Marlins president leaves Gonzalez hanging

Gordon Edes
Yahoo! Sports

PHILADELPHIA – Florida Marlins president David Samson would not dispel speculation that manager Fredi Gonzalez's job may be in jeopardy, saying Sunday that owner Jeffrey Loria believes the club should have made the playoffs and that Gonzalez would be "evaluated" after the season.

"As we look to performance, things that happened, games that went one way, games that went another way, there's no question that we felt we should be a playoff team,'' Samson said.

Samson appeared in the press box during Sunday's regular-season finale between the Marlins and Phillies to address reports that former big league manager Bobby Valentine had spoken with Loria about managing the club.

"Not that I'm aware of," Samson replied when asked if Valentine had been in contact with the club, but later said he wouldn't "rule out" the possibility that Loria may have spoken with Valentine, who has managed in Japan for the last six seasons and recently rejoined ESPN as an analyst.

"They've known each other since Jeffrey owned Oklahoma City," Samson said, referring to the Texas Rangers' Triple-A franchise that Loria owned during the same time period that Valentine managed the Rangers (1989-92). "Jeffrey talks to people every day. To me, that's not newsworthy."

Gonzalez has a contract to manage through the 2011 season, agreeing to a two-year extension in February. Samson insisted that it was "premature" to suggest that Gonzalez was in trouble, saying that his evaluation was part of the team's normal course of business.

"I'll tell you right now,'' he said. "Larry (Beinfest, the Marlins' GM) has a deal till 2015 and he'll be evaluated the same way."

Pressed on whether Gonzalez should be concerned, Samson said: "For me, with any job in any organization, in baseball, on Wall Street or anywhere, everybody but the owner should be concerned every year. You just have to guard against complacency in any business you run."

The Marlins entered the season finale with 87 wins, three more wins than they had in 2008, Gonzalez's second season as manager. That total is the third-highest in club history. But after Aug. 11, the team never got closer than 3½ games of the Phillies in the NL East. They were within two games of the wild-card lead Aug. 18, but went 5-9 in their next 14 games and were never close again.

Another Marlins official was incredulous at the suggestion that Gonzalez's job was in question.

"No way," he said. "He's got two more years on his contract."

The Marlins would hardly seem an ideal landing place for Valentine, who hasn't managed in the big leagues since being fired by the Mets after the 2003 season. The Marlins began the 2009 season with a $35 million payroll, roughly one-sixth the size that of the New York Yankees, and don't seem inclined to embark on a spending spree.

"We're not going to lose money," Samson said. "We tried it in 2005, and won 83 games and didn't make the playoffs. We're still paying the price for having a payroll that high.

"We haven't done furloughs, we haven't had mass firings like other teams have done. We're evaluating the possibility of that, too."

The Marlins' coaching staff also has not been informed whether it will be back next season. The coaches' contracts expire Oct. 31.

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