How Skip Schumaker is keeping Marlins afloat despite early season struggles

If Luis Arraez had his way, Skip Schumaker would be his manager forever.

“Skip is one of the best managers I’ve had in my life,” said Arraez, who is in his sixth MLB season and second with both the Miami Marlins and with Schumaker. “He’s really one of the best. He’s amazing.”

Even as the Marlins toil toward MLB’s cellar in the opening weeks of the 2024 season — they are 3-12 after a rare 5-1 home win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday — Schumaker’s team is still finding ways to remain upbeat and relatively optimistic.

That’s a byproduct of playing under Schumaker, who just last year led the Marlins to a playoff berth for the first time in a full season since 2003 en route to being named the National League Manager of the Year. Confidence is key, especially when a team is struggling and doubt can easily creep in.

“That’s a lot of leadership, right?” Schumaker said. “We’re not going to panic. We trust the process. We trust the preparation. We’re trying to execute the best we can and help these guys execute the best they can. That’s the job.”

And Schumaker’s players certainly aren’t taking him for granted, especially considering how is staying as even-keeled as he has managed to be despite everything going on around him — from the team’s performance to coping with the passing of his father to trying to not be a distraction after news reports surfaced that the team option in his contract for the 2025 season was voided this winter, making him a managerial free agent after this season.

One would be hard pressed to find Schumaker acting differently, at least externally, than he did last year when he joined the Marlins as a first-time manager and did what he could to instill a culture of positivity, competitiveness and assertiveness.

“As soon as he came here, he opened his arms to us,” said Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, who is sidelined for the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. “That’s the first one that he did for us. After that, the confidence, the chemistry and the culture, everything changed.”

For center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr., it was Schumaker’s combination of his work ethic and directness from the get-go after taking the job that made him realize that Schumaker had the team’s best interests at heart.

“He just came with strictly business and came to show us how to do it and lead the way and take charge,” Chisholm said. “I don’t think anybody has gotten to the park before Skip most days, and his son was right there with him some days to be in there as early as everybody else and there in the gym and working every day. I mean, if he’s the manager and he could be in the gym working every day, why can’t me as a player do the same thing?”

Arraez still remembers his first conversation with Schumaker. It came shortly after he hung up with then-general manager Kim Ng after the Marlins acquired him in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. Schumaker laid out all of his expectations and hopes for Arraez, giving him a sense of what he would be doing once he got to Miami.

One main attribute about Schumaker that stands out to Arraez: His actions speak just as loud as his words.

“He doesn’t do a lot of meetings,” Arraez said, “but when he says something, he’s the guy you want to listen to.”

Schumaker’s message right now is to keep the faith. That’s obviously easier said than done considering the Marlins’ slide to start the season.

And he knows, by the dejection following each loss and the preparation heading into each game, that the desire to improve remains inside the clubhouse. Right now, it’s a matter of that belief reflecting in the on-field product.

“The execution hasn’t always been there, but the preparation and the want and the will to win every single day has not changed,” Schumaker said. “When they come into the stadium, they’re expecting to win. That will not change as long as our staff is around here. We are willing to fight to try to win every single game and and the players, they’re still confident. They still want to win every single day.”

“If it doesn’t eat at you a little bit, that means you don’t care,” Schumaker added. “We still care. The care factor’s there for my staff, myself, for all the players. They care. They really do. That’s part of being a professional is to to flush it as quick as you can. ... The losses hurt, there’s no doubt about it, but I think more than anything, you’re trying to figure out how to get these guys better every single day.”