After Marlins' turnaround, Schumaker an NL Manager of the Year finalist

November 7th, 2023

The Marlins' Skip Schumaker was named a finalist for National League Manager of the Year on Monday night, along with Craig Counsell (Brewers) and Brian Snitker (Braves). The winner, who was voted upon by the Baseball Writers' Association of America prior to the postseason, will be revealed at 6 p.m. ET on Nov. 14 on MLB Network.

Schumaker, 43, is looking to become the fourth skipper in franchise history to garner the award, joining predecessor Don Mattingly (2020), Joe Girardi ('06) and Jack McKeon ('03). That would put the Marlins behind the White Sox (five) for second-most honorees in MLB history. Schumaker also would be the eighth person to win the award in his first year as a manager, most recently accomplished by Rocco Baldelli (Twins in '19).

During his introductory press conference last November, Schumaker stated his intention to build a winning culture similar to that in St. Louis, where he captured two World Series titles during an 11-year Major League playing career. It was no small task, considering that since 2004, the season after the Florida Marlins captured their second World Series title, the club had compiled the fourth-worst record in Major League Baseball.

Expected to finish fourth in the NL East, the underdog Marlins (84-78) instead improved by 15 wins to reach the postseason in a full season for the first time in 20 years.

But it wasn't smooth sailing.

Opening Day roster members Jazz Chisholm Jr., Avisaíl García, Trevor Rogers and Johnny Cueto missed significant time with injuries. After entering the All-Star break 14 games above .500, the Marlins opened the second half on a season-high eight-game skid. They even dropped below .500 (66-67) on Aug. 30, only to capture series wins over the postseason-bound Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers and Braves in September to secure the NL's fifth seed. In doing so, Miami became the first team since Minnesota in 2009 to sit below .500 133 games or later into a season and make the postseason in a 162-game slate.

All the while, Schumaker handled a young pitching staff whose workload was being monitored, made even more difficult when ace Sandy Alcantara and rookie Eury Pérez were sidelined over the season's final weeks. But the club personified its manager's fighting spirit, recording comeback wins in 48.8 percent of its victories and reversing its one-run fortune -- from an MLB-worst 41 losses in 2022 to an MLB-best win percentage (.717) in '23.

"It's hard to put my finger on one thing, but … what Skip does really well is he communicates really well, and that translates as well with his staff and everyone," left-hander Braxton Garrett said last month. "There's never a wonder, really, in my mind, why he pulled me or why he did this or that. He's going to be honest with you, and he's also a young guy. He played a long time, so he really balances the player-coach and the manager who needs to get on you and tell you what you need to do."