I wish Jack McKeon well. He’s fun to listen to. He’s colorful. If he succeeds, at age 80, as the new manager of the Florida Marlins, it would be a great story, as well as a victory for those who fight the noble fight against age discrimination.
But it’s difficult to see the Marlins’ decision to bring McKeon out of retirement as Edwin Rodriguez’s replacement as anything other than a desperate ploy by a franchise that has lost its way. And the hope here, as it should be for anyone who respects McKeon, is that it doesn’t end in embarrassment for him.
The Marlins’ intentions here are not necessarily bad ones. They obviously made an emotional move, a sentimental move, a public-relations move, in bringing back McKeon, who famously took over the Marlins in midseason 2003 and led them to the World Series title, and who last managed in October 2005. It smacks of something George Steinbrenner would have done (perhaps McKeon is Jeffrey Loria’s Billy Martin) in a moment of impetuous hubris.
But those aren’t exactly the characteristics that are most needed at this moment for a franchise that ought to be seeking stability above all, as it prepares to move into a gleaming new stadium in Miami in 2012. The Marlins should be signaling to its fan base that the building blocks are being put into place for a sustained run of excellence — that management knows what it is doing here. Instead, they are attempting a quick-fix Hail Mary to salvage a 2011 season that stands little chance of going anywhere, and signaling to its fan base that owner Loria is making decisions that should be left to his front office. If you’re keeping score, this makes five managerial changes for Loria since taking over the Marlins in 2002.
With Josh Johnson on the disabled list and Hanley Ramirez flirting with the Mendoza Line, and with 20 losses in their last 22 games, the Marlins don’t look like a candidate for a miraculous turnaround this time. They would have been better off hiring bench coach Brandon Hyde as interim manager, then regrouping over the winter and making a big run at Ozzie Guillen or Bobby Valentine.
Hyde, 37, was born in 1973, the same year McKeon made his managerial debut. But this isn’t about age. It’s about stability, and about making smart decisions that aren’t overly influenced by emotion — or ownership.