Bradley and that he hasn't hit, he was always a roll of the dice hoping to come up sevens and a conduit to get rid of Carlos Siva's contract in a mutually beneficial deal with the Cubs. The bigger culprit to the Mariners offensive ineptitude has been Chone Figgins, who's been awful.

In what position would the Mariners be now had they let the Griffey reunion go after last season and signed Jim Thome in his stead?

I can't believe that Zduriencik wanted Griffey back; it had to be pressure from ownership to re-sign him; but it can't be ignored now that Thome has 5 homers and a .596 OPS at $1.5 million guaranteed; Griffey has zero homers and a .494 OPS at $2.35 million. Add in the "fear factor" and you see that they should've signed Thome. No one's concerned about Ken Griffey Jr anymore; the same cannot be said of Thome. Even at age 39, he has to be accounted for as an offensive threat.

The Mariners problems stem from a lack of offense that could've been addressed very easily by letting Griffey go and signing Thome. It's sentimentality that have put them in this situation; and it was a mistake.

  • Viewer Mail 5.5.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Tyler Kepner and Javier Vazquez:

I thought Tyler's article was very reasonable. What would be the worst thing about Vazquez pitching at Fenway? He'd lose - maybe even badly. So what? It's not the playoffs. Maybe he'd even do OK. I think it's fine that he's been skipped if it means working harder on his mechanics, but honestly I could have gone with either decision. It's only the beginning of May - too early to give up on the guy.

I had no problem with the article itself aside from the absence of a clear-cut stand on the issue. It was shrouded in the fog of implication that they should let Vazquez pitch without coming out and saying it openly.

The Yankees are making the right decision in skipping him. He's actually pitched well at Fenway in his career----stats----but never as a Yankee, and in his current state? They'd run the risk of mentally losing the guy completely; then they'd really be screwed. The best course is to push him back and let him clear his head; and that's what they're doing.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE running the show and the Yankees:

Ah, yes. The Family. Humbled. Indeed.

RE: The Yankees/Vazquez/Kepner drama... they wouldn't be the Yankees if they weren't stirring up shit just to stir up shit, right? Even back when they were no good (the Mattingly Days) there was always some sort of drama following them around. They're the high maintenance drama queens of the game.

That being said, we need that... the game needs that. I think.

I'm counting on you to...handle things just as I would. I have complete faith.

I have no issue with inter-organizational drama; a lack of controversy generally emanates from passionless play; or worse, ambivalence. The only time it's a distraction is if the team doesn't win. This Yankee drama pales in comparison to the Steinbrenner years; plus there's always Alex Rodriguez and the ARod dramedy, probably due for a herpes-like flareup sooner rather than later. (I have no personal experience in that matter. For the record.)

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

Listen to my Podcast appearance with Sal at SportsFanBuzz from Friday----Prince 2010BaseballGuideCover.gifon the Podcast link.

You can't handle the truth!!!!

Also, my book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here.

I stand behind every...single...word...I...say.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Figgins, Kotchman, Griffey, Bradley...

It's a shame because I've watched the M's pitching staff throw some all-for-naught gems already this season.

She-Fan said...

I'm raising my hand on your question about who thought the Mariners would win games. I did. With that pitching staff and the addition of Figgins, I thought they'd be competitive in that division. Apparently not!

the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

(I never really considered doing Twitter etc etc. But if you think there's a place for me...I'll check into it post-haste. Good lookin out. thnx)