Marlins Bringing Back Fredi Gonzalez? How Rare Is That?
So the biggest bit of Marlins news in the past week was the report that extensive talks have taken place between between the team and fired Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez about that third base coaching opening.
Yes, that Fredi Gonzalez. The one who managed the Marlins from 2007 to 2010.
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If this actually does come to pass, you can expect to see a much more thorough review of MLB employment records, as the annals of history are scoured to see just how weird this move is historically. Because let’s face it, it does sound odd, right? It was only six years ago that the team essentially told Gonzalez that the Marlins would be better off without him. Which was kind of messed up, and was pretty much the beginning of the end for Hanley Ramirez being anything but a petulant distraction. Despite protestations from both Gonzalez and the front office at the time, the manager-star relationship was definitely a factor; even if it wasn’t, it certainly sent the wrong message to the locker room.
On the other hand, it wasn’t nearly as messed up as the Braves firing him after the 2016 Atlanta Bad News Bears played just as poorly as the front office sincerely hoped that they would. It’s not often the Marlins get unanimously outshined in the unreasonable firing department, so kudos to Braves nation for that one.
It’s interesting to say the least. So just in case this doesn’t come to pass- he does apparently have other offers- I didn’t want to miss the chance to cover some basic history and what ifs. Besides, burners aren’t even lit on the Hot Stove season yet. What else are we going to talk about?
So here we go. Bringing back exes- does this happen a lot, or is it just a Marlins thing? Speaking of Marlins, is anyone on this roster going to have some issues remembering who’s in charge and who isn’t? Just on a manager to manager level, who actually has the better track record here?
Let’s dive in and take a look.
History 101: How Rare Is It For Teams To Bring Back Ex-Skippers?
Not as rare as you’d think, at least based on the fact that Gonzalez’s next job after leaving the Marlins was to replace a repeat manager. Yep, at one point, someone thought Bobby Bleeping Cox wasn’t good enough at the whole coaching thing. Cox coached the Braves for four years, spent four years managing in Toronto, came back to Atlanta as GM, and then after doing that for four years, fired the sitting manager and gave himself the job. He proceeded to do ok- for the next twenty years.
Billy Martin of the Yankees was repeatedly fired and rehired from his post of skipper, if you want another big name example.
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A better comp for this situation might be Larry Bowa’s tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bowa was fired as manager in 2004, and one decade later, came back to fill the supporting role.
Going beyond baseball, there’s the fact that Bill Belichick technically worked for the New York Jets and the New England Patriots twice apiece, before settling comfortably into the role of sucking all the joy and happiness out of my Sundays for the past sixteen years.
So it can happen, the encore.
Do The Marlins Have A History Of Doing This?
When you look at the list of former Marlins managers, you actually get two repeat performances. And if you want to be cute, and count Mike Redmond’s playing career, we can bump it up to three.
Jack Mckeon is the obvious name here. After the most successful three year stretch ever put up by a Marlins manager, Trader Jack retired. Six years later, he returned to finish out the year after Fredi Gonzalez’s replacement Edwin Rodriguez quit just over two months into the 2011 season.
The more obscure reference would be John Boles, who took over for original manager Rene Lacheman on an interim basis in 1996, and then went back to his scouting position. He reclaimed the manager job in 1999, only to be fired in 2001 after another nasty exchange between an obnoxious player and management. Boles’ situation was actually a pretty eerie parallel for Redmond’s: fired because of unreasonably elevated expectations after an awesome boost in performance the prior season.
Ozzie Guillen was McKeon’s third base coach in 2003. Perry Hill had two stints with the club. Two of the three coaches that were just fired previously played for the team, although counting playing time is a bit ludicrous as many teams bring back former players to coach. But the Marlins do have a history of hiring their own, particularly since Jeffrey Loria took over as owner in 2002.
But of all of those names, none of them were fired prior to that second hiring. That would be a unique to Fredi milestone.
Any Cross-Coach Players Left On Roster?
Only the face of the franchise.
If winning bar bets against your fellow Fish fans is your thing, Giancarlo Stanton can help you out. Technically, the superstar slugger has played for a staggering eight managers in the majors.
Sure, I’m counting Brandon Hyde’s one game cameo between the Rodriguez and McKeon tenures. But seven doesn’t make it better. Plus, it lets Stanton claim the franchise record, avoiding a tie with Ricky Nolasco.
The home run artist formerly known as Mike Stanton made his Marlins debut on June 8, 2010. Two weeks land one home run later, Gonzalez was fired. Stanton did go on a bit of tear right after, hitting 8 HR and 21 RBI over the next five weeks. In any event though, he’s the one constant Gonzalez would fine just where he left him.
For those wondering about Perry Hill, the two did overlap briefly in 2007. But Hill would spend the next two years retired, and wouldn’t return to the Marlins until 2011, meaning he missed the bulk of the Gonzalez era.
And for the really nitpicky, Mike Kozak and Juice the Barber. There- done.
Hunter Cervenka, Jeff Francoeur, and Chris Johnson would all make the list of players with past Gonzalez experience should any of them end up being retained.
Gonzalez or Mattingly?
One of the most interesting parts of this move to me would be just how much more coaching experience Fredi Gonzalez has. There’s about a four year gap just in MLB managerial experience alone, but the divide goes much deeper. Gonzalez has been coaching since 1990, and has done so at just about level; more to the point, he’s done so at just about every level with this organization.
However, in terms of win-loss percentage, Mattingly edges him out .550 to .506. Moreover, this is in no uncertain terms Mattingly’s team. So there should be no problem, provided Mattingly himself is on board with this hire.
Maybe Fredi even has some advice on how to get Nick Markakis out.
Personally, I’d like to see the move. As noted in Friday’s Fish Flash, if he was good enough at coaching third base to do it for Bobby Cox, he’s probably an upgrade over Lenny Harris.