Jennings named manager by Marlins
GM moves from front office to bench; Goff joins him as bench coach
MIAMI -- A fear of failure never stood in the way of Dan Jennings taking on a challenge. So when the Marlins presented an idea completely out of left field, the 54-year-old eagerly accepted.
In a move even his mom called "crazy," Jennings on Monday was named manager of the Marlins for the remainder of the season. The club has no plans to immediately fill Jennings' previous position as general manager. President of baseball operations Michael Hill and team president David Samson, with input from the entire front-office staff, will handle day-to-day front-office duties.
When Jennings informed his mother, she replied: "Have you lost your mind?" The way the now former front-office executive sees it, "You can't win if you're afraid to lose."
Jennings, the general manager since the final game of the 2013 season, replaces Mike Redmond, dismissed on Sunday after the club got off to a sluggish 16-22 start. The team also relieved bench coach Rob Leary of his duties.
Mike Goff, the team's advanced scout, will take over as bench coach. Goff was the bench coach in Seattle in 2007.
Jennings, who has 31 years of experience in player development, is under contract through 2018, and he will be given the opportunity to slide back into the general manager position at the end of the season, should this unorthodox hire not work.
"There's going to be cynics," Jennings said. "There's going to be critics. If I was sitting in your chairs, absolutely [I'd question]. And I fully expect to be judged on the body of work that we will accomplish and pursue on that field nightly. You know what? It is outside the box. It's unconventional."
The Marlins didn't consider any other candidates, instead choosing the highly unusual route of sending the general manager down to the dugout. One of the previous rare occasions was a huge success story. After acting as the Braves' GM in the late 1980s, Bobby Cox took over as manager and led Atlanta to a record 14 consecutive first-place finishes.
Jennings helped put together the roster that has yet to live up to expectations. Along with being a highly respected player evaluator, he is extremely personable and is considered a motivator and an energizer.
"He's a leader of men," Hill said. "He's a motivator. He's inspirational. And he's energetic. Those are the qualities we wanted on our club. Because we don't feel like we're playing to the level we're capable of playing. He's intimate with the roster."
But Jennings, who played college ball at Southern Mississippi, never played professionally at any level. He never coached or managed in the pros, but he coached high school in the 1980s.
More than game strategy, Jennings' primary task is to win the trust and respect of his players.
"These guys are the best in the world at what they do," Jennings said. "You try to build a rapport with them. You want to know more about them than just the stats on the back of their card. You want to get to know them as people and their families and what makes them tick. We pride ourselves in doing that and maybe breaking some of the barriers that normally are in place from the front office to the clubhouse mindset."
The Marlins technically still have their previous two managers on the books. Redmond was under contract through 2017, and they are also still paying Ozzie Guillen, who had three years left on his deal when he was fired as manager in 2012.
Jennings becomes the eighth managerial move owner Jeffrey Loria has made since he purchased the club in 2002. In 2003, the Marlins also were 16-22 when they made a change, replacing Jeff Torborg with Jack McKeon, who served two stints as Miami's manager. That year, McKeon led the club to a World Series title.
"I think sometimes the greatest things in life are right next to you and you may just not know it," Samson said. "We were very careful not to be blinded by someone with 30 years experience or 20 years, or someone who had been recently released. When you think what you have right with you is the best, there is no reason to do something else."
Jennings will wear No. 26.
"'I believe in that group of men down there so much that the 26th man is the manager," Jennings said. "The manager is not more important. And as I said, managers can only lose games. The players win them."