Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria can be rather decisive when he wants to gut his roster. Yet when it comes to his front office, he waffles and waffles and waffles some more.
If Loria wants to fire Larry Beinfest as president of baseball operations, then he should fire him. Instead, Loria is staying ominously silent while reports circulate, for the second straight September, that Beinfest could be gone.
Loria’s refusal to address the topic is unfair to Beinfest, who has served the owner for 14 years, both with the Expos and Marlins. The lingering tension within the Marlins’ front office, meanwhile, is damaging to the organization.
Beinfest is miserable, major league sources say. You would be miserable, too, if your owner over the past four years had gone from merely meddlesome to completely hands-on, even vetoing minor league call-ups for reasons unrelated to performance.
The Marlins’ power structure, according to sources, essentially consists of Loria and VP of player personnel Dan Jennings on one side and Beinfest and general manager Mike Hill on the other. Loria’s stepson, team president David Samson, has been all but invisible this season and also is on the outs with Loria, sources say.
The logical move — the move that USA Today reported would happen at the end of last season — would be for Jennings to replace Beinfest. Rival executives, as if on cue, again are predicting such a shake-up.
Beinfest, frustrated that his job security is again a matter of public discussion, confronted Loria last week and asked him to decide upon his status one way or the other, sources say.
But Loria, who did not respond to a phone call from FOX Sports seeking comment, has yet to signal his intentions.
Why should anyone care about the Marlins’ front-office politics? Because the team is run chaotically, often reversing decisions according to Loria’s whims, sources say. And because Beinfest, who is well-respected and admired by his peers, deserves better.
Loria could argue that Beinfest signed on for this, agreeing in September 2007 to a contract that runs through ’15. The owner also could argue that if Beinfest is so unhappy, he should resign his position and forfeit his remaining two years of salary. Beinfest, married with two children, has no plans to make such a move, sources say.
The relationship between Beinfest and Loria began to deteriorate in 2009 when Loria flirted with Bobby Valentine while Fredi Gonzalez managed the Marlins to 87 wins — a season that remains their best since they won the World Series in ’03.
That episode marked the start of Loria’s increased involvement, sources say — and the start of numerous skirmishes between Loria and Beinfest over the years. Most recently, the two sparred over Loria’s rejection of a plan to promote infielder Chris Valaika from Triple-A on Aug. 19, a move first reported by the Miami Herald.
Valaika was one of several Marlins who had altercations with Loria’s handpicked hitting coach, Tino Martinez. The incidents led to Martinez’s resignation in July, and Loria evidently is still upset with the players who were involved.
Loria, according to sources, also opposed a September call-up for second baseman Derek Dietrich, another Marlin who tangled with Martinez. But Dietrich suffered a back injury, removing him from consideration and ending the potential conflict.
Beinfest was angry with Loria because he had promised the players confidentiality and assured them that there would be no repercussions if they cooperated in the team’s internal investigation of Martinez, sources say. News outlets reported the names of the players at the time of Martinez’s resignation, citing sources.
Valaika, 28, lost major league salary and service time when the Marlins, needing to replace injured third baseman Placido Polanco, instead chose to recall infielder Gil Velazquez, 33. For Valaika, the consequences were significant; he has appeared in only 55 games in the majors, including 22 with the Marlins this season.
So, if you’re still keeping score, Loria has no problem punishing journeymen, no problem dumping salaries, no problem reneging on free agents he promised not to trade (as shortstop Jose Reyes and left-hander Mark Buehrle attested last offseason). But the owner will not address the divisions in his front office, divisions that he mostly created.
Loria should thank Beinfest for delivering so much cheap talent over the years, then replace him with Jennings to bring more cohesion to the Marlins’ front office.