NASHVILLE -- New Marlins manager Mike Redmond said his experience as a rookie for the 1998 team that was dismantled has prepared him for this season.
Mike Redmond is no stranger to bad baseball with low expectations and an angry fan base. So the situation he inherits now as the newest manager of the Marlins is not a ton different than the one he experienced as a rookie catcher with the 1998 Marlins.
That miserable bunch lost 108 games one season after the franchise won its first World Series and was promptly sent through a shredder.
“We had 19 rookies,” Redmond recalled of the lousiest team in Marlins history. “There were games where we’d be out of it in the first inning. We’d go into Atlanta with Smoltz and Maddux and Glavine and that lineup, with Andruw Jones and Chipper, and we’re down four or five to nothing in the first, walking off the field, going ‘What just happened?’ ”
Redmond remembers watching Jim Leyland, admiring how he went about managing in what was an impossible situation.
“Never once — never once did I ever sense that he had given up in a game or was just like, ‘Hey. We lost 100 games already. What’s another one?’ Not one time. He honestly managed every game to win, and that was so impressive to me.”
Redmond intends to borrow on that experience when he makes his major league managing debut next season with a Marlins team that was torn to bits in a massive roster overhaul. Fans in South Florida are angry once more. Expectations are again low. It’s another rebuild.
Redmond, 41, the youngest manager in the majors, will draw from his past to create the foundation for the future. He intends to tell his players about that 108-loss ’98 team and the 98-loss outfit in ’99 so that they’ll see there is ample reason for hope.
He’ll talk about the nobodies on those teams and how they blossomed a few years later into World Series winners with the 2003 club. They’ll be his main source of inspiration and motivation.
“You think about all the guys that came out of that situation — Mike Lowell, Derrek Lee, Luis Castillo, Alex Gonzalez — I mean, you go through those names of guys that were tremendous players,” Redmond said, reeling off the names of his ’98 and ’99 Marlins teammates. “How many World Series rings are on that list of names?”
Another question is asked of Redmond about the ’98 team and how it might relate to the task ahead of him.
“Are you trying to like write out my whole Spring Training speech?,” Redmond responded, laughing. “Is that the way you want it to go?”
When Redmond was hired in early November, the Marlins had not yet blown up the roster with their 12-player trade with Toronto that effectively ripped the guts out of the team. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle went bye-bye in a salary dump reminiscent of the ’97 team’s dismantling. He said he was given advance warning by Marlins management that changes were forthcoming and was prepared for the news. “Well, I’ve gotten this question many times, and I mean, obviously, I knew that the organization was not happy with the 93 losses and I knew there was going to be some changes,” Redmond said. “I knew that going in.”
Redmond also knows going in that the summer nights ahead could be long and painful ones, just like those in ’98 and ’99. But he’s dealt with that before, as a player. And he knows where it could all lead.
“When we won in 2003, for the guys that were there the whole time -- which was quite a few of us — that’s what was probably the most satisfying,” he said. “We were there in the darkest days, and then we we won it, and it made it so satisfying.”
Yunel Escobar told Marlins officials he was fine with switching from shortstop to third base when they met two weeks ago. But after Escobar had a change of heart and told them he would be “uncomfortable” with the move, they decided to trade him.
The Marlins did just that late Monday, sending Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor-league infielder Derek Dietrich.
“He said he was comfortable playing third base,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said of his initial conversation with Escobar, who was acquired in the Toronto trade.
“He came back with us and said he was not comfortable playing third base, so we were not comfortable moving forward with him as our third baseman.”
As a result, the Marlins are now actively searching for a third baseman. It will more than likely come from the free agent market.
Escobar was due to make $5 million next season. Beinfest said that money would be reinvested in the big league roster, more than likely with a third baseman.
The Marlins are expected to participate in Thursday’s Rule V draft for the first time since 2008, perhaps with as many as two selections. The Marlins nabbed Dan Uggla in the 2005 Rule V draft but haven’t had success with it since. One area that the Marlins might address in the draft is bullpen help.