On Saturday night, the Florida Marlins decided that Logan Morrison needed to spend a little more time in the minors, so they optioned their starting left fielder back to Triple-A. According to Morrison, he was so angry with the decision he left the room before the explanation got further than “you’re hitting .249,” which is understandable given that Morrison has been the Marlins second or third best hitter by any decent metric you want to use. Clearly, a low batting average wasn’t the only reason the Marlins decided to ship “LoMo” back to the minors.
It doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines to piece together a decent idea of what happened here. GM Larry Beinfest told MLB.com that Morrison needed to “work on all aspects of being a Major Leaguer,” but that’s just vague enough to be a catch-all for production on the field and all the off field stuff that comes with life in the big leagues. As Joe Capozzi notes, Morrison skipped out on a photo session with season ticket holders on Saturday after reportedly being told by Wes Helms – the team’s union representative – that he didn’t have to participate. A few hours later, Morrison is optioned out and Helms is released. You do the math.
Trouble between the Marlins and Morrison has been brewing for a while, so it’s not a huge surprise to see it come to a head. In the spring, Morrison was asked by team president Dave Samson to tone down his comments on Twitter, and then when the team fired hitting coach John Mallee in June, Morrison publicly ripped the organization for the move. There’s also been the not-so-subtle criticisms of teammate Hanley Ramirez, and when you add all of that together with the skipped photo session, the Marlins may have decided that Morrison has some growing up to do. And honestly, they’re probably right – Morrison might do well to learn the appropriate time and place to speak his mind.
But they didn’t tell him any of that. They told him his batting average wasn’t high enough, and, because of that weak explanation, any shred of credibility that the Marlins organization had remaining with Morrison went right out the window. And perhaps more importantly, the organization’s credibility with their fan base took yet another blow.
With a new stadium set to open next year, the Marlins need to be growing their fan base, not alienating it – they are last in the league in attendance, drawing just over 18,000 fans per game. As always, the baseball operations department has given the on-field team enough good young talent that they should draw significantly better than that, but it’s tough to become attached to an organization that operates the way the Marlins do.
To convince people to come to the park, you have to convince them that you’re trying to win. When you are regularly firing managers and coaches who have done a good job, you lose credibility. When Major League Baseball has to order you to raise your payroll in order to be in compliance with the revenue sharing guidelines, you lose credibility. And when you option a kid to Triple-A because you don’t like his attitude but tell him it’s because he’s hitting .249, you lose credibility. At this point, the Marlins are getting dangerously close to not having any left. If the organization ever wants to win over the city of Miami, they’ll have to break the perception that everything they say is a lie.
This didn’t help. Sending one of the team’s most popular (and talented) players to Triple-A did nothing to help build a connection between the Marlins and the fans they are trying to convince to come to their new park. It also didn’t make the Marlins a better team now, nor is it likely that the move will turn Morrison into a personality that the Marlins would be more comfortable with. In short, the Marlins decided to make a move that would offer no real tangible benefit to the organization, and suffered another credibility hit in the process.
But, hey, at least they made a statement, right?