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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by Stanley Ipkiss, May 7, 2010.
Stay hot kid!
I would love to see him in the major leagues and not AA, he’s almost 24
Came over for stanton
Good lord Sierra
Was nice pickup by this front office, if we could get the Houston guy healthy we’d have 2 good pieces in the bullpen
Kid needs to go down there and figure his shit out
He has arrived
This little cocksucker
Coming from the guy who traded the best hitter in our team’s history for Cameron fucking Maybin, an actual clone of Brinson, and Andrew fucking Miller
So many months of build up and the braves miss their shot to hit urena. Pathetic they went so far out of their way to set up for this and even more hilarious that they missed.
Brinson in the minors update
We’re currently on pace to absolutely shatter the least amount of runs scored for a team in mlb history (set in 1905)
We have solid pitching in the majors, good pitching in the minors, but we do not have close to enough good bats in the minors to replace this entire lineup.
You wanna build around stockpiling arms? Sure, but you atleast need to field a lineup that can score when you need to
We’re about 2 seasons away from being a MLB version of most of Sully’s UF teams.
Yeah gotta load up on bats this draft and next year when we hopefully have the top pick
This would be a helluva pick for us
4. Marlins: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California
If Vaughn makes it past Chicago, then Miami figures to grab the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner and the best all-around hitter in the Draft. If not, word is that Marlins executives want Abrams and their scouts prefer Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday
Would be exactly what our farm system (and eventually team) needs....hope it happens
Seems like the pick will end up being him for Abrams
Just give me the biggest bat available, hopefully from college ranks so it won’t be 4-5 years
Apparently this is a very hitting heavy draft, which is very fortunate for us
Abrams will certainly take longer as he’s out of HS, Vaughn has some crazy power and the only knocks on him are that he is 5’11 so not your typical 1B size and he can only play 1B
Yeah wouldn’t be surprised if they take Bleday over him just with the frames they are working with (5’11 RH 1B vs 6’3 LH OF)
Btw here’s a solid rating source for the draft prospects
Need pro-ready bats. I’d go for one of the college kids
Guy needs to be called up
I was halfway listening to the broadcast today and they said the top 3 pitchers in opponents OPS or slugging, cant remember which, were all 3 former Marlins prospects. German was #3. The 3 guys were dealt in the Dan Staily, Prado, and Rodney trades. From the outside looking in, it seems like the scouts have done a great job. The front office was just either dumb and traded away good talent or couldnt keep them bc of money. Is that about right?
Loria was a terrible owner who depleted our already thin farm system for some vet arms he thought could get us to the playoffs
He, like usual, was a moron and I hope he dies painfully
no, just because I don't want Cornelius following a team I follow.
Sorry man but he’s pretty much exactly what our farm system needs atm
I don’t want to have the worst offense in the mlb for the next 4 years
Can you post
Neither do I, but I just can't like the same player as Cornelius.
Rosenthal: Derek Jeter’s right-hand man is tearing up a franchise and creating enemies along the way
By Ken Rosenthal 72
He wanted the dogs out of the clubhouse. No, it was worse than that. Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ vice president of player development and scouting, could not tolerate the dogs, who had been a popular part of the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ scene since August 2006, fetching bats, carrying buckets of balls to the plate umpire, running the bases after every game.
The dogs are such a phenomenon that the bucket of the late Miss Babe Ruth, a Labrador Retriever who once worked 638 consecutive home games, is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But Denbo, making an unannounced visit to the Marlins’ Low-A affiliate in June 2018, was not interested in upholding tradition. He took one look at the two dog kennels in the clubhouse and demanded that they be removed, berating a clubhouse attendant, a longtime employee of the team who is in his 50s.
The exchange was the breaking point in the Marlins’ 16-year relationship with Greensboro, according to the team’s president and general manager, Donald Moore, who said he simply could not work with Denbo. Moore subsequently made a deal with the Pirates’ organization, and the Marlins settled for a much less advantageous affiliation in Clinton, Iowa, where the ballpark is considered outdated and remote.
That dispute was not an isolated incident for Denbo, 58, a longtime mentor and confidant of Marlins CEO and former Yankees great Derek Jeter. Denbo has transformed the organization with his brusque and at times overbearing manner, and he remains a polarizing figure in his second full season with the Marlins, eliciting strong loyalty from those who support him and strong enmity from those who do not.
“I’ve never encountered someone in baseball — or in life, honestly — who seemed to go so far out of their way to treat other people badly, to the extent where you think, ‘Why would anyone do this?’” one former Marlins employee says.
Others say Denbo is giving the Marlins precisely the jolt they need after years of lacking direction under previous owner Jeffrey Loria.
“He’s an outstanding guy — focused, very professional, all-in on trying to make the Marlins better, very determined to make them great,” says the team’s first-year minor-league catching coordinator, former MLB catcher Jamie Quirk.
Jeter, through a spokesman, declined to comment on Denbo.
More than 75 employees in baseball operations have left the Marlins since Major League Baseball approved the $1.2 billion sale of the club to Jeter and Bruce Sherman in September 2017. A high rate of turnover is not unusual after a team changes owners, and the Marlins, who have not had a winning season since 2009, had particular reason to seek a new direction. But while more than half of the departed employees were fired or not renewed, nearly 35 left of their own accord, many joining more successful organizations — and many citing Denbo’s personality and decision-making as primary factors.
A consistent portrait of Denbo as an unyielding authoritarian emerged in interviews The Athletic conducted with more than 20 former Marlins employees and a dozen others in baseball over the past 11 months. Those former employees say Denbo engaged in verbal abuse, fat shaming and blatant favoritism toward certain Marlins personnel.
None of the former Marlins employees was willing to speak on the record. Some declined because they were still being paid by the club and didn’t want to risk losing money, others because they were concerned about the potential reactions of their new employers.
Baseball staffers, like players, are accustomed to switching jobs, knowing it is rare to spend an entire career with one team. Some resent change, but most accept it as part of the business. The anger toward Denbo is atypical, reflecting his sometimes harsh approach and snarly demeanor.
Whether that approach will succeed in turning around one of baseball’s weakest franchises remains to be seen. The Marlins’ 63-98 record in 2018, their first year under new ownership, was the worst in the National League. Their 9-24 record this season also is the worst in the majors. The team, however, has ramped up its international scouting and made a series of trades to improve its farm system, which had an average ranking of 27th by Baseball America from 2014 to ’18 but this year ranked 13th.
“I’VE NEVER ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE IN BASEBALL — OR IN LIFE, HONESTLY — WHO SEEMED TO GO SO FAR OUT OF THEIR WAY TO TREAT OTHER PEOPLE BADLY, TO THE EXTENT WHERE YOU THINK, ‘WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS?’”
“We know we still have a lot of work to do, but feel very confident we are headed in the right direction,” Denbo said in an email.
Some say the atmosphere around the Marlins is improving as Jeter and Denbo continue to make their own hires, but others, including some with no ties to the franchise or personal stake in the matter, question whether Denbo is the right person to play a lead role in rebuilding the club. Michael Hill has been the team’s president of baseball operations since September 2013 and previously was its general manager for six seasons. But Denbo has emerged as Jeter’s most significant adviser, numerous sources say, even though he has no previous experience as a lead decision-maker.
The relationship between Denbo and Jeter dates to the former shortstop’s first pro season, in 1992, and includes time spent in Greensboro, where Denbo was Jeter’s manager in ’93. During his 20-year playing career, Jeter developed a reputation for treating people impeccably well. Denbo has developed quite a different reputation. But Jeter, knowing few other baseball executives, trusted his longtime friend to establish the same type of order he did while turning around the Yankees’ farm system as the team’s vice president of player development, a position Denbo held from October 2014 to October 2017.
That trust already has cost Jeter and the Marlins their valued minor-league affiliate in Greensboro, which led the South Atlantic League in attendance in 2017 and ’18 and helped launch the careers of future stars such as Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. For Jeter, whose share in the Marlins reportedly is 4 percent and who originally signed a five-year contract as CEO that expired at the end of the 2022 season, the danger is that his faith in Denbo will cost him even more.
Denbo in the stands at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. before a March 1 spring training game against the Nationals (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)
The Marlins announced the hiring of Denbo on Oct. 9, 2017, exactly one week after the new ownership officially closed on the purchase of the club. To those in baseball, the reunion between Jeter and Denbo was practically a foregone conclusion. What few knew at the time is that, as multiple sources have since confirmed, the Yankees did not plan to retain Denbo.
The reason the Yankees grew disenchanted with Denbo is a running theme in the executive’s career, according to a number of people who know him well. Virtually no one disputes his talent as a hitting coach, a role he held twice at the major-league level, or the impact he made running the Yankees’ farm system. But Denbo is not a people person, and at times does not play well with others.
Denbo, who was born in Princeton, Ind., and spent four seasons as a minor-league infielder with the Reds in the 1980s, worked three separate times for the Yankees’ organization covering 23 years. For most of his first stretch, from 1990 to 2000, he was a minor-league manager and hitting instructor. The Yankees made him their major-league hitting coach in ’01 but kept him on manager Joe Torre’s staff for only one season, which ended with the team losing the World Series to the Diamondbacks in seven games.
While Denbo enjoyed the respect of Jeter, he had difficulty connecting with a number of the team’s other veterans, sources say. Denbo’s use of videotape in breaking down swings did not resonate the way the Yankees had expected. Torre, according to published reports at the time, repeatedly volunteered that the hitters were relying too much on video and not enough on instinct.
After a year as a scout for the Indians, Denbo in 2003 became the hitting coach under his former Yankees colleague and current Marlins first base coach, Trey Hillman, who then was the manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. Denbo left the Fighters in August 2005, in the middle of his third season. The reason, he says, was that he missed his wife and two children.
One player with the team, however, described Denbo as steadfast in his refusal to accept Japanese baseball culture, creating tension within the organization that was palpable and ultimately disruptive. Hillman better adapted to the culture over time, and he led the Fighters to the Japan Series title the year after Denbo departed.
Denbo (center right) with Hillman (center left) at the Tokyo press conference to announce their positions with the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2002. (AP Photo / Tsugufumi Matsumoto)
Denbo rejoined the Yankees in 2009, worked the next six seasons as a scout, and proved to be a dynamo after the team elevated him to farm director in ’15. He raised standards and improved the culture, becoming, in the words of one former colleague, “a stickler for Yankee tradition in a good way.” A rival GM offers additional praise, saying, “It’s hard to argue a lot of those players weren’t getting better. That was happening.”
But during that time, according to some of his former co-workers, Denbo displayed the same high-strung, over-the-top style that later would become an issue with the Marlins. Employees with both clubs have complained about him to their human resources departments, multiple sources say, though the full context of the complaints and their outcomes are not known. Both the Yankees and Marlins said they do not comment on HR issues.
Unwilling to tolerate differences of opinion, Denbo would favor certain Yankees employees and all but ignore others, walking past them without saying hello. Camps formed within the organization. Those Denbo trusted were devoted to him; those he excluded felt marginalized, even belittled. A staffer who disappointed Denbo or disagreed with him could move quickly from the former group to the latter.
“His way was the only way,” one former Yankees colleague says. “He was always right.”
Denbo at times also overstepped his authority, notably in a memorable episode in July 2017 when he authorized one of his analysts in player development, Dan Greenlee, to sign Jose Carrera, a shortstop out of Manhattan College whom the Yankees measured at 5-foot-1, 135 pounds.
The Yankees’ amateur scouting department bypassed Carrera in the 40 rounds of the draft and recommended against signing him as a free agent, sources say. But Greenlee, who later joined Denbo with the Marlins as the team’s director of player personnel, liked Carrera and petitioned Denbo to bring him into the organization.
Denbo says the Yankees signed Carrera after losing several middle infielders to injuries in the Gulf Coast League. Carrera cost the Yankees virtually nothing and performed well, even hitting a game-tying homer to help the affiliate win the league’s championship game. But Denbo’s power play rankled the amateur scouting department, which viewed the signing of Carrera as outside of Denbo’s realm. The Yankees released Carrera last June 26, and he remains out of baseball.
With the Marlins, the chain of command is less of a concern for Denbo. The team empowered him to oversee not only player development but also amateur, professional and international scouting. The increased responsibility only exacerbated some of the communication issues that Denbo had with the Yankees; two baseball people who worked with Denbo believe his volatile behavior with the Marlins stems from the inferior state of his new team.
“My opinion is the guy was born and bred a Yankee, and he didn’t want to leave,” one of those former colleagues says. “Then he goes to the Marlins, and it’s like, ‘Are we in the big leagues?’”
Kyle Farjad was a 33rd-round draft pick out of Palm Beach Community College in 2017, a left-handed pitcher who stood long odds of ever reaching the majors. But before spring training even started in ’18, Farjad was one of only a few players reporting at 7 a.m. to the Marlins’ spring-training complex in Jupiter, Fla., trying to get a jump start on his preparation for camp.
One morning, Farjad was training with a minor-league conditioning coach, repeatedly sprinting 90 yards, then walking back and touching a line. At one point, to his surprise, he noticed a Marlins official standing on the line, “mean-mugging” him.
It was Denbo.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked Farjad.
“No, but nice to meet you,” Farjad responded, introducing himself.
Denbo then informed Farjad of his name and title, and asked him if he thought he was in “top-notch shape” for spring training. Farjad, a bigger-bodied type who was listed at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, said he felt he was in pretty good shape but was sure he could improve. To which he recalls Denbo replying, “Good. You better get your ass in shape or you’re not going to be there.”
Farjad says the Marlins released him a few weeks into camp, after Denbo had seen him throw only once. He has yet to catch on with another club. Word of how Denbo had dressed him down — “he just came out there and ripped me for no reason, absolutely no reason,” Farjad says — spread quickly through Marlins circles.
Denbo says he advised several players during the spring of 2018, the team’s first under new ownership, that they did not meet the organization’s new standards for conditioning. Almost 30 percent of the Marlins’ minor leaguers reported above their targeted weight, according to Denbo. This past spring, thanks to the players’ work and improvements in the team’s strength and conditioning, he says, the number was less than 5 percent.
Marlins players work out during spring training this February at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. (Mary DeCicco / MLB Photos via Getty Images)
But former Marlins employees, however, say that Denbo takes his attention to fitness to another level, disdaining people who he saw as overweight. His opinions of major- and minor-league players and coaches, front-office personnel and draft prospects, even bat boys in spring training, are framed by his perceptions of their appearance. One former employee, upon his departure, made the Marlins’ human resources department aware of Denbo’s treatment of people he perceived as overweight. Another former employee says, “You can’t say, ‘I don’t like fat people,’ and have that be OK.”
Two incidents offer additional insight into Denbo’s perspective on physical conditioning.
In meetings to prepare for the 2018 amateur draft, a number of Marlins scouts liked Ryan Weathers, a left-handed pitcher from Loretto (Tenn.) High School. Weathers, in the scouts’ parlance, is a “soft-bodied guy,” much like his father, former major-league pitcher David Weathers. But the area scout assigned to Ryan’s territory noted that the pitcher was a good basketball player, an average athlete despite his body, maybe better.
Denbo proceeded to humiliate the scout, mocking his evaluation — an account Denbo denies but which was confirmed by multiple sources in the room.
Weathers, 19, went to the Padres with the seventh overall pick. Before this season, MLBPipeline.com named him the 10th-best prospect in the game’s top-ranked farm system. In his first five starts for Class A Fort Wayne of the Midwest League, Weathers produced a 1.82 ERA. He currently is on the injured list due to fatigue.
Denbo also has raised weight as a concern for Marlins employees. In January 2018, during his initial meeting with about 10 high-level regional and national amateur scouts known as cross-checkers, he delivered a PowerPoint presentation that included rudimentary scouting advice: Look for pitchers with big arms, good deliveries and projection bodies. But to the cross-checkers, virtually all of whom had at least 20 years of experience, Denbo’s Scouting 101 perspective was not the most disturbing part of his lecture.
Denbo, according to multiple sources who were present, said that as he scanned the room, he observed that many of the scouts would benefit from getting to the gym more. The implication was clear: They were overweight.
“I did not tell our scouts that they were overweight at any point in time,” said Denbo. “I advised them, as I do all of our staff, that the travel and time demands of being a pro scout or player development coach make it difficult to focus on personal health — so don’t forget to eat right and work out as part of your daily routine.”
But those in the room were stunned by Denbo’s suggestion that they were too heavy, as well as by the way he harped on the subject.
“You’re meeting this guy for the first time,” one of the scouts says. “You don’t expect anything like this to come out of anyone’s mouth.”
“IT’S LIKE HE FLIPS A SWITCH AND YOU BETTER LOOK OUT, BECAUSE HE’S ABOUT TO GO OFF.”
Weight, though, was but one flashpoint for Denbo. Convinced the Marlins had a losing culture, he appeared eager to upend every department, even if it meant losing good people along the way.
Many in the Marlins’ offices grew nervous in his presence, knowing he was prone to snap, his face turning red, his language turning foul. In the words of one former employee, “It’s like he flips a switch and you better look out, because he’s about to go off.”
During spring training in 2018, Denbo conducted his initial meeting with the team’s pro scouts, a group tasked with evaluating major- and- minor-league players from other organizations, as well as winter-league free agents, for potential acquisitions. According to multiple people in attendance, Denbo began by saying that on the 2-to-8 scouting scale, the group the previous season had rated a 3 — well below average.
The scouts in the room included Orrin Freeman, who has been with the Marlins since their inception in 1991, and Paul Ricciarini, who began his scouting career more than 40 years ago. The group also included four scouts in their first year with the organization, most notably former major-league pitcher Aaron Sele and two younger, lower-level office assistants, Garrick Chaffee, 29, and Preston Higbe, 27. Other scouts who had been with the club in ’17 already had left the organization.
To the holdovers, Denbo’s critique was not only condescending — “Oh my God,” one person in the room thought, “it’s a (minor-league) field coordinator yelling at his players” — but also uninformed.
Jeffrey Loria’s fickle nature often forced the Marlins into ill-advised baseball decisions, the team careening from one plan to the next. Denbo says he simply communicated to the pro scouts that the Marlins were raising standards for their department and all others in the organization. He seemingly did not know or did not care about the challenges the pro scouts faced under Loria, a theme that emerged in his dealings with other departments as well.
“Guys were livid,” one former pro scout recalls. “I was like, ‘That’s how you want to start this whole thing off?’ And, really, his feelings toward us never changed. We didn’t have one time where it felt like we were doing anything correct in his eyes.”
Some of the scouts in the meeting that day remain with the Marlins, but even at a time when traditional scouting jobs are increasingly scarce, many have landed with other clubs.
Denbo’s influence also led to turnover in other departments. One of the most egregious losses, in the view of many former employees, was Brett West, 32, who joined the Marlins as a baseball operations assistant in 2011 and rose to the position of assistant farm director. West was beloved in the organization, and in the words of one former colleague he is “as nice a soul as you can find.”
Like other holdovers from the previous regime, West learned quickly that the fastest way to fall out of favor with Denbo was to disagree with him — for example, by offering a dissenting evaluation on a player, the type of opinion that sparks constructive debate in virtually every organization.
Former Marlins employees recall in particular a dispute over shade coverings that Denbo wanted to be installed over the bleachers on a field at the Marlins’ training complex, a field the team used for its games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. At one point, according to multiple sources, Denbo snapped at West, “I’ll put your desk out there tomorrow if you can’t get this done.”
Denbo says West did not complete the project, which was approved by ownership. The sources, however, say West never received such approval from either the Loria or the Jeter-Sherman group and was therefore blamed for events beyond his control.
West resigned in late April 2018, after the season already had started, and is now a pro scout with the Diamondbacks.
“Every inherited employee was going to be blamed for the shortcomings of previous ownership,” a former Marlins employee says. “Whether you liked it or not, whether it was fair or not, didn’t matter.”
The changing of the guard within the Marlins became strikingly evident during the team’s internal discussions at the 2017 general managers’ meetings in Orlando, Fla., about six weeks after the Sherman-Jeter group officially took control.
Denbo, not president of baseball operations Michael Hill, led the conversations. And when Denbo wanted an opinion on a player, he did not ask two department heads who were holdovers from the previous regime — Jim Cuthbert, 43, the director of pro scouting, or 33-year-old Jason Paré, the senior director of analytics, a Yale graduate who had worked for the Indians and Blue Jays. Denbo wanted to hear only from his new director of player personnel, Dan Greenlee, whom he had brought over from the Yankees.
As Denbo saw it, quite accurately, the Marlins’ entire operation was below the standards of the Yankees. The difference was especially glaring in analytics and technological infrastructure — the Marlins did not have the same manpower, the same information systems, the same type of integrated scouting platform as the Yankees and other clubs possessed.
Loria had committed only a fraction of the resources that the Yankees had devoted to analytics. Denbo frequently would tell Marlins employees he did not want to hear excuses. But within the limitations he was working under, Paré went as far as he could.
On Dec. 10, 2017, less than a month after the GM meetings, Paré left the Marlins to reunite with his former GM with the Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos, and become the Braves’ assistant GM of research and development. Greenlee, Denbo’s handpicked analytics expert, created his own eight-person analytics department, assuming even greater power and escalating tension within the organization.
Many of the holdover scouts and minor-league staffers viewed Greenlee as overly reliant on Trackman data, the radar-based technology all 30 clubs employ for player evaluation and development.
The new regime’s strict adherence to data — and frequent refusal to embrace positive developments that occurred under the previous regime — came to a head in the team’s handling of utility man Austin Nola, 29, the older brother of Phillies ace Aaron Nola.
Austin Nola was the Marlins’ fifth-round draft pick out of LSU in 2012, an infielder with terrific makeup whose career seemingly was plateauing at Triple A when the team’s minor-league catching coordinator, former major-league catcher Paul Phillips, persuaded him to try catching in 2016.
Austin Nola (left) with pitcher Scott Copeland during spring training drills in 2017. (Steve Mitchell / USA Today)
Initially, and not surprisingly for a player who never had caught, Nola struggled in his bullpen sessions with pitchers at Triple A. Undaunted, and hell-bent on improving as a receiver, he became a taxi player with the Mesa Solar Sox, the team Phillips was helping coach in the Arizona Fall League.
Officials from the Marlins’ previous regime would come to view him as a player-development success story — “the poster child,” one former employee says, “for what you want.”
Nola couldn’t get enough of catching. “Middle infield is fun,” he says, “but you can’t even compare it to the catching position as far as being in the game and learning.” Solar Sox manager Ryan Christenson eventually put him behind the plate for four games, and the Marlins were encouraged enough by Nola’s progress to add him to the team’s 40-man roster in advance of the 2016 winter meetings. Club officials believed Nola might develop into a serviceable backup catcher and feared that, if they left him unprotected, a rival club intrigued by his burgeoning versatility would grab him in the Rule 5 draft.
The Marlins’ new regime, upon taking over in October 2017, knew Nola only from his poor metrics that season, his first as a full-time catcher. They risked losing him by designating him for assignment at the end of 2018 spring training, but no team claimed Nola on waivers and he was sent to Triple A. Greenlee and his staff never warmed to him — and in the view of some who no longer are with the organization, actively sabotaged him.
Nola became a free agent last November and drew interest from 20 teams, a remarkable number for a backup catcher, according to his agent, Joe Longo. The Mariners signed him to a minor-league contract and he is currently at Triple A, where he is hitting .376 with a 1.089 OPS in 97 plate appearances.
Phillips, Nola’s biggest advocate, sent a letter of resignation to many in the organization, including Denbo and Jeter, on June 11, 2018, right in the middle of the season. In it, Phillips seemed to question the Trackman framing data and Greenlee’s insistence to scouts that they “make your grades match the stats.”
Teams generally consider Trackman a more reliable measure of framing than a scout’s judgment from behind the plate. But some who were with the Marlins at the time say the framing data did not always pass the eye test, and those occasional blips caused them to question its accuracy.
In his resignation letter, Phillips spoke fondly of his player-development colleagues who had been dismissed by the new regime, saying, “There were no secrets and no manipulation of information, just everyone working together as a group for the betterment of the organization. That working environment is no longer a part of the Marlins’ player development, and that is the reason for my resignation and acceptance of another position.”
While a number of holdovers from the Marlins’ previous regime still feel like outcasts, Denbo is showing a kinder, gentler side in his second full season with the club. Employees say he seems more focused and comfortable now that many of his own people are in place. A holdover whose wife recently fell ill said Denbo could not have reacted with more understanding or compassion.
A more positive work environment certainly would benefit the Marlins. Yet, for all the upheaval the team has experienced, Denbo and his top assistants ultimately will be judged not by how they treat non-uniformed personnel but by their on-field results.
Some who knew Denbo from his days with the Yankees consider him a strong judge of talent, but evaluating players within an organization as a hitting coach or even as a farm director is simpler than completing free-agent signings and trades. Hill, one of the team’s top decision-makers since 2007, is experienced in transactions. Jeter, Denbo and Greenlee are not.
Within months of taking over, the new regime began the franchise’s latest dismantling, executing trades of second baseman Dee Gordon and outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna during an eight-day span in December 2017, followed by a fourth major deal involving Christian Yelich on Jan. 25, 2018.
After five years in Miami, Yelich was was traded to the Brewers, and won the NL MVP in his first season in Milwaukee. ( Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today)
Those trades — fueled largely by Greenlee’s data-driven assessments, with little input from the pro scouting department, former employees say — yielded two current major leaguers, second baseman Starlin Castro and right-hander Sandy Alcantara, plus 9 of the team’s top 30 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com. The Marlins recently demoted outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was part of the Yelich deal.
The Marlins view the Stanton trade, in particular, as something of a coup: They cleared a potential $265 million in salary while acquiring Castro and two prospects, right-hander Jorge Guzman and infielder Jose Devers. But it will be years before the moves, including the widely criticized return for Yelich (Brinson and Monte Harrison, infielder Isan Díaz and right-hander Jordan Yamamoto) can be properly evaluated.
The team’s latest big deal — catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for right-hander Sixto Sánchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro, left-hander Will Stewart and $250,000 in international bonus pool space — comes with the usual risk in acquiring young players. Sánchez, the centerpiece, is a brilliant talent at age 20, but the Phillies made him available all offseason, apparently viewing him as a long-term health concern.
The Marlins opened the season with a $71.9 million payroll, the second-lowest in the majors behind the Rays’ $60.1 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They have also made a series of lesser moves in their out-with-the-old push that qualify as questionable. They non-tendered infielder Derek Dietrich, whose nine homers for the Reds are more than any Marlin has hit this season, and traded reliever Nick Wittgren, who has a 0.87 ERA with the Indians and is under control through 2022, for a prospect.
Other decisions worked out better. Left-hander Caleb Smith, acquired from the Yankees in a deal that cost the Marlins pitching prospect Michael King and upset some in the organization, is third in the NL with a 2.00 ERA in six starts. But for the Marlins to achieve lasting success, Denbo, along with farm director Dick Scott, will need to weave the same player-development magic he did with the Yankees and rely on the farm system to churn out productive major leaguers.
For years, the Marlins spun their wheels under Loria, and the decision of the Sherman-Jeter ownership to cut payroll and rebuild the farm, rather than supplement a major-league core that included Stanton, Yelich and others, set the franchise back further. Perhaps the Marlins needed to retrench before moving forward, a strategy employed by numerous other clubs in recent times. But they are playing catch-up in an increasingly competitive NL East.
The Marlins fired hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo on April 19, after only 20 games. On Friday, they dismissed president of business operations Chip Bowers after 15 months. Manager Don Mattingly, who is in the final year of his contract, might be replaced at the end of the season.
As Jeter and Denbo continue to turn over personnel, they will lose their default position: The ability to blame the previous regime for the team’s woes.
Miss Lou-Lou Gehrig at work during a game between the Grasshoppers and the Augusta GreenJackets in 2013 (Brian Westerholt / Four Seam Images via AP Images)
The change in affiliations from the Pirates to the Marlins barely has had an impact on the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ business. The team has had two early postponements and four other games delayed by rain, yet it still ranks third in the 14-team South Atlantic League in attendance.
Donald Moore, the team’s owner, fondly recalls a 2015 exhibition with the major-league Marlins, when Yelich, Realmuto and Steve Cishek all asked about his dogs. Master Yogi Berra died in August 2017, and Miss Babe Ruth in May 2018, but Miss Lou Lou Gehrig remains, with Little Jackie Robinson, who recently celebrated her first birthday, currently in training.
Denbo says now that his issue with the dogs was that their kennels were in the same area where players were served food. Moore says Denbo never mentioned that in his initial rant to the clubhouse attendant, demanding only that the dogs be removed. Moore adds there is no kitchen in the clubhouse, and the dogs are inside only when the players are on the field.
Jeter made a personal visit with Hill and other team officials in July 2018, about a month after Denbo’s outburst, and tried to extend the affiliation. “Let’s get that renewed, get it out of the way,” Jeter said. But Moore balked, even though he liked Jeter, who had sent him a handwritten note upon his induction into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame the previous month. Jeter praised Moore’s leadership of the club and included a donation to the Babe and Yogi Scholarship Endowment at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, an endowment named for the two Greensboro bat dogs that had passed away.
Bruce Sherman, the Marlins’ majority owner, made his own visit to Greensboro toward the end of that season with his wife, Cynthia. Moore says the Shermans thought Miss Lou Lou Gehrig was one of the coolest things they had ever seen at a baseball game, and they even toured the clubhouse to meet her. But by then, Moore had all but made up his mind. He would not work with Denbo, and so he would not stay with the Marlins.
As Moore puts it, “There must be only one guy in all of minor-league baseball who doesn’t like dogs.”
(Photos in top image: Jeff Ro
Just skinmed that long ass story but if the premise is that loria/Samson’s people didn’t like him after he fired them and we lost our minor league affiliate.....oh well
Our farm system went from like 29, 26 to 13 in the last 3 years, Denbo seems to know what he’s doing so far