Miami Marlins president David Samson discusses team’s manager situation
They’re hiring a new manager and bringing in the fences.
Now, if only the Marlins can figure out a way to win more games.
Coming off their sixth straight losing season, the Marlins on Tuesday returned to the drawing board in an effort to end a 13-year playoff drought, the longest in the National League.
“It’s very difficult to believe that we keep getting all these chances from Jeffrey,” Marlins president David Samson said of team owner Jeffrey Loria. “He looks at empty seats. He looks at team performance. He looks at the job I do. He looks at the job the baseball people do. And he’s not happy.”
Loria wasn’t on hand for the season wrap-up press conference. He was rarely seen at games the final two months of the season. But he will be a major presence — if not the only one that matters — in the months ahead as the Marlins try to return to relevance.
It all starts with hiring a new manager, which will be the Marlins’ 10th in the past 14 seasons. The Marlins have already begun the search for a replacement for Dan Jennings, whose hiring in May was odd to begin with.
Jennings, who moved from the front office to the dugout after Mike Redmond was fired, has been asked to return to his role as general manager.
“I expect him to be my side as we begin the offseason and start making decisions,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations.
But sources said that even though Jennings likely will return to the front office as GM, he wants assurances that he will retain the same say in decisions he had before taking over for Redmond, a decision that Samson said — in hindsight — wasn’t a good one.
“As I look back, do we regret doing what we did? I think it’s hard to say that I don’t, because it didn’t have the desired result on the field,” Samson said.
So now the Marlins are looking for yet another manager, a process that could take a month or longer. They have already interviewed Manny Acta, Bo Porter and Larry Bowa.
“I will say there will be anywhere from four to 20 interviews,” said Samson, who was probably exaggerating on the high end.
The Marlins have already made a number of changes to their front office, promoting Jeff McAvoy to to vice president of player personnel, Brian Chattin to assistant GM and David Keller to director of pro scouting. Mike Berger remains as assistant GM despite reports he could assume a more prominent role and that he now has Loria’s ear.
With a new manager coming on board, every member of the coaching staff, save for infield coach Perry Hill — who is under contract for one more season — have been told they can begin seeking opportunities elsewhere.
The Marlins will allow the next manager to pick his own coaching staff.
But Hill said current coaches, including pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and hitting coach Frank Menechino, were promised they would have a chance to interview with the new manager.
Then there is cavernous Marlins Park, the black hole of power.
The Marlins intend to bring in the fences and shorten their height in time for the 2016 season.
While Samson said the Marlins intend to keep it pitcher-friendly, it will be less daunting to frustrated hitters, who watch 410-foot fly balls that are home runs in other ballparks caught for routine outs in Miami.
“We’re trying to make it more fair,” Samson said.
So expect more home runs in the future, as well as over-the-wall catches.
“I think what got us thinking about [lowering the wall height] was the excitement of robbing home runs, and that’s a cool thing we don’t get to do here,” Samson said. “The thought of someone [in left field] jumping into The Clevelander is sort of awesome to me.”
The bottom line, though, is reversing the misfortunes of a team that finished 71-91 after high expectations going into the season.
“We have our job to do to improve this club,” Hill said. “We feel very confident with the core we have here. It’s still a club that finished 20 games under .500. We have to get better.”