Manager of the Year should actually be named “the award for the team that was supposed to suck but didn’t.” The reason behind this is that if a team performed beyond it’s expectations, then it must have been the manager who played a large part. How much of a part he actually played is hard to determine, but certainly he deserves some credit. This year’s leading candidate in the NL is Joe Girardi of the Florida Marlins, and it’s shaping up to be a good story because Girardi is going to be fired after the season. The general reaction I’ve seen across the web, from both writers and fans, is that the Marlins must be idiots. “How can they fire the man who managed a $15 million team to a near-playoff berth!” If he wins MOY, then this will confirm the consensus. Already, reports have Girardi lined up to take Dusty Baker’s place in Chicago.
Some say it’s a personal thing with the owner, because Jeff Loria almost fired him earlier in the year after he yelled at the owner for arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. But, it’s not just one shouting match with the owner—although yelling at the owner in public is never a smart idea. Girardi and the front office don’t get along, and the front office deserves most of the credit for the Marlins this year. If you have to choose one or the other, Loria is making the wise choice. While many in the media referred to these moves as a “fire sale”, the Marlins were making good baseball decisions. They dumped the big contracts of Carlos Delgado and Mike Lowell, and picked up several cheap and young replacements. Miguel Cabrera is hitting the ball no worse than Carlos Beltran, yet he’s making $11.5 million less. Dontrelle Willis continues to be a bargain. As a Braves fan, no team scares me more in the near future than the Marlins.
But couldn’t these players have played better because of Girardi’s guidance? Maybe, but it’s not like Florida just started putting a winning club on the field on the cheap. This is a team that won the World Series three years ago on a $50 million payroll. From 2000-2005, the Marlins had a payroll nearly 40% below the league average, while averaging 82 wins a season. That is very impressive.
The Marlins won’t miss Girardi and the Cubs—or whoever hires him—shouldn’t expect any miracles from him. This doesn’t mean that Girardi is a bad manager, but I think too little credit is going to Larry Beinfest and his staff for the Marlins excellent season.