Arizona Diamondbacks’ Tony La Russa on Marlins hire of Dan Jennings: ‘They’re fooling themselves’

May 20, 2015, 11:58 AM | Updated: 11:58 am
LISTEN: Tony La Russa, D-backs Chief Baseball Officer

The Miami Marlins firing manager Mike Redmond was not a complete surprise, as the team was 16-22 this season and 155-207 under his leadership since taking over in 2013.

The team team turning to general manager Dan Jennings for the job, though, raised some eyebrows.

Having never coached at any level in professional baseball and never really doing much as a player, he seemed to lack the necessary qualifications to lead a team from the dugout.

But alas, Jennings got the job, and it’s one Tony La Russa, a hall of fame manager and now the Arizona Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer, thinks will take some time getting used to.

“When you’re in the dugout and you watch a person compete, whether it’s a pitcher or player, you will learn things about the player that goes beyond the talent,” he said. “From that point of view, I think Dan’s going to get a real good awareness of what is there and what they need.

“And my guess is he’s using his coaching to handle the decision-making.”

To be fair, every great manager started out as a first-time skipper at some point, and just because the Marlins are 0-2 since Jennings took over does not mean he won’t eventually prove the organization right for turning to him. La Russa himself finished his managerial career with a 2,728-2,365 record, winning six pennants and three World Series titles, but there were some losing marks early in his tenure.

But before taking over for the major league team, La Russa spent time managing in the Chicago White Sox’s minor league system as well as helping the big league club as a coach.

Jennings has no such experience, which has led to plenty of justifiable questions. And until the Marlins turn things around, they will continue to be asked.

Going out on a limb like the Marlins did opens them up for a kind of criticism most organizations do not face when making a managerial change. More often than not, teams hire leaders most deem to be qualified for the job, and though it may not work out, there was at least reason to believe it would.

It helps to have a track record to fall back on. A manager, La Russa said, needs to have certain qualities that Jennings has yet to prove he possesses.

“If that’s what the Miami Marlins are doing, I think there’s a legitimacy to seeing guys in action,” he said. “If they think that Dan is going to walk in there and do the managing job, then they’re fooling themselves.”

The issue, he added, is that he places great credibility in the leadership a coaching staff and manager brings to a team, citing Bruce Bochy and the San Francisco Giants as evidence. So while some people think the manager position isn’t particularly important, the very idea is one La Russa takes umbrage with.

“It does offend me if somebody is saying it’s not important position, which I actually heard on a show last night,” he said.

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