Surprisingly Enough, I Don’t Hate Ozzie GuillenBy
Besides the fact that Ozzie Guillen can’t win games if Josh Johnson is hurt and Hanley Ramirez is slumping, he’s probably not going to come here for the kind of money the Marlins generally like to spend on a manager. We’re talking about an organization that decided it couldn’t afford players – PLAYERS!!! – as valuable as Miguel Cabrera orJosh Beckett. Those are guys who actually take the field and contribute to winning ballgames. We’re really supposed to expect them to overspend on a guy whose job basically boils down to sitting in the dugout, offering quality soundbites, and occasionally pulling a double switch?
I’m not buying. And there’s zero chance the Marlins are, either.
Man, I’d hate to be that guy right about now.
But, now that Ozzie is officially here and somehow successfully tiptoed his way through a minefield of tampering charges in his introductory press conference, let’s discuss what this means for the future of the team.
My initial reaction to the signing wasn’t to be overly excited or the least bit angry, which is strange, because I’m usually that guy when this kind of news hits. No, if I had to pinpoint my emotional reaction, I guess I’d describe it as 73% apathetic, 21% intrigued and 6% hungry. What? I hadn’t eaten all day. But, I suppose that makes sense, considering my belief that a manager’s influence on a baseball game is right up there with the hitting coach and the peanut vendor.
First things first, though; in no way does this move make the on-field product any better. Like, at all. We can debate this if you’d like, but I don’t care to this morning and you’d lose, anyway, so just trust me on this. Maybe it makes their sound bites more entertaining, but that’s about it. And, as we saw with Jack McKeon this year, that shtick tends to wear thin once your winning percentage dips below .500.
But, if I’m of the opinion that a manager makes little to no difference in the outcome of a baseball game, then clearly I’m upset that the Marlins would spend roughly $3 million per year at that position for the next four years, right? Surprisingly, no.
With a new stadium and a retractable roof just one year away, there were only two things the Marlins needed to do in order to begin their successful rebranding of the team: post a respectable record and not be completely inept. Whoops! After an abysmal season that saw key players get injured and/or forget how to swing a bat, the Marlins needed something – ANYTHING – buzz worthy if they planned on keeping the fans happy. People always say that winning is the ultimate aphrodisiac for a fanbase, but when those wins are few and far between, you need to do something else. Obviously, a 43-22 record will do a lot to move tickets, but failing that, so will Super Saturday and Bark at the Park. You need to generate interest somehow and that’s what the Marlins did by inking Ozzie to a four-year deal. He’s a fiery manager who’s about as Miami as you can get without hiring the old Spanish woman who sells shrimp on the side of the road in Miami Lakes. Die-hard fans might see through the move, but I don’t imagine it was made for them. They were coming, anyway. This move affects the fringe fan. The one who needs a reason to come to the park, other than the thrill of a baseball game.
Need more evidence of this? 30,000 people showed up to yesterday’s game because it was the final game played in a stadium nobody likes and there were some old players hanging around. The team isn’t being contracted. They aren’t moving to another state. They’re moving 36 minutes away. That was enough reason to fill the lower bowl and open sections that were previously closed. The moral of the story: people are stupid. And by bringing in a big name manager, the Marlins are sort of preying on that.
Personally, I view the Ozzie Guillen signing as a peace offering of sorts. A front office that fans don’t trust extending an olive branch to a fanbase that the front office doesn’t trust. “See? We spent money on one part of the team. Show us that you’ll come to the park and we’ll begin spending money elsewhere.” It’s sort of like a silly hostage negotiation. Will it work? Is that even the intention? I don’t know, but I have a hard time believing that a team notorious for underspending would waste $12 million on a manager and not even consider upgrading the talent on the field, considerably.
I guess that when it comes down to it, I don’t love the Ozzie Guillen move, but I don’t hate it either. I just understand it. Or I think I do, at least. Or maybe I’m just tired of thinking of this ownership group as slimy and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for once.
It really doesn’t matter. I’m saving the majority of my outrage for the unveiling of the new logo on November 11th, anyway.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)