It might be helpful to think of the Miami Marlins as a theme park, one unlike any other you have ever visited. It is called Loria World. It is not the happiest place on earth. It might be the weirdest place on Earth. Arriving guests are not given a map, they are handed a Dramamine tablet.
There is only one ride at Loria World. It is a merry-go-round. It is scary because, one minute it is spinning smoothly and the next minute it slams to a halt or lurches in the opposite direction. You hear grinding gears, and screaming. See bodies flying.
Here is a fun fact about Loria World:
Giancarlo Stanton is 25 years old and Monday he began playing for his seventh different Marlins manager. In fairness, though, one of those was a one-game fill-in because of an ejection, so really, new guy Dan Jennings is only Stanton’s sixth manager in six seasons, after Fredi Gonzalez, Edwin Rodriguez, Jack McKeon The Sequel, Ozzie Guillen and the latest man catapulted off the wild ride, Mike Redmond.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, major-league leader in impatience, continues to regard stability like something you take penicillin to try to get rid of.
The Loria Marlins have hit the dubious quiniela with this latest managerial change, inviting national ridicule not only for the knee-jerk impatience of firing Redmond less than a quarter into the season, but also of hiring a replacement, Jennings, whose only previous managing experience was with the Davidson High School Warriors in Mobile, Alabama, in the mid-’80s.
Jennings, 54, informed his elderly mother he would be the new Marlins manager and this was her response, as he relayed it Monday:
“Are you crazy?” she said. “Have you lost your mind?”
More to the point, have the Marlins?
“There’s an element of surprise here for everybody,” admitted Jennings. “It is out of the box, I will not deny that.”
Notably, Loria did not attend the Jennings introductory media session Monday, leaving club president David Samson and president of baseball ops Michael Hill to explain the franchise’s latest bizarre behavior.
Samson told me he and Hill presented the idea of hiring Jennings to Loria, but there is little doubt the impetus for the change itself came from the top. The impatience is classic Loria.
To be clear, the change is premature. Miami was 16-22 entering Monday night’s home game. The Fish had rebounded reasonably well from the 3-11 start that almost got Redmond fired in April, despite not having ace pitcher Jose Fernandez, missing starter Henderson Alvarez for a month to an injury, seeing left fielder Christian Yelich struggle and watching closer Steve Cishek implode — none of those things Redmond’s fault.
“We felt we needed a different voice to get these guys going,” Hill said.
Even more than different voice, of course, the Marlins need Fernandez back, Alvarez winning, Yelich hitting and a more consistent bullpen. Stanton, with 11 home runs, and Dee Gordon, batting .420, were about the only two guys consistently carrying their weight.
“I feel bad,” Cishek said of Redmond’s dismissal. “It’s not his fault.”
The thing is, the real point isn’t whether Redmond deserved to go this soon or whether hiring Jennings is lunacy or genius. The point is that nothing the Marlins do under Loria’s aegis earns much benefit of doubt.
Funny enough, the rudderless Marlins had rewarded Redmond with a two-year contract extension before the season.
That means Miami is now paying three managers: Guillen, still, Redmond and now Jennings.
Of course, the Marlins are getting Jennings for free, in effect. He had been their general manager, so they needn’t even buy him a new nameplate. Just tape over the word “general.”
It’s actually a low-risk move for the club, if you don’t count the national media ridicule or the “here we go again” head-shaking by beleaguered fans.
Worst-case scenario, Miami continues to not make the playoffs, its annual lot ever since the 2003 World Series, and Jennings proves to be an interim guy who quietly slips back into his general manager’s role after the season.
Best case? The manager change lends the proverbial spark that kick-starts the season and Loria gets to looks like a mad genius, just like in ’03 when he fired Jeff Torborg — also after a 16-22 start — and McKeon was sprung serendipitously from mothballs to lead a championship charge.
Stranger things have happened. Jennings knows the roster as much as anybody, having helped put it together along with Hill. Besides, managing isn’t exactly rocket science. As long as Jennings gets the double-switch down pat and doesn’t include a designated hitter on his lineup card, what could go wrong? Miami promoted advance scout Mike Goff, an experienced dugout guy, to be bench coach and sit beside Jennings until the new manager loses the training wheels.
Hey, the mathematical odds alone might favor this move panning out.
After so many managerial changes, who knows, maybe Loria is just plain due to have another one of them actually work.