Just over a week after they fired Ozzie Guillen, the Marlins have named Mike Redmond their new manager. A 41-year-old former major league catcher, Redmond will take his first turn at the helm of a big league club, though it's an opportunity he's been building toward for more than a decade. Given the rebranded Marlins' spectacular failure under the controversial Guillen in their first year in their new ballpark, Redmond's lower profile should help, but despite a three-year deal, he's hardly guaranteed job security.
Redmond spent 13 seasons playing in the majors (1998 through 2010), the first seven of them with the Marlins, who signed him as an amateur in 1992; he also spent time with the Twins and Indians. A career-long backup, he never played 100 games or batted 300 times in a season, though he wasn't a bad hitter (.287/.342/.358), and he had a decent arm (32 percent caught stealing rate, above the league average of 30 percent). Redmond earned high marks for serving as a mentor to young pitchers, a reputation that was backed up both by data and by his role as Ivan Rodriguez's understudy with the 2003 world champion Marlins; that year, he paired most often with Brad Penny and Carl Pavano, both of whom took big steps forward, particularly in lowering their walk rates.
Redmond also gained a reputation as a bit of a cutup during his playing days, a natural wit and a clubhouse prankster most famous for removing his clothes. As legend has it, with the Marlins in the midst of a losing streak in May 2003, he stepped into a batting cage wearing nothing but socks, spikes and batting gloves, and to the amazement of his teammates proceeded to play soft toss — "naked flips" — au naturel. Wrote the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Juan C. Rodriguez, "The Marlins won that night. Per the unwritten rules of baseball, Redmond continued the practice until the team lost again." The team won six in a row, and Redmond is said to have brought the practice with him to Minnesota, where he backed up Joe Mauer, worked with Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano, and played for two more clubs that reached the postseason.
Like many backup backstops, Redmond used his time on the bench to map out a second career; in fact, before he got called up for the first time at age 27, while still recovering from a torn labrum in his throwing arm, the Marlins asked him to be a minor league player-coach, though he declined. After his playing days ended in 2010, he took a job in Toronto's chain, piloting the team's Low-A Lansing affiliate to a 77-60 record in 2011 — earning Midwest League Manager of the Year honors in the process — and their High-A Dunedin affiliate to a 78-55 record this past season.
That's a relatively short apprenticeship, but it's more experience than either the Cardinals' Mike Matheny or the White Sox' Robin Ventura had when they took over last year, and both of those teams fared well, with the former taking his team to the NLCS and the latter following up Guillen's previous disaster by keeping his team in contention into the final week. It can be argued that both of those managers' lack of experience showed when it came to handling their bullpens — particularly when compared to predecessors Tony La Russa and Guillen — but both earned high marks in other areas of the game, with their youth working to their advantage in relating to their players, and both were surrounded by experienced coaches to help offset their own inexperience.
Redmond will have his work cut out for him in Miami. The Marlins finished last in the NL East at 69-93, ranked just 12th in attendance with 2.2 million fans, the lowest mark for any team in its first year in a new ballpark since 2000, and held a fire sale that included trading Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Gaby Sanchez in July, and free agent bust Heath Bell in October. Barring improvement, owner Jeffrey Loria will likely order president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest to offload ace Josh Johnson and two more of last year's expensive free agents, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, continuing a scorched earth tradition that will further alienate already-wary fans. Three-year contract or no, Redmond has to be acutely aware that the Marlins have burned through seven managers since Loria took control of the team in February 2002 (including Jack McKeon's two stints separately) and have gone into each of the past four seasons with a different man at the helm. But as predecessors Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez — both appointed to their first major league managerial jobs on Loria's watch — have shown, there's life after managing the Marlins, and Redmond will likely be the better for whatever experience he gains in Miami.