Ozzie Guillen spent the past few weeks in Spain, unwinding from a long and arduous baseball season by taking in the bullfights. On Tuesday, it was he who was gored, fired by the Marlins after just one season as their manager.
Guillen received the news in a phone call from Marlins executive Larry Beinfest just after his plane landed in Miami, exactly 20 days after the Marlins finished with a record of 69-93, good for their second last-place finish in a row.
The Marlins also will not retain four coaches who had expiring contracts, including pitching coach Randy St. Claire and hitting coach Eduardo Perez as they sought to turn around a franchise that has not enjoyed a winning season since 2009 or reached the postseason since 2003.
The decision was announced just 13 months after the Marlins traded two minor-leaguers to the Chicago White Sox to get Guillen and signed the manager to a four-year deal worth $10 million.
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Beinfest said the firing of Guillen was an “organizational decision,” though sources said the final say rested with owner Jeffrey Loria.
“We all share in this,” said Beinfest, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations. “This is not a fun day for me — certainly not for Ozzie or Jeffrey or anybody involved.”
Beinfest said the Marlins would begin the search for a new manager, something that is hardly foreign to an organization that goes through them at a staggering clip.
The next manager will be the fifth for the Marlins since June 2010, and eighth since Loria gained ownership of the franchise in 2002. Only the Seattle Mariners have had as many managers in that time.
Bobby Valentine, who was Loria’s choice to replace fired manager Fredi Gonzalez in 2010, is “definitely not” a candidate to replace Guillen, according to a source. Nor is former Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell, who has also been mentioned as a possible hire. Lowell said in an email that he was not interested in managing at this time.
The Marlins intend to interview several candidates for the job. One of them could be former Marlins backup catcher Mike Redmond.
Guillen joins a growing list of managerial casualties with the Marlins, a list that includes current New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Braves manager Gonzalez.
The outspoken Guillen, who won a World Series title during his eight seasons with the White Sox, failed to deliver for the Marlins, on the field or off. In April, Guillen landed in hot water when he was quoted making favorable comments about Fidel Castro. His punishment: a five-game suspension.
After a strong May, the Marlins went into a tailspin and traded off many of their top players, including Hanley Ramirez. What remained was a makeshift team that struggled greatly.
“We knew we were handicapping Ozzie a little bit in the second half,” Beinfest acknowledged of the decision to turn over the underperforming roster.
Sources said Guillen was judged solely on the first half for his on-field performance. Off the field, sources said there were “myriad reasons” for Guillen’s fall from grace. Among them: his failure to connect with the community, his lack of clubhouse leadership, his failure to motivate, and his inability to get along with everyone from Loria on down to members of the front office.
Before season’s end, Guillen openly accepted blame for the team’s dismal performance. He did not respond to voice or text messages seeking a response.
Caught by surprise
“Pretty surprised,” said catcher John Buck, who was informed of Guillen’s firing by a reporter. “Wow. We’re the product on the field that ultimately cost him his job. We’re at fault.”
Sources said the Marlins at midseason realized they had three critical problems that had to be excised. One, Ramirez, was traded to the Dodgers before the July 31 trade deadline. A second, failed closer Heath Bell, was traded Saturday to Arizona.
On Tuesday, the third member of that troika — Guillen — was canned.
In addition to Perez and St. Claire, the Marlins also will not retain first base coach Gary Thurman and bench coach Joey Cora, whose contracts also are expiring. Former Marlins infield coach Perry Hill is expected to rejoin the staff.