Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria personally mandated the lineup card change that flip-flopped starting pitchers Jose Fernandez and Ricky Nolasco in a doubleheader Tuesday and left Marlins players furious with his continued meddling, three sources with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo! Sports.
Loria insisted Fernandez, the team's prized 20-year-old rookie, pitch in the first half of the doubleheader at frigid Target Field instead of the scheduled Nolasco because the day game was expected to be warmer. The temperature at Fernandez's first pitch (38 degrees) was actually colder than at the beginning of Nolasco's start (42 degrees).
Rookie manager Mike Redmond delivered the news to Nolasco about 2½ hours before the first game against the Minnesota Twins, and it did not go over well with him or his teammates. Standard protocol for doubleheaders is that veterans choose which game they want to pitch. Not only did Loria ignore that and further alienate Nolasco, the Marlins' highest-paid player who has previously requested a trade, he sabotaged Redmond less than 20 games into his managerial career.
By overstepping boundaries no other owner in baseball would dare, Loria presented Redmond with a Catch-22: listen to the man who signs his paycheck and risk drawing the players' ire, or refuse to kowtow to Loria's requests and find himself at the mercy of the owner's short fuse.
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"He was embarrassed," one source said of Redmond, who nonetheless claimed publicly the decision was an organizational choice. "He tried to fight it. He had nothing to do with it."
This is not the first time Loria has tried to tinker with his team's on-field product. Loria, one source said, also made lineup suggestions to Ozzie Guillen, the team's previous manager. Guillen ignored them.
Following an offseason in which they shed more than $100 million in payroll during an epic fire sale, the Marlins are 5-17, the worst record in baseball. Their beautiful new stadium sits practically empty on a nightly basis, even as the team gives away tickets. Neither free seats nor a public-relations barrage meant to spin Loria and Marlins president David Samson in a positive light seems to be working.
The arrival of Fernandez tried to maximize goodwill. For a low-revenue team such as the Marlins, prioritizing service-time consideration instead is of the utmost importance. Loria ignored that, preferring the splash the young Fernandez could make upon a sterling debut.
And indeed he has started well – too well, arguably, to send him to the minor leagues, which means Fernandez will be a free agent after six seasons. Had the Marlins stashed him in the minor leagues for the season's first 11 days – a time during which Fernandez made only one start – he would not have been eligible for free agency until 2019.
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No players enjoy hitting the open market more than the Marlins', some of whom refer to free agency as parole. The only true way to build a winner, absent another misguided spending spree, is by changing that perception – by making Miami the sort of franchise for which players want to play.
The latest incident from Loria is simply another reminder: That will never happen as long as he runs the team. After more than a decade as an owner, Loria remains naïve to the real goings-on of a clubhouse – of how an incident such as this doesn't just affect Nolasco but filters down to his teammates and even the purported beneficiary, Fernandez.
As much as Loria tries to ingratiate himself to Fernandez – he personally delivered the news that the right-hander would break camp with the Marlins – it is more of the same misguided nonsense. There is too much bad history and too little sense from Loria for Fernandez's opinion on Marlins ownership to be any different than all the other players who go through Miami.
Fernandez heard the stories, the ones that seem too far-fetched to be true. And now, just like all the others stuck playing for the worst owner in baseball, he must live them for years to come.
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