Marlins’ choice of new manager makes little sense
On Sunday night, when I first learned that Dan Jennings could be the Marlins’ next manager, I started calling some of his friends in the industry. Jennings, a friendly, gregarious sort, has many such friends. And the first reaction of many was, “He wouldn’t do that.”
Oh, yes he would.
The choice of Jennings, confirmed Monday morning by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, was announced several hours later. The Marlins previously had discussed Jennings as a candidate when making in-season changes, according to major-league sources. So at least for them – or should I say their owner, Jeffrey Loria – this was not crazy talk.
For the rest of the industry, it is. And I am quite certain that many will consider this move a mockery, even by Marlins’ standards.
Jennings, if you don’t know, is the Marlins’ general manager. He started his front-office career as a scout in 1986, joined the Marlins as vice president of personnel in 2002 and became their GM – a position he long coveted – after the 2013 season.
His only previous managing experience, if you want to call it that, was at Davidson High School in Mobile, Ala., after he graduated college, according to his Wikipedia biography.
So, why the heck would Jennings become the Marlins’ manager, on an interim basis or otherwise, when by any reasonable measure he is not qualified for the position?
Because Loria wants him to.
That’s not how the Marlins portrayed it when they announced the hiring of Jennings on Monday – they said the decision grew “organically” out of discussions between Jennings, club president David Samson and president of baseball operations Michael Hill. Samson explained that the three had an “epiphany,” then brought the idea to Loria, who was portrayed almost as a passive outsider.
Believe what you will, but Loria has treated Jennings extremely well, awarding him, along with former GM Larry Beinfest, an eight-year deal through 2015 at the end of the 2007 season. Jennings, who is now under contract through ‘18, is extremely loyal to Loria. I believe Jennings is taking this job somewhat out of obligation, not because he considers it a particularly good idea. His own mother asked him if he was crazy, and you know what they say: Mothers know best.
This is not a good idea. It is an idea that will elicit scorn throughout the industry, even though Jennings is one of its more popular members. It also is an idea that will invite scrutiny beyond even what I described Sunday night in my column about Loria and how he will need to answer to his fellow owners following his dismissal of Mike Redmond as manager.
I want to know – a lot of people will want to know – how the Marlins can hire Jennings as a manager without considering a minority candidate who actually might be qualified for the position. Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. is one such candidate. Blue Jays coach DeMarlo Hale is another. And I could go on.
The so-called “Selig Rule,” established in a memo to the clubs by former commissioner Bud Selig on April 14, 1999, requires teams to consider, but not necessarily interview, minority candidates “for all general manager, assistant general manager, field manager, director of player development and director of scouting positions.”
The Brewers recently ignored the rule when they removed Craig Counsell from their front office to replace Ron Roenicke as manager. Major League Baseball, however, did not consider it a violation when the team exchanged one white manager for another without conducting a formal interview process, sources said; Counsell had never managed, but he had worked in the team’s front office since early 2012, and clubs are permitted to promote internal candidates as long as they communicate their plans to commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB.
The difference between Counsell and Jennings is that Counsell is a former player who long had been considered a potential manager. The Marlins have an African-American president of baseball operations, Hill, and Loria has hired Latino managers such as Ozzie Guillen, Edwin Rodriguez and Fredi Gonzalez in the past. Still, that’s twice in recent weeks that teams have cast aside the process.
The question must be asked: Why even have the Selig rule if teams are not going to follow it?
The sport is down to two minority managers – the Braves’ Gonzalez and the Mariners’ Lloyd McClendon, an African-American – after starting last season with five and employing 10 as recently as 2009. During Selig’s tenure, which ran from 1998 to 2015, the number was never below three, according to the Hardball Times.
For Loria, the advantage of hiring Jennings is that he would not need to pay a third manager – Guillen is under contract through the end of this season, Redmond through 2017. Jennings also is one of the few people in the industry in whom Loria places full trust.
The choice is outrageous. And an insult. And a slap at every person qualified to be a major-league manager, not just minorities.
I am eager to see how Manfred responds.