ATLANTA -- One day after Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria traded barbs with one of the team’s former managers, closer Heath Bell took a swipe at the current one.
“It’s hard to respect a guy that doesn’t tell you the truth or doesn’t tell you face to face,” said Bell of manager Ozzie Guillen during his weekly radio show with WQAM’s Dan Sileo. “We need a guy that leads us and that everybody respects and looks up to.”
On Sunday, Loria called former manager Fredi Gonzalez “classless” for saying, “There’s not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough.”
As the Marlins stagger to the finish, black smoke billows over the wreckage of a team that’s hit rock bottom.
“The whole place has become a zoo,” said one player of the Marlins.
Said another: “When you’re losing, fingers point everywhere.”
But not all players on the Marlins agree with Bell.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, several team leaders had the opposite opinion than Bell, saying Guillen not only commands respect of the clubhouse, but has been put into an unwinnable situation that no manager could alter.
And one veteran said Guillen “has not lost the clubhouse.”
“We’re not even talking about this if we had won,” the player said. “Everybody’s not going to fall in love with everything someone does. Maybe there’s certain situations with certain players, didn’t care for the way he did it, but I think that’s more personal grudges as individuals.”
Said another player: “From Day 1, Ozzie’s been the way he was in Chicago [as White Sox manager]. There’s been no surprise. How do you play a chess game if, at the beginning, you’re missing a pawn, a rook and a bishop? You’re already at a disadvantage. You’re expected to lose.”
One player said he thought Guillen “would yell more” than he has.
And they say Guillen is not without faults. One player said he is too thin-skinned.
“You can’t joke with him,” he said.
Another said Guillen makes comments that are occasionally confusing and insulting.
“I think where he could do better is slowing down when he’s talking,” the player said. “I think sometimes he gets caught up in the moment and says stuff he doesn’t realize what he’s saying, and it can get taken the wrong way.”
But that player said, overall, he doesn’t have any issues with Guillen.
“Is there a dissatisfaction with players? He hasn’t done anything for me to say I’m dissatisfied. At least he knows my name, and the manager last year [Jack McKeon] didn’t even know my name.”
Guillen stripped Bell of the closer’s role in mid-July after the disgruntled reliever, one of the team’s big-ticket free agent purchases last winter, continued to cost his team games with one blown save after another.
The Marlins likely will try to unload Bell in a trade over the winter.
Guillen’s future with the team is also uncertain Sources said that Loria, unhappy with the team’s and manager’s performance — along with a lackadaisical culture that some in the organization believe exists and has resulted in sloppy play — is mulling whether to fire him. One national baseball writer wrote that Marlins executives perceive there to be a “disconnect” between Guillen and players.
“I stunk in April, plain and simple,” Bell said. “I said I stunk. I worked hard. I busted my butt. I think I’ve had a tremendous second half. I’m not closing. I just kept my mouth shut because I want to regain what I had.”
Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Marlins, had three blown saves in April, one in May and two in July and finished the first half with a 2-5 record and 6.75 ERA. Since conceding the closer’s job to Steve Cishek, Bell has gone 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA the second half.
Cishek successfully converted his first 10 save opportunities before his first blown save on Sept. 1.