The Marlins did it again this year. They had one of the best pitchers in the league but the offence was horrid. Last year it was almost a Rookie of the Year in the form of Trevor Rogers. This year, Sandy Alcantara pulls a stunning season and gets rewarded with a Cy Young award in the National League, the first Cy Young in the franchise’s history. The offence? Horrid.
The news that the offence pulled off a season to forget yet again is not in the breaking news category anymore. Those kinds of seasons just keep on coming like new Halloween horror movies. I’ve followed the Marlins for roughly six years now and excluding the Covid-19 season of 2020, their offence has only been in the top 20 in the league once. It’s just bad. Really, really bad.
There is always another side to the story. In the Marlins’ case, that is pitching. That’s the area of the game in which they’ve had the most success in recent years. The pitching has been great. Really, really great. Last year, Trevor Rogers had a huge year and I was a little afraid that he would hit that rookie wall this season, which he eventually did. Even though Rogers struggled most of the year, other pitchers were showing promising signs. Jesus Luzardo looked like a re-born and Edward Cabrera seems to become a stud.
So who is the blame? Manager, coaches, GM or the owner who says he wants to invest but kind of doesn’t? If you ask me, they have failed the fanbase on every level except pitching. Derek Jeter wasn’t that kind of success story at the front office level as he was on the playing field back. It is hard to tell if it was all his fault. Don Mattingly had to work with less than no money and just couldn’t pull the rabbit out of the hat with this group of guys. General manager Kim Ng has pulled off some trades that have worked for the Fish but eventually, her work is also measured by looking at the product that is put out night after night; as of now, it doesn’t look so great. She also had a decision looming that was probably going to be her career’s biggest one.
Not sure if the final decision came from Mattingly himself or perhaps the front office was not even ready to offer an extension, but he is not returning for the 2023 season. His seven years as the manager for the Fish puts him as the longest-tenured manager in the franchise’s history. His best win/loss record was 79-82 in 2016. Overall his winning percentage was .430. His biggest achievement was winning the Manager of the Year award in 2020 as the Marlins went to the postseason.
So the Marlins were suddenly without a manager. According to the Marlins beat writer Craig Mish, the search for the manager was heavy with multiple interviews and quite a large scale of options. Eventually, the Marlins selected Skip Schumaker to be their new manager.
Schumaker is an interesting choice. The former Cardinals, Dodgers and Reds outfielder and second baseman played 11 years in the majors and won the World Series with the Cardinals back in 2011. He started his coaching career in 2017 as the first base coach with the San Diego Padres. Before the past season, he signed with the Cardinals as a bench coach. At the age of 42, he is set to become the third-youngest manager in the league.
The Marlins are a young team and with a young, fresh manager they are trying something new as the team is in desperate need of a fresh start. If you look around the league for the past hires in some of the teams, the age is quite high in the list with the likes of Buck Showalter and Bruce Bochy. Of course, the Marlins are no unicorn in this area as the likes of Kevin Cash and David Ross represent a new age of MLB managers. The Marlins might have felt that after Mattingly’s tenure, they needed some young blood in the organisation.
Schumaker’s first great decision was to retain the services of Mel Stottlemyre Jr as the pitching coach. Stottlemyre has worked his magic throughout his time with the Marlins and all of the success that the Marlins’ pitching has had in recent years is thanks to him. Marlins also made an interesting change at the front office level as they hired Oz Ocampo as the assistant GM for Kim Ng. Ocampo worked for seven years with the Houston Astros and has been praised for finding the talents like Framber Valdez, Luis García and Cristian Javier.
So a lot of changes (again) at the front office level. They have to be thinking about how they can turn this Double-A level of offence into a major league level. I can’t imagine them looking at this roster and saying “we are just fine.”
Schumaker did say though in the first interviews as the Marlins manager that the team is “ready to win.” I really can’t believe that he was talking about baseball as the Marlins have had a losing record in 12 of the last 13 seasons. Developing hitters hasn’t been the Marlins’ cup of tea lately so if they want to skip that (pun intended) phase, they need to hit the free-agent pool a little bit better than giving $12 million to the likes of Avisail Garcia or Jorge Soler.
Only time will tell how this will turn out and I think the Marlins’ fanbase is eager to have a fresh start with the new manager. I was already in the late season gloom ready to shoot this franchise to the planet Mars when the news about a new manager showed up. At that moment though I was convinced, for a good five seconds, that the Marlins will win the championship in 2023.
In the meantime, as we wait for the new season to begin, I wonder as I’m now a father to a growing four-year-old baseball fan and the Marlins have a manager called Skip, if the in-season dad jokes over/under line is at 10.5 about the fact that Marlins have a skipper named Skip?
Skipping to work now! Be safe and go Fish!
Featured image of Skip Schumaker by Megan Briggs/Getty Images
Tomi Korkeamäki is the Miami Marlins correspondent for Bat Flips & Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @TKorkeamaki