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From Beinfest to Guillen, uncertainty at the top

     NEW YORK -- Ozzie Guillen says he's bounding off to Spain for a couple of weeks of bullfighting the moment the season ends. After that, Guillen said he intends to spend the winter warming by the fireplace at his home in Chicago. Whether he returns to South Florida as manager of the Marlins remains to be seen.

     Guillen could get the heave-ho, along with president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and other members of the front office and coaching staff. Only owner Jeffrey Loria knows for certain how large the wrecking ball will be, and he's not saying at the moment.

     Most people I talk to find it stunning that, even with the Castro flap and spectcularly bad season, anyone would even contemplate axing Guillen just one year into a four-year deal, no matter how poor his or the team's performance. After all, Guillen was Loria's top target (after Bobby Valentine), his personal choice to whip the lads into shape and steer the team to its first postseason berth since 2003. Loria was so high on Guillen that he didn't just give him the longest and largest ($10 million) contract of any Marlins manager, he traded two players to the White Sox to pry him him out of Chicago.

     Now, after just six months of a baseball season, multiple sources say Loria is experiencing buyer's remorse.

     It's not the first time. Counting his time in Montreal, Loria has hired and spit out managers like sunflower seeds. Felipe Alou. Fired. Jeff Torborg. Fired. Joe Girardi. Fired. Fredi Gonzalez. Fired. In 13 seasons as a major league owner, Loria has had seven managers -- eight if one counts the two separate stints served by Jack McKeon. Dumping Guillen and hiring a replacement would bring the total to eight different managers in 14 years.

     Getting rid of Guillen so quickly wouldn't be unprecedented. Girardi, who was given a 3-year deal and was Loria's choice over other candidates favored by the front office, lasted all of one season before the axe fell. And that overachieving 2006 team earned Girardi the NL Manager of the Year title. Managing the Marlins is not a stable occupation.

     But being in charge of baseball operations has always been. The Marlins have had only two such head architects in their 20 years: Beinfest and Dave Dombrowski. Beinfest's days now appear to be numbered, at least in his present capacity. With three years remaining on his contract, Loria could decide to reassign him rather than out-and-out fire him, but with the understanding Beinfest is free to look for new employment.

     Soon, we'll know all the answers.