I’m conflicted. For years, I’ve railed against Marlins’ ownership for not shaking up the front office. Now that Larry Beinfest has been fired from his post of vice president of baseball operations, I don’t feel satisfied. I feel like the move has been done with poor intentions.
For the last few months of Beinfest’s tenure, it was reported that owner Jeffrey Loria had usurped much of his baseball operations power. The front office was marginalized in favor of Loria’s unquestioned motives.
In September, when teams can carry up to 40 players, the Marlins examined their minor league system to decide on who to promote. Beinfest suggested that they recall second baseman Derek Dietrich, a seemingly inoffensive move. Loria did not agree, however. Earlier in the season, Dietrich was involved in a reportedly physical altercation with then hitting coach Tino Martinez, Loria’s hand-picked choice. After this news was released, Martinez resigned.
But Loria didn’t forget; he remained vindictive. Loria rejected Beinfest’s request, but when then assistant general manager Dan Jennings made the recommendation, Loria relented, and granted the approval. Then Dietrich suffered an injury in the minor leagues and the point became moot.
If only that was the only time Loria acted petty. In a similar vein, in late August the Marlins placed Plácido Polanco on the disabled list because of a concussion. Chris Valaika, who was hitting very well at AAA, was the expected replacement. That is — you guessed it — until Loria said not so fast. Valaika was one of the players who complained about Martinez’s antics.
Beinfest was understandably unhappy. And he was also understandably fired after the season. The team had struggled through trades and through the draft for a substantial amount of time.
But the fact that Dan Jennings now replaces him — the man who has proven to be a yes-man to Loria — is disconcerting. Loria needs a foil. Allowing him to run a team unhindered is dangerous, and could result in more petty and personal decisions like the Dietrich and Valaika moves.
Next season, manager Mike Redmond not only will be fighting to win — but will be fighting to keep his job. The Marlins are known for having a hairline trigger on managerial decisions, be it Edwin Rodríguez, Ozzie Guillén or Joe Girardi. If Redmond falls like those men did, it could be difficult for a manager with two losing seasons to find employ elsewhere. Rodríguez, who was fired after a .479 winning percentage over the course of two seasons, is now the manager of the Class AA Akron Aeros. As he fights to keep his job, his decision making could be hampered by his personal goals, and potentially not the team goals.
All signs point to Loria being able to run this team unimpeded. At least in Larry Beinfest, the front office had a man who wasn’t afraid of making statements contrary to the owner’s thinking. Even if his success stumbled as he finished his tenure with the Marlins, he was principled, and in a way that Loria has not been and will not be.
Dan Jennings has been sought by other teams offseason after offseason. He was not hired with a lack of merit. But his history with Loria is alarming. The future of the team remains in flux, but these managerial moves could prove to be costly.
Preston Michelson is a freshman at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and is a graduate of Palmer Trinity School. He is a frequent contributor to this newspaper and the opinions he expresses are his own and not necessarily those of the editors and publishers. Contact him on Twitter at @PrestonMich or by email at email@example.com