Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Marlins manager-search, turn to 2016 should start now, not wait

Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings watches on in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, in Atlanta. The Braves won 7-2.
Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings watches on in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, in Atlanta. The Braves won 7-2. AP

There should be zero doubt that after this Lost Season is finally and mercifully done, the snake-bit Miami Marlins will have been sufficiently shamed into trying something different and hiring a new manager who is actually, you know, a manager.

The question now: Why wait?

Why slog through the final third of this hopeless season as is and wait until winter to make it clear to all that your thoughts and plans already have turned to 2016?

I wanted to get these baseball thoughts on record before the tsunami of football crashes across South Florida, swarming all in its path. There is still time to think about the Marlins, even in the midst of a season that has rendered such thoughts unpleasant.

Recall wistfully the high hopes of spring. Now, four months later this injury-racked season is finished barring a miracle of Biblical proportion — the Fish rot with the worst record in the National League and all of MLB. (And the Boston Red Sox, here for a two-game quickie starting Tuesday night, unexpectedly bring the worst record in the AL, making a cellar wake of what before the season was a much-anticipated visit.)

Let’s all agree that the Marlins fired manager Mike Redmond prematurely, just 38 games in, at 16-22, and that replacing him with Dan Jennings proved to be the worst idea in history, narrowly outranking the previous tie between New Coke and the John McCain campaign deciding Sarah Palin was a great idea.

It isn’t Jennings’ fault. Emphasize that.

Jennings can’t help it he was a career front-office guy who hadn’t worn a uniform or managed in a dugout since the high school level. He can’t help it he was a general manager instructed to pretend to be a manager so the club could save on a salary. No, that’s the fault of owner Jeffrey Loria or whomever convinced Loria to make the decision that made Miami the laughingstock of baseball and left a clubhouse full of players half angry and half incredulous.

I feel bad for Jennings, whose hair has noticeably grayed under the weight of this unfair pressure and who has kept his sanity with black humor.

How have you handled the stress, Dan?

“Thank God there’s no Prohibition in baseball,” he said.

The Marlins gave Jennings a job he simply wasn’t qualified for, and the franchise admitting its colossal mistake now rather than after the season allows two things, both important:

First, it puts Jennings back in a suit and tie as GM where he belongs, giving president of baseball operations Michael Hill the full-time help he needs. Jennings needs to spend the rest of this season planning for what the club needs in ’16 and how to get it — not baling water in an effort to not lose 100 games.

Second, bringing in a new manager now would give that man a big chunk of what’s left of this season to get to know his team, to learn the clubhouse, to be educated on what is needed moving forward.

Of course this assumes Miami has an eye on a manager who is presently available, not one yet to be fired or currently employed as a coach.

For sure, the next Marlins manager should be experienced, sort of the anti-Jennings experiment, an audacious move that amounted to Miami insulting every manager who ever lived by proclaiming anybody with baseball knowledge can do it.

This would eliminate Mike Lowell. Or should.

This can’t be a training-wheels job.

Miami should be looking at somebody with a track record, such as two men who are presently available:

Ron Gardenhire, 57, who in 13 years with the Minnesota Twins ending in 2014 was American league Manager of the Year in 2010 and top-three in voting six other times.

And Bud Black, 58, who was fired June 15 in his ninth season with the San Diego Padres. He was 2010 NL Manager of the Year, is well respected and previously spent seven years as Angels pitching coach.

I’d even take a look at Dusty Baker, who last managed in Cincinnati in 2013 and, at age 66, wants back into somebody’s dugout.

I get the club wanting to see who else might come available, but if you think your target is there for the taking now, make the hire. Beat to the punch the other teams that will be shopping after the season.

Now or later, don’t let the won-lost record fool you. This is a talented Marlins team whose roster would be enticing to any prospective manager.

A starting point of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez gets any candidate’s attention. So does a middle infield of Adeiny Hechavarria and Dee Gordon. So does rising talent like Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto, and the possibility (still) of guys like Marcell Ozuna and Henderson Alvarez.

Here is what Miami needs (and I’m not starting with most fans’ answer, “a new owner,” because we’re trying to deal with reality here):

Miami needs a couple of starting pitchers and another bat; Loria’s willingness to spend to get them; much better luck than this year with injuries; and a new, bona fide manager.

I mean a manager with a track record, one who commands respect and instills confidence in the clubhouse as a requisite starting point.

Miami needs a manager whose arrival will signal the Marlins are serious and committed to winning games more than to saving money.

Around here, the truth of that can never be assumed.

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