Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Marlins: Addition by Subtraction

from today's Miami Herald -

"Marlins: Immaturity was a problem in '07
After an offseason self-evaluation, second-year manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's ''going to do some stuff different'' -- including a bigger emphasis on defense after the Marlins committed a baseball-leading 137 errors last season. With spring training opening next week, defense and starting pitching are by far the biggest areas where Florida must show growth.
But two respected veteran Marlins (closer Kevin Gregg and catcher Matt Treanor) spoke last week of a behind-the-scenes dynamic that also must change: a need for more seriousness and professionalism. A lot of Marlins players are fine in those areas, but some behavior caused one Marlins employee to call last year's clubhouse the most immature he has ever seen.

''It's the understanding of the seriousness of what we're doing here. They're having a good time, and that's what we want to do, but there's a fine line that has to be drawn, and sometimes, we went under that line of where we needed to be -- before, during and after games,'' said Gregg, who obviously won't publicly identify line-crossers.

Gregg said Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera -- both now with Detroit -- were cast in a role ''where they were looked up to'' and they ``handled some things differently than I would have handled them. Being a first-year guy, I wasn't in a spot to say some things that probably should have been said.''

Treanor was more blunt: ''If you can't handle your business, I don't think you should be joking and laughing,'' he said. ``If you give a half-hearted effort because you'd rather be joking around in the clubhouse or worried what's going on after or before the game, you're not here doing your job. Maybe this year, I'm going to assume more of a leadership role . . . if I see stuff like that. This year, our clubhouse is going to be about business.

``We're going to be more professional, [showing] more respect for each other and what we're trying to accomplish. There was behavior [last year] you wish you could take back or maybe addressed [immediately] because if you let people do something, anytime there's not that full respect, we're not cohesive and that translates to our play. If people are acting up, it will be addressed a bit closer than years past.''

Sophomoric behavior is a part of any baseball clubhouse, more so with a team as young as the Marlins. But the extent of it troubled several players. Gregg and Treanor didn't offer examples, but other Marlins people spoke of players leaving visiting clubhouses a mess and other immature antics, including one involving Cabrera on the team plane. The Marlins weren't always happy with Cabrera (weight, body language, a few instances of tardiness), but his bat obviously will be missed.

Asked how Cabrera's departure will change clubhouse dynamics, Treanor said, ``Whatever Miguel did, he came out and [performed]. . . . [But] if you happen to be doing something that somebody follows you around, you have to look at yourself and say maybe it's not bad for me, but it is bad for somebody else.''

Treanor and Gregg don't blame Gonzalez for off-field shenanigans, with Gregg noting, ''Fredi can't be holding our hands. He's not our father. It's 100 percent on the players.'' Luis Gonzalez's leadership should help, and that's one reason the Marlins are paying him $2 million, with another $1 million in incentives.

''Players need to police themselves,'' Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said.

• Fredi Gonzalez asserted the ''discipline was fine'' and that he addressed any issue privately. One thing Gonzalez will change?

'We are going to emphasize defense more to the players, and make it a pride thing. Nobody is going to get lined up and shot. [But] you make a dumb error, we're going to look at you and go, `Come on' or even guys among themselves. Our pitching staff made [an MLB-high] 20 errors. Some of our young guys, this is their third year, they're not young anymore.''

I think it's pretty clear they are referring to Cabrera's attitude. He came into spring training out of shape and disinterested, his defense was horrendous, and there were reports of the attitude problem heading back to 04 and 05. Remember in Jack McKeon's last year, there were those rumors that Cabrera was late to batting practice, didn't shag fly balls and was selfish in the clubhouse? Here is what was reported in 2005 on

If the Marlins' clubhouse were a baseball, it might be coming apart at the seams.
A.J. Burnett was sent home this week by the team after derogatory remarks he made about the franchise. But of even greater concern might be the attitude of budding star Miguel Cabrera.

The Palm Beach Post reported that Cabrera's teammates and some Marlins officials are concerned about the 22-year-old slugger's attitude and work ethic.
Cabrera was not in the lineup Monday, serving a one-game suspension for showing up late to a game in Atlanta on Sunday. He also wasn't in the lineup last Thursday in New York after not reporting on time to a medical treatment after fouling a ball off his knee the night before, the newspaper reported.
Also, Cabrera stopped shagging fly balls in July and August, instead sitting in the dugout with friends from his native Venezuela, the Post reported, and only resumed the pregame activity after a talk with Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a special assistant for the team.
"Sometimes fame comes too quickly," Perez told the Post. "He has the ability; everybody knows that. He's got a great future ahead of him, but that's up to him."
Cabrera's attitude has cost him respect in the clubhouse, some Marlins players told the Post. Marlins veteran
Jeff Conine told the newspaper that a player should have a heart to heart with Cabrera.
Cabrera isn't in the mood for a lecture, however.
"[Forget] the veterans," he told the Post. "They haven't told me anything and they better not come tell me anything, either.
"I don't want to hear anything else. I want to play baseball, give what I have to give on the field of play, and win. That's all I want. ...
"Everyone here is a grown man," he told the newspaper. "Everyone knows what he's doing. And I'm not going to go crazy worrying about these things."
Perez told the Post he believes Cabrera is just going through a phase.
"I think he sees that baseball is what he wants to do, what he loves. He has all my support, but he has to be willing to listen. What you say can't go in one ear and out the other," he told the newspaper.

If he acted that way with a room full of oldtimers like Hall of Famer Tony Perez, Lowell, Conine, & Delgado, imagine how he acted on a losing team full of rookie and second year players. I am not saying the Marlins won't desperately miss his stats, but maybe they'll have a more mature attitude and it translates to the field.

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