Florida Fires Joe Girardi, Marlins Expected To Sign Atlanta's Fredi Gonzalez

Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - by Tim Evearitt
Florida manager Joe Girardi was fired Tuesday.

<i>Click to enlarge photo.</i>
Florida manager Joe Girardi was fired Tuesday. Click to enlarge photo.
- photo by Tim Evearitt

As expected, Joe Girardi became the fourth manager to lose his job Tuesday after being fired by the Marlins. Already gone are Washington's Frank Robinson, San Francisco's Felipe Alou, and Cubs' skipper, Dusty Baker.

Because of internal disputes between Girardi and the front office, the Marlins once again are searching for a new manager. Florida dismissed Girardi on Tuesday despite overachieving and finishing 78-84.

Although the team fell short, Girardi is in line for an individual honor. He is regarded as a strong NL Manager of the Year candidate.

An East Peoria, Ill., native, Girardi was the eighth manager in Marlins history. He joined the club with no previous managerial experience. In 2005, he served as the bench coach of the New York Yankees.

Girardi seemed to be an ideal replacement for savvy, 74-year-old Jack McKeon, who stepped down after an 83-79 2005 season.

With the team getting younger, going with a young, energetic manager made sense.

Braves third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez, who interviewed for the Marlins job last year, is expected to be named Girardi's replacement during a 2 p.m. press conference.

Girardi said that he'd been dismissed during a 9 a.m. meeting in his Dolphin Stadium office with club president David Samson, general manager Larry Beinfest and assistant GM Mike Hill.

Friction had long existed between Girardi and the front office, stemming back as far as the hiring of coaches.

More disagreements arose in Spring Training and continued throughout this improbable season.

Disagreements over personnel, control and clubhouse access reached the point where the team felt it had to make an unpopular move and let go of a popular manager.

Girardi declined to say when he first felt trouble dealing with management. There have been conflicting reports concering the extent of Girardi's awareness of the dramatic payroll cutting that took place after the 2005 season.

Earlier this season, Girardi said he was told payroll would be trimmed if the team didn't resolve its still-unsettled stadium situation. It dropped from about $60 million in 2005 to $15 million this season.

Many of the rumblings had been kept internal. The brewing tensions, however, became public after the Marlins were swept by the Dodgers on Aug. 6 at Dolphin Stadium.

Following that frustrating loss in which some questionable umpiring calls were made, the clubhouse was closed for 90 minutes. As reporters were kept waiting outside, Girardi and team owner Jeffrey Loria aired out their differences.

Loria was prepared to replace Girardi on the spot but was talked out of it.

Neither side was able to patch up its differences with the other, and indications kept coming from within the team that Girardi's days were numbered.

Speaking to what happened on Aug. 6, Girardi said neither he nor Tuck directed profanities at Loria.

He added that he requested a meeting with Loria the next day, when the team was set to play the Nationals in Washington. That get-together didn't happen.

Girardi pushed just as hard as his players. Three years removed from his playing days, the 41-year-old is incredibly fit. He often ran sprints with his players in the outfield, and he lifted with them in the weight room.

Many close to the team believe he has a promising future as a big-league manager.

Girardi grew with the job. He's smart, determined and prides himself on being prepared.

Girardi projects to receive interest in several managerial openings. The Cubs, Nationals and Giants all have openings.

Girardi said he would hold no grudges and would root for his former players.

Minutes before leaving his now old office, Girardi offered his appreciation to his players.
_________
Adapted from article on the Major League Baseball website.

Atlanta third base coach, Fredi Gonzalez, is expected to replace Girardi as manager fo the Marlins.

<i>Click to enlarge photo.</i>
Atlanta third base coach, Fredi Gonzalez, is expected to replace Girardi as manager fo the Marlins. Click to enlarge photo.
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt

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