A year ago this Saturday, Jeffrey Loria, the noted collector and dealer of fine art, traded for Ozzie Guillen. To his dismay, Ozzie would not stay inside the frame.
This is the bother with human beings, particularly baseball men and especially Ozzie – they're not likely comfortable on a wall. That Picasso glowing through the window may look like a Cubist heart attack in your own living room.
It's all in the perspective.
Take the Boston Red Sox.
After years of life with a noble and mindful housedog, John Henry, the noted owner of soccer and racing teams, believed it time to transition into something with attitude. Not 10 months later, the neighbors don't come around anymore and the new pit bull can't be trusted near the children.
To say nothing of the fur on the sofa.
As a result, we could have two of the higher-profile, clumsy, cacophonous and embarrassing managerial one-and-dones in memory. Rule of thumb: If you're introducing new managers annually, it might not be about the managers.
Indications are that Bobby Valentine will be fired by the Red Sox at season's end, not a year into his two-year contract. There's a drumbeat of the same for Guillen in Miami, not a year into his four-year deal, though public reports and private sources are not nearly as definitive in his case. (In fact, some speculation has Marlins president Larry Beinfest – not Ozzie – as the one to go. Loria, according to reports, is "mulling" such decisions.)
In a winter that could bring significant top-step turnover throughout the game, Valentine and Guillen are the largest of the names, personalities and flameouts. That their failures were in many ways self-inflicted is part of the drama, but not the entire story.
A long-time American League coach sat recently in a dugout and listened to a rough timeline of Valentine's season of missteps and misquotes. The coach sighed.
"That," he said, "doesn't work anymore."
It's a players' league. It's an owners' league. The rest is temporary. A little Fidel Castro love? A clubhouse revolt? A promise to pop a radio guy in the mouth?
Tends to make the rest even more temporary.
And nobody – nobody – goes on the defensive better than Ozzie. He did win a Gold Glove 22 years ago.
"If Jeffrey doesn't think I'm doing the job I should do … it's not the first time he's fired a manager," Guillen told reporters. "Look yourself in the mirror and ask why so many [stinkin'] managers come through here."
It's probably not the beaches. It could be the crappy teams, however. By the way, how many times over the years did Jerry Reinsdorf read similar sentiments in his morning paper?
A few days later, Guillen's erstwhile closer and April-wrecker, Heath Bell, attacked from the airwaves.
"It's hard to respect a guy that doesn't tell you the truth or doesn't tell you face to face," Bell told WQAM in Miami. "We need a guy that leads us and that everybody respects and looks up to."
Bell pitched himself out of the ninth inning months ago, of course, and Ozzie hasn't let him back since. However, Bell noted, "I think I've had a tremendous second half."
That would be a second half that included a 6.97 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in August.
A manager is not immune from public criticism by a player who so grossly underachieved. At least Red Sox players had the decency to sneak around behind Valentine's back.
By Tuesday afternoon, Bell was telling Marlins beat writers his words had been taken out of context.
"Everybody has his opinion," Ozzie told a different radio program Tuesday.
These are the daily dramas that come with encampment on the top step. The Marlins will finish in last place, the Red Sox could as well, and in a critical rebirth season for both. So critical, in fact, that both teams rushed out and bought new managers for the jobs. Loria had to have Guillen. Henry had to have Valentine.
The result? Chaos, followed shortly by a reboot, in all ways. Because of the managers? Not likely, but it doesn't matter. Apparently, in baseball, like the NBA, there's now an inalienable right to love one's boss and have him love you back. And an owner is not required to maintain a course set before people started counting up the wins and losses. He shouldn't be, of course.
I suppose, however, a little composure would be too much to ask. As Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez – the former Marlins manager – observed in the Miami Herald, "There's not a manager dead or alive that Jeffrey thinks is good enough."
We do know which way Loria prefers them, however. That way they won't wriggle around so much when he puts them on the wall.
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