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Daily Archives: June 21, 2011

McKeon, Valentine and Guillen: The Loria Marlins Manager Roller Coaster

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MLB reports:   In the world of Jeffrey Loria, nothing is ever boring.  Loria, who orchestrated an Expos to Marlins trade-in back in 2002, already owns two World Series rings.  The first championship ring was courtesy of manager Jack McKeon, who came on board to manage the Marlins in 2003 and won it all in his initial Florida campaign.  McKeon was successful in turning around a Marlins team that started off slowly and picked up steam after his selection.  The Marlins currently sit after today’s game with a 33-41 record.  They are in last place in the NL East, 12.5 games behind the division leading Philadelphia Phillies.  Losers of 11 out of their last 12 games, the Marlins have a 16-23 record at home and 17-18 record on the road.  Something had to give and manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned abruptly yesterday.  Indicating that change was in the best interest of the team, Rodriguez was out and the Marlins quickly replaced him with former manager Jack McKeon.  Out with the “old” and in with the “new”.

John Aloysius (Jack) McKeon will be 81 in November of this year.  A veteran manager for sixteen seasons, McKeon managed five teams in his manager league career.  His record in the dugout speaks for itself, as we take a look at the numbers:

Year

Tm

Lg

G

W

L

W-L%

1973 Kansas City Royals AL

162

88

74

.543

1974 Kansas City Royals AL

162

77

85

.475

1975 Kansas City Royals AL

96

50

46

.521

1977 Oakland Athletics AL

53

26

27

.491

1978 Oakland Athletics AL

123

45

78

.366

1988 San Diego Padres NL

115

67

48

.583

1989 San Diego Padres NL

162

89

73

.549

1990 San Diego Padres NL

80

37

43

.463

1997 Cincinnati Reds NL

63

33

30

.524

1998 Cincinnati Reds NL

162

77

85

.475

1999 Cincinnati Reds NL

163

96

67

.589

2000 Cincinnati Reds NL

163

85

77

.525

2003 Florida Marlins NL

124

75

49

.605

2004 Florida Marlins NL

162

83

79

.512

2005 Florida Marlins NL

162

83

79

.512

  Kansas City Royals  

420

215

205

.512

  Oakland Athletics  

176

71

105

.403

  San Diego Padres  

357

193

164

.541

  Cincinnati Reds  

551

291

259

.529

  Florida Marlins  

448

241

207

.538

     

1952

1011

940

.518

McKeon comes with some terrific credentials.  He is a two-time National League Manager of the Year, winning the award in 1999 originally with the Reds and again with the Marlins in his championship 2003 season.  McKeon has done it all and seen it all.  But the question on everyone’s mind is whether he will have a strong impact on the Marlins and turn around their season.  From there, the Marlins will need to choose their long-term manager for the 2012 season.  There is much discussion and debate surrounding the Marlins, as they complete the 2011 season and move next year to their new stadium and become the “Miami Marlins.”

As much as the Marlins seemed to take a step forward this season as an organization, they are apparently still stuck at square one in some ways.  Take their managerial candidates.  Back in their last offseason, the Marlins were looking at Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen to become their next manager.  Valentine, an analyst with ESPN, could not come to terms with the team and as a result was not hired.  The team inquired as well on the availability of Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a former coach with McKeon’s 2003 championship team.  When the White Sox required a return of either super prospects Logan Morrison or Mike Stanton, the Marlins said thanks, but no thanks.  Edwin Rodriguez ended up receiving the post and did not last even half a season in Florida.  With the team in disarray and a fresh voice needed, the Marlins turned to their past in naming Jack McKeon their interim manager for the remainder of the season.

The cigar chomping McKeon, one of the most old-school baseball men you will ever meet, is seen as having a no-nonsense type of approach to the game.  As his first move as manager, McKeon benched franchise superstar Hanley Ramirez yesterday.  Reports indicate that tardiness was the cause, while others have viewed the move as a wake-up call for the team.  Either way, McKeon has clearly shown that he is in charge and is not prepared to accept the Marlins losing ways.  Unfortunately, as the years have progressed, baseball has become more and more of a “young man’s game.”  Todays young players, part of the me-first generation, don’t often take kindly to veteran coaches that are seen as being out of touch with today’s times.  This was evident before in Florida, where McKeon originally lasted only three seasons.  McKeon was seen as a very stern and tough manager and had lost much of the attention of the clubhouse by the end of his tenure.  Now the Marlins have gone back to the barrel to see if McKeon has one more strong season of managing in him.

In accepting the Marlins’ position, McKeon has become the second oldest manager in baseball history, just behind Connie Mack.  While a great feat for McKeon, it will remain to be seen the impact that he will have on the Marlins 2011 fortunes.  My gut is that the Marlins will be lucky to get much more out of the team, even with McKeon in charge.  The team is dangerously close to knocking themselves out of contention by the All-Star break and anything short of a miracle at this point will change that.  With most MLB teams hiring young, dynamic managers to lead the way, its surprising in some ways that Loria has gone backwards in his approach.  But given Loria’s track record, he rarely does anything by the book.

After Jack McKeon completes his second tenure in Florida, the decision will still remain as to whether Bobby Valentine or Ozzie Guillen will be at the helm come 2012.  Both are still in contention for the job according to reports, but neither appears in my estimation to be a great fit.  Valentine and Guillen are both fiery individuals with strong wills and personalities.  After watching the Joe Girardi fiasco in his battles with owner Loria, many managerial candidates have since been scared off from taking the manager’s job with the Marlins.  Valentine and Guillen would both have difficult times being placed in a puppet type role as a manager and for that reason, I cannot see a either working out long-term in Florida.  Loria would be well served selecting a strong baseball man for the job, but one that has extreme patience and ability to take the directions that would come from the top of the pyramid.  Loria has shown in the past to be a man of little patience and self-control when it comes to the personnel of his ball club.  If Bobby V or Ozzie do eventually take the job, watch out for the fireworks that will likely come in Miami.  While Ozzie is signed for the 2012 season, insiders have indicated that the White Sox may grant permission for the Marlins to speak to him, if the ballclub does not return to contention by season’s end.  My bet is that Ozzie will be headed one day to Miami to rejoin the Marlins as their manager.  Until then, Jack McKeon will be captain of the Marlins ship.

I guess its true what they say.  Everything old really is new again.  The magic was there in 2003.  Let’s see if the Marlins and McKeon can rekindle some of their spark eight years later.

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Interview with Baseball Columnist Danny Knobler: CBSSports.com

Monday June 20, 2011

MLB reports:  We introduce today on the Reports Danny Knobler, Baseball Columnist for CBSSports.com.  While we all enjoy Danny’s work, today’s feature allows everyone to learn about the man behind the columns.  Danny’s bio from CBSSports.com is as follows:

“After 18-plus seasons of watching the Detroit Tigers lose, Danny Knobler joined CBSSports.com in May 2008 as a national baseball writer, thankful that he can finally write about winners as well as losers.  He’s teaming with Scott Miller, who once covered the Minnesota Twins through six consecutive losing seasons.

The Tigers went 1,285-1,598 in Knobler’s time on the beat, although to be fair they did make it to the 2006 World Series.  It’s not like they were the Royals.

Before moving to Michigan, Knobler worked for 5½ years at Baseball America, and later covered baseball for Sport magazine, which isn’t around anymore.  He also wrote for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, neither of which is around anymore, either.

Knobler graduated from UCLA, and just to prove that he likes some winners, he still follows UCLA basketball.”

We now present Danny Knobler:  Baseball Columnist for CBSSports.com:

MLB reports:  Thank you for your time as part of this interview.  You currently cover Major League Baseball for CBSSports.com.  How long have you been with CBS and how did you originally come to work in baseball?

Knobler:  I joined CBSSports.com in May 2008, after 18-plus years covering the Detroit Tigers for Booth Newspapers.  Before that, I worked at Baseball America, a job I got right out of college at UCLA. At UCLA, I worked in the Sports Information Office, handling baseball PR.  While I’d followed all sports, I always gravitated towards baseball, and since I’ve been in the business, I’ve always told people that baseball is the most fascinating game to write about, because of the nature of the game, because it is played every day, and because of the characters involved.

MLB reports:  Being a part of the media must be very exciting.  Please give our readers a glimpse as to what your job entails and the highlights of working in media.

Knobler:  I love my job. I enjoy being at the ballpark, and I enjoy talking about baseball.  There’s no doubt that there are times when it is a grind, but the game keeps drawing you in.

MLB reports:  What teams have you found have the greatest buzz surrounding them this season?  Have any particular “popular” teams seen a drop in publicity and media attention this season in your attention?

Knobler:  The Yankees and Red Sox always are going to generate the biggest buzz, because they have the biggest followings.  The Phillies have moved up in recent years, but they still fall slightly behind the other two in national buzz. I’m not saying I want this to be true, just that it is true.  When you write about the Yankees or Red Sox, more people read it.  That doesn’t mean people don’t care about other teams, not at all.  All you need to do is look at the number of All-Star votes that Jose Bautista is getting to see that’s not true.  As for the team that has seen its profile drop the most, it has to be the Mets.  That could change in the next few weeks, depending on how serious they are about trading Jose Reyes, but the interest in the Mets now is really down.

MLB reports:  How much interaction do you have with the players on a given team?  Do you keep in contact with many even after they leave the team by trade, retirement, release etc.?  Are there particular teams that you cover specifically or do you report on all of baseball?

Knobler:  I report on all of baseball. Obviously, by spending 18-plus years covering the Tigers, I’m closer to more ex-Tigers than to other players, but I know players on every team.  And yes, I keep in touch with some players after they retire.  Many of them I don’t see as often, but sometimes I’ll run into a player I covered years ago. It happened last year during the playoffs, when I saw Tony Phillips at a Reds-Phillies game (Halladay’s no-hitter, as it turned out).  I saw Eric Davis just last week at the draft.

MLB reports:  Where did you work and study before you joined CBS Sports?  How did education and previous experiences help you to your current role?

Knobler:  I went to school at UCLA, and that gave me my first real inside look at baseball. And some of the players who were classmates at UCLA went on to play in the big leagues, including Mike Gallego, who still works in the big leagues as Oakland’s third-base coach. Later, at Baseball America, I covered Team USA through the 1987 Pan Am Games and the 1988 Olympics.  The relationships built there with players like Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez and Jim Abbott carried on through their big-league careers and beyond.

MLB reports:  What are the main departments of CBS Sports that you work with on a day-to-day basis?  Do you have much interaction with the rest of the CBS squad and do you travel much as part of your role?

Knobler:  At CBSSports.com, I work with a great team, the best I’ve ever been around.  I work most closely with Scott Miller, our other Senior Baseball Writer, who does a great job and is maybe the nicest guy in the business.  We also have a great staff in the office.  I travel some, but not nearly as much as I did when I was on the beat. Living in New York helps, because with teams in both leagues, every team in baseball plays here at least one time a year.

MLB reports:  What is your job like comparing the baseball season and off-season?  Does the role change much and can you give our readers the insight as to what the two different times of the year are like in reporting.

Knobler:  The job does change some. People always ask, “What do you do in the offseason?”  Baseball isn’t played year-round, but baseball goes on year-round.  There is news basically every day of the year. The big difference is that during the season, a significant amount (but not nearly all) of the news is at the ballpark.  In the winter, most of the news is gathered by phone, email and text.  You spend a lot more time sitting around, but you work just as hard.

MLB reports:  If you could have your future dream job, what would it be?  Would it be in baseball?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Knobler:  I have my dream job. I don’t want to work for a team.  I love doing what I do right now, and hope to do it for a lot longer.

MLB reports:  In the situation where a college graduate comes to you and asks you to give them advice on how to “work in baseball”, what would be your response?  Any tips that you can give our readers would be appreciated.

Knobler:  If by “work in baseball,” you mean work for a team, I would say be prepared to work long hours for very low pay, especially at the start, and in some not-so-glamorous jobs.  I know people who went on to be general managers in the big leagues who talk about the time they spent in the minors, and about the days they had to go pull the tarp when it rained.  Ask yourself if you’re that dedicated. If you are, then get in touch with anyone you know in the game.  Baseball also sets up a job-seekers event every year at the winter meetings.

MLB reports:  How has your life changed since working in baseball?  Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?  What have been the best parts of the job?

Knobler:  I don’t really think of myself as working “in baseball.”  But any job involved with the game, be it writer, broadcaster, team executive, coach or player has huge pluses and also some minuses.  Baseball can consume your life, whether you play it, talk about it for a living or write about it.  The games are at night, and on weekends. I remember Travis Fryman telling me once that a friend in Pensacola asked him, “When you’re in Detroit, what do you do on weekends?”  It was a normal question you might ask any friend who moved somewhere for work, but of course, in the case of a baseball player, the answer was, “We play on weekends.”  Well, we write on weekends, too, although not as often as I did as a beat writer.

MLB reports:  Do you have favorite interviews that you can share and some that were more regrettable?  Details Danny, details!

Knobler:  Too many good ones to name.  Bad ones, sure. Jason Johnson once told me, “I feel sorry for your paper.”  And no, it didn’t bother me that he felt that way.

MLB reports:  Who are your picks to meet in the World Series this year and why?

Knobler:  When the season began, I picked the Red Sox and Braves. I’ll stick with that, although for obvious reasons I’m a little more confident about the Red Sox than the Braves right now.  I never worry about picks that don’t turn out. I’m not putting money on any of my picks, and I would hope no one else would put any money down based on who I pick.

MLB reports:  Thank you again for your time Danny and joining us today on MLB reports.  It has been a pleasure speaking with you and we look forward to continuing to enjoy your fine work on CBSSports.com.

***A special thank you to Danny Knobler for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  You can follow Danny on Twitter and click here to read Danny on CBSSports.com.  To view the man in action, click on this YouTube link of Danny speaking with Reds Manager, Dusty Baker***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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