Eight months after stunning the baseball world by storming through the winter meetings in Dallas and spending $190 million on big-ticket free agents, the Marlins smolder like twisted wreckage at the bottom of the standings.
“We set ourselves up for it,’’ acknowledged Marlins president David Samson of a grand makeover that failed miserably. “We paraded around Dallas. We signed those guys. We opened a new ballpark. We said we’re ‘all in.’ ’’
Not only have the Marlins been a bust on the field, but attendance at their new ballpark has fallen short of expectations, creating an uncertain future on and off the field.
Questions outnumber answers.
Will the Marlins cut payroll next season? Samson wouldn’t say. Will heads roll, both in the front office and within the coaching staff? Samson said nothing can be ruled out. Will season-ticket holders abandon ship in the second season of new Marlins Park? Samson said, at this point, it’s difficult to know.
But one thing Samson promised was that every mistake — and there were plenty — will be examined when team executives convene with owner Jeffrey Loria following the season in October.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting October, a little different than the October we envisioned,’’ Samson said of the team’s annual post-mortem. “Jeffrey’s going to look at everything. I mean, he’s angry, and he should be. It’s hard to think you put a plan together and almost every part of the plan does not work out, either by injury or non-performance.’’
The team’s biggest mistake, Samson said: overestimating the team’s talent level and believing it to be a playoff contender that would lead to the Marlins’ first postseason appearance in nine years. Instead, the Marlins struggled simply to stay afloat.
The result: a massive sell-off before the July 31 trading deadline in which the Marlins dealt Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Randy Choate, Gaby Sanchez and Edward Mujica.
Due to trades and a sudden rash of injuries, only two position players from the team’s opening night lineup — shortstop Jose Reyes and catcher John Buck — were on the field for the Marlins during a weekend series in Washington.
Just by trading Ramirez, the Marlins lopped off $38 million in salary commitments over the next 21/2 seasons. But Samson said the Ramirez trade wasn’t about the money.
“Not one trade that was done was payroll-motivated,’’ Samson said. “It was chemistry-motivated. It was winning-motivated.’’
Who’s to blame?
“I think the most responsibility falls on me,’’ Samson said before ranking president of baseball operations Larry Beinest and general manager Michael Hill second and third, respectively, in the blame department.
Asked if Loria should also be held responsible, Samson declined comment. Loria was heavily involved in the signing of struggling closer Heath Bell, as well as the failed pursuit of free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
When asked about the performance of manager Ozzie Guillen, who is in the first year of a four-year contract, and the rest of the coaching staff, Samson said it would be up to Loria to evaluate those jobs.
“We gave them the players and they have used them in the exact way we envisioned them being used,’’ Samson said of the coaching staff. “Will changes be made? I don’t have an answer for that. That’s something Jeffrey will address because that’s his purview."
Samson also was asked if player development would be examined given the high number of first-round draft picks who have flopped, leaving the minor-league system thin on high-ceiling talent.
“The first-round picks have not worked. The rest of the draft has,’’ Samson said. “It just so happens that the first-round picks have not been good. The question is, what happened to some of those guys? I can definitely grant you that’s a serious question worth looking at. From draft to performance, there’s been some regression.’’
Samson said he hopes the fan base will look at the season as a fluke.
“That’s sort of the message to the fans, that this year has to be an anomaly, because it can’t be more than one year in a row, everything can go wrong,’’ he said.
Still, after all that has happened, Samson said he has no regrets about the “all-in’’ strategy that failed.
“I wouldn’t change one thing,’’ Samson said. “What we did was exactly right, but it was wrong.’’
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