Oct 8, 2009, 12:50 AM EDT
Keeping a team controlled by the game’s most tight-fisted owner in contention is no easy feat, and Fredi Gonzalez has a perfectly acceptable .499 winning percentage in his three years at the helm of the Marlins. Still, Florida’s success owes far more to the underrated Larry Beinfest than anyone else in the organization. Gonzalez has proven to be a liability time and time again with his managerial decisions, and the Marlins would be in better hands with Bobby Valentine at the helm.
Gonzalez simply has too many blind spots. His biggest this year was named Emilio Bonifacio. The 24-year-old became the everyday third baseman and leadoff hitter out of spring training this year, though little in his record justified the decision. He proved to be a big liability after a hot first two weeks, yet he was still impossible to pry out of the lineup until upper management forced his hand by acquiring Nick Johnson, requiring that Jorge Cantu be moved back to third.
Gonzalez just doesn’t seem to have any idea what constitutes good offense. His lineups are always a mess. Hanley Ramirez is, of course, awesome whether hitting first or third. But outside of the third spot, the Marlins got more offense from the sixth and eighth places in the order than any other this year. They received completely inadequate production from the second, fourth and fifth spots surrounding Ramirez, and they only did well in the leadoff spot because of Chris Coghlan’s incredible performance after supplanting Bonifacio.
This is nothing new. In 2008, their top spots for offense, besides Hanley Ramirez way up in the leadoff spot, were sixth and then fifth. Those guys were rarely coming up in the same inning as Ramirez.
Gonzalez has perhaps fared a little better when it’s come to pitching, though his fixation on making the hardest thrower in the pen a closer has been a problem. In 2007, it was Jorge Julio who started off with the job. In 2008, Kevin Gregg was kept in the closer’s role well after his season was shot. In 2009, it was an injury, not a 6.52 ERA over the first 2 1/2 months, that cost Matt Lindstrom his job.
I can’t blame Gonzalez for the Marlins’ defensive woes, as that’s clearly a team effort. Gonzalez seems to have the clubhouse behind him, so if he’s put in a position in which he could have a set lineup without much need for maneuvering, he’d be an adequate manager. He’s no Valentine, though, and he’s probably not the guy to take the Marlins to the next level. Unlike with the Joe Girardi fiasco, a switch was warranted this time.
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