Here's one that'll cause Marlins fans to choke on their Captain Crunch this morning: Chris De Luca, my colleague over at the Chicago Sun-Times, is reporting that the Marlins were granted permission by the White Sox to talk to Ozzie Guillen -- but never did. Furthermore, De Luca's sources told him that talks between the Marlins and White Sox "progressed to the point that there was discussion of executing a trade that would send Guillen, who has one year left on his contract, to the Marlins for 20-year-old outfielder Mike Stanton...."
Wrote De Luca: "After Guillen met with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf late in the season and agreed to return to the Sox in 2011 -- but not getting the desired extension -- the Marlins talks died, sources say.
That the Marlins requested permission from the White Sox to talk to Guillen about becoming their next manager hardly comes as a surprise. Those within the Marlins' front office considered Guillen to be the "perfect" candidate, and rumors were swirling late in the season that the Marlins had their eye on Guillen as he was making noise about his future with the Sox.
And it might have taken a trade to pry Guillen from the White Sox, who surely would have demanded some form of compensation for the manager. A source with indirect knowledge of the matter told me several weeks ago that the White Sox wanted a player (or players) in exchange for Guillen. But Stanton? Let's be serious.
While owner Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins front office were likely itching to hire Guillen, it's hard to imagine that they would part with someone of Stanton's immense talents to bring him on board -- unless, that is, they were out of their freaking minds. And, indications are, they weren't. A source told me that Stanton's name was never mentioned. "Didn't happen," the source said.
Guillen might be a fine manager and all, just the person to take the Marlins into their new ballpark when it opens in 2012. But no manager is worth that kind of price. In fact, this report by the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales indicates the Marlins asked -- but were not granted -- permission to talk to Guillen, and that while the White Sox asked about receiving a player in return, Stanton was a no-go as far as the Marlins were concerned.
Let's see what happens next. If the Marlins decide to bring back Edwin Rodriguez but only give him a one-year deal, it could be a sign that they're planning to make another run at Guillen, or someone else of that stature, as they prepare to move into their new digs.
Waiting for the Marlins to name a manager is like watching a glacier melt. We're now three weeks removed from the end of the regular season and the Marlins remain in internal discussion mode in terms of putting the manager question to rest. Will they bring back Edwin Rodriguez? Or will they go with someone else?
Team president David Samson didn't shed much new light on the subject during a media tour of the construction site for the new ballpark on Tuesday, saying only that owner Jeffrey Loria and members of the front office continue to mull their options.
"The status is we're still having internal conversations," Samson said. "I think Jeffrey and Larry (Beinfest) and all of us are being contemplative and making a plan."
Samson said no announcement will be made until after the World Series.
"There will certainly be a manager by the first day of spring training," Samson said.
-- Marlins cast-offs Cody Ross (Giants) and Jorge Cantu (Rangers) are in the World Series, and Samson said he couldn't be happier. Samson said he has spoken to both Ross and Cantu, wishing them luck. "One of them is going to get a ring, and I think it's great," Samson said. The Marlins traded Cantu to the Rangers at the trading deadline and handed Ross over to the Giants on a waiver claim in late August. "This (the Ross decision) was an absolute baseball move," Samson said. "At the time, we felt we were going to be around a .500 team and the realistic chances of making the playoffs had faded. We wanted to get Cameron (Maybin), (Mike) Stanton and (Logan) Morrison going, and it was always part of the plan that we knew what the outfield would look like. And the future, given our payroll constraints, didn't include Cody and it didn't include Jorge Cantu."
-- Samson said he also congratulated Fredi Gonzalez after he was named to manage the Braves. "I spoke to Fredi and I congratulated him," Samson said of Gonzalez, who was fired as Marlins manager in June. "I told him I'm rooting for him except 18 times a year (when the Marlins and Braves play each other). He's the perfect person to take over for Bobby (Cox) and we're very happy for him."
-- Construction of the new ballpark is nearly 50 percent complete. Samson said he hopes to announce stadium naming rights by the end of the year. One new twist: the Marlins' dugout will be on the third base side, not the first base side as it is now at Sun Life Stadium.
This photo shows a view of the ballpark from the press box, looking out toward left field and downtown Miami......
And this view, taken from the first base side, shows the seating area behind home plate and down the third base line....
They were best of friends on the Marlins. Now, apparently, playoff hero Cody Ross is telling Dan Uggla that life sure is great in San Francisco and what fun it would be if they could reunite on the Giants. In fact, according to this article, Ross is supposedly lobbying Uggla not to ink a contract extension with the Marlins, play out his final arbitration year, and sign on with the Giants in 2012 after he becomes a free agent. After all, the Marlins and Giants talked trade at the last winter meetings. The Giants were mildly interested in Uggla then, but not enough to part with a package that included pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. End of discussion.
The Marlins had preliminary talks with Uggla's agent toward the end of the season, but the two sides were far apart on a deal. They are expected to resume discussions this month. Who knows where Uggla will end up? Surely, though, Ross was jesting. Either that or the euphoria over turning into an overnight sensation has gone to his shaved head. If the Marlins sweeten their offer to an acceptable level, no 30-year-old second baseman (31 come opening day) in his right mind would pass up the financial security that comes with such a deal and gamble on his future simply to heed the advice of his pal. I mean, Ross can't even be sure that he'll still be with the Giants in 2012.
Now that the behind-the-scenes waltz with Bobby Valentine is history, expect the Marlins to return to basic protocol -- do it the old-fashioned way,in other words -- in naming a permanent manager. They'll compile a short list, haul in the candidates for interviews, and select a winner, the same way they did it in 2005 when Joe Girardi was selected. In 2005, the Marlins rented out a New York hotel suite to conduct the interviews.
The thing is, it could take awhile.
What I'm hearing now is that the Marlins intend to take a deep breath, proceed slowly, and perhaps wait as long as seven to 10 days before bringing in the candidates for interviews. And that list, as it stands now, is pretty much the same as it's been all along, with Bo Porter, Tony Pena, Bryan Price, Ted Simmons and Jim Fregosi on a list of potential candidates, along with interim manager Edwin Rodriguez. Porter interviewed for the job in June after Fredi Gonzalez was fired.
Just got off the phone with Edwin Rodriguez, who is home in Puerto Rico and sounding like he's already itching for the start of spring training. "It's only the second week (of the offseason) and I'm bored already," Rodriguez said.
I suggested a couple of books (Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" and Peter Carey's "Parrot and Olivier in America") when we turned to the real issue at hand, specifically, his uncertain future with the Marlins. As the Marlins go about their search for a permanent manager, with Bobby Valentine removing his name from the cast of contenders on Wednesday after reportedly being offered the job, Rodriguez and the coaching staff sit in limbo.
Rodriguez, who was told he would be considered for the full-time job after taking over for ousted manager Fredi Gonzalez in June on an interim basis, said he hasn't heard a word from the front office since the season ended.
"I don't know if that's good or bad," he said.
Rodriguez very much wants a chance to manage the Marlins from start to finish, from the first day of spring training to the final out of the season. And he would prefer a multi-year contract like those given to other new managers.
"I just need a shot to go through a whole spring training and show them," said Rodriguez, who guided the Marlins to a 46-46 record after taking over on June 23. "I have to show to the Marlins, and to the baseball world, what I'm capable of doing."
That means, Rodriguez said, that even if the Marlins offer him only a one-year deal, he would likely accept knowing that he could be replaced at the end of 2011 with someone like Ozzie Guillen, who is coveted by the Marlins but remains tied to his contract with the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox hold a club option on Guillen for 2012.
Still, the way Rodriguez looks at it, one year is better than no years at all.
"The way I see it, they gave me, in June, a one-day tryout. That was June 23. And then they extended that to a week. And when we came to Puerto Rico, they extended it to the rest of the season. They took a gamble, so I'm willing to take a gamble. So, yeah, if they offered me a one-year deal, I'm confident I could do the job. I would take that challenge. I have to take the chance. And if the team has a good season, if I take the team to the playoffs with the staff, that's even better. Now I would feel like I'd be in the driver's seat."
Forget about Bobby Valentine.
According to ESPN's Tim Kurkjian,Valentine has withdrawn his name from consideration to become the Marlins' next manager.
Valentine has long been the preference of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to take the helm in the dugout. But never at any time was Valentine a fit as far as the rest of the organization was concerned. After Fredi Gonzalez was fired in June, Valentine appeared primed to take his place.
But negotiations blew up, and Edwin Rodriguez was charged with managing the team through the end of the season.
Valentine has interviewed with Seattle and Toronto the past few days.
With Valentine officially out of the picture, the Marlins can continue to focus on a list of candidates that includes -- in addition to Rodriguez -- Tony Pena, Ted Simmons, Bo Porter and Jim Fregosi.
Absolutely no surprise here. Reports out of Atlanta are saying that deposed Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez will replace Braves icon Bobby Cox. The official announcement is expected to occur on Thursday.
Gonzalez was dumped as Marlins manager in June after 3 1/2 seasons. But it was pretty much a given that would take over in Atlanta once the retiring Cox stepped aside. Heck, Gonzalez even turned down an interview request from the Cubs.
As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote:
Depending on whom you talked to Tuesday morning at Turner Field, a day after the Braves were eliminated from the postseason, the big question was a.) When will the next manager be fired?, or b.) When is Fredi's news conference?
No other names ever surfaced as serious candidates for the job. As of Monday, the Braves had not discussed the managerial job with hitting coach Terry Pendleton, once considered a strong candidate to replace Cox.
While the Marlins have seldom crossed paths with Joe Girardi since he landed with the Yankees, the same won't be true of Gonzalez when he starts running the show in Atlanta. They'll see each other 18 times each season, starting with the first hookup on April 12. Fredi and the Braves will make their first visit to South Florida on June 7.
Last night's big hero for the San Francisco Giants in their division series clinching win over the Atlanta Braves and retiring manager Bobby Cox was none other than Cody Ross, he whom the Marlins set free on a waiver claim in late August.
As Ross told reporters following Monday's heroics in Atlanta: "I've been in the twilight zone for the last month and a half or however long I've been here."
Ross homered and also singled in the go-ahead run as the Giants captured the series and moved on to a NLCS showdown with the Phillies (Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay in a Game 1 clash of the titans on Saturday). Ross will be there thanks to a decision by the Marlins to let the Giants take him free of charge on the waiver claim, a preventive claim put in -- by the way -- to keep the division-rival Padres from making the grab on the outfielder. With Cameron Maybin out of minor-league options after the season, the Marlins were willing to part company with Ross in order to give Maybin a thorough look over the final six weeks. Thus, Ross has come to be known as the "accidental Giant."
Here's what Giants closer Brian Wilson had to say about it afterward: ”I mean, Cody Ross, come on. The other team (Marlins) didn’t want him? We’ll take him. And then he’ll be a hero for us."
OLD HABITS DIE HARD (OR NOT AT ALL)....When Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez was thrown out in last night's eighth inning after loafing the first few steps out of the batter's box, it brought back old memories. Gonzalez was benched for the same, lack-of-hustle infraction when he was with the Marlins -- not once, but twice during the '99 season -- by then manager John Boles. And the following season, Gonzalez was dropped from second to eighth in the order after more lazy play.
Here's what Boles said in 2000, without mentioning Gonzalez by name, following another of the shortstop's lackadaisical episodes:
"We're not running a day-care center here. We're running a major-league baseball operation. I'm past the hand-holding anymore. I'm real passionate about this stuff, and I want the game to be played a certain way, and that certain way is hard."
And here's what the Marlins' then-third base coach Fredi Gonzalez had to say about Gonzalez after the '99 loafing incidents by the then-young shortstop:
"I think we are all waiting for the day when he grows up and plays like he can play," said Gonzalez, who also had to pull the shortstop from minor-league games for not hustling and had long talks with him about his attitude. "Everyone is just tired of the immaturity and of him getting pulled out of the game. It's been a constant from Day 1 -- since (Single) A ball and Double A and Triple A. It's no surprise. The thing that gets me is that there is no remorse. I've been with this guy for three years, and we've done everything possible. The ball is in his court, and he's going to have to fix it."
ON THE MANAGER'S FRONT....The Marlins have conducted no formal interviews with any prospective candidates for the manager's job, though those should begin soon. The five names to keep an eye on, in addition to interim manager Edwin Rodriguez, are Tony Pena, Bobby Valentine, Bo Porter, Ted Simmons and Jim Fregosi -- the same names that have been floating out there for awhile. (Porter interviewed for the job in June after Fredi Gonzalez was fired).
Though I have nothing to base this on other than instincts and pure conjecture, it would not surprise me to discover that the Marlins have already settled on one candidate -- Valentine?? -- and are working behind the closely-guarded scenes to work out a deal. Valentine, by the way, is not responding to emails and texts as he did earlier in the summer when he was being courted by the Marlins. It should be noted,however, that Valentine interviewed on Monday for the managing position with the Mariners.
For what it's worth, the Marlins made the announcement on new manager hire Joe Girardi between the LCS and World Series in 2005.
While we wait for the Marlins to shift out of neutral on the manager front and begin talking to candidates, a few of which are presumably occupied with the postseason, we turn our attention to Randy St. Claire, who completed his first season as Marlins pitching coach.
Looking at staff earned run average as a general guideline figure, the Marlins remained unchanged from 2009 and '10, ranking ninth both seasons in the National League. As a unit, Marlins starters ranked 11th in the NL. But consider: If you eliminate Nate Robertson and Andrew Miller -- unsuccessful left-handers who received 25 combined starts -- from the equation, the Marlins vault to fourth among NL starting staffs. Obviously, lots of starting staffs could probably make a similar claim by simply erasing the stats of one or two pitchers. But the point here is that merely finding an adequate fifth starter would make a huge difference. St. Claire deemed the starting staff a success while allowing that work needs to be done with the bullpen.
"The last month was kind of rough, losing J.J. (Josh Johnson) and Ricky (Nolasco)," St. Claire said. "But the starting staff, I was pleased with. (Anibal) Sanchez overcame the shoulder issues, pitched the whole year, and put up good numbers. (Chris) Volstad, I thought, improved a lot, made a lot of adjustments, and I think is on his way to becoming what everybody hopes he can be.
"For me, you've got four very solid guys who all won 11 or more games, which is big when your fourth and fifth guys are winning double digits and are over .500. You expect that out of your first three guys. But, when your numbers four and five can do it, then you're in good shape."
On the bullpen:
"The bullpen's early struggles hurt us a lot the first 2 1/2 months. They kind of got going the second half. But we had a low of blown saves (a league-league leading 25). If we can convert 10 more out of that 20-something that we blew, there you go. All of a sudden, you're near that 90-win mark. To me, that bullpen is the key to being successful, especially when you've got good starting pitching."
On the need for lefty relief improvement:
"It would be nice to have a couple of them (effective left-handed relievers), where you can really match things up, especially in the National League East with the Phillies and Braves. As the bullpen goes, I would see that need as a big area. It would be nice to have that tough lefty -- a couple of tough lefties -- coming out of that bullpen."
On a potential fifth starter:
"(Alex) Sanabia has done a nice job. As a young kid, he's done a tremendous job. He's probably established a good chance to come in to be one of the frontrunners fighting for that job. If he goes to spring training and throws the ball like he's thrown it here, you would think he would be the frontrunner."
Hanley Ramirez wore the NL batting crown last year with a .342 average. This season, that figure fell to .300. Now we know why. Ramirez was pressing!
Check out this photo of Ramirez in ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue," which hits newsstands on Friday. Observant readers will note that the photo was taken on Sept. 16, the day Ramirez stopped playing due to left elbow inflammation -- yes, the same one manipulating the iron. He made just one more start -- on Sept. 21 -- before calling it a season.
(Photo used with permission of ESPN The Magazine)