Hill discusses outlook after offseason shakeup
New president of baseball operations preaches collaboration and 'Marlins Way'
JUPITER, Fla. -- Michael Hill brings a wealth of experience and plenty of smarts to his new position as president of baseball operations of the Miami Marlins.
A Harvard graduate, Hill has spent 20 years in professional baseball, working in various front-office capacities. He's been in player development with the Rockies and Rays, and he now enters his 12th season with the Marlins.
The Marlins promoted Hill to president of baseball operations last Sept. 29, after he served the previous six seasons as the team's general manager.
Hill is faced with task of returning the Marlins to contention. He was part of the organization when they won the World Series in 2003, but he's also witnessed three straight last-place finishes, including an agonizing 62-100 campaign in '13.
Currently, Hill is the only African-American in the Major Leagues to preside over baseball operations.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Hill was a standout multisport athlete, and he carried that over to Harvard, where he played football and baseball.
In 1993, the Rangers selected Hill in the 31st round of the Draft. His professional playing career, however, lasted three seasons, with two in Texas and one in Cincinnati. Athletically, Hill still pushes himself. In recent years, he's completed a number of marathons, including Boston, New York City and Miami.
Naming Hill president of baseball operations was one of several significant front-office moves the Marlins made in the offseason. Dan Jennings was promoted to general manager. Mike Berger (assistant general manager), Craig Weissmann (vice president of player personnel) and Jeff McAvoy (director pro scouting) were brought into the organization to add more big league experience to the front office.
The reshuffled front office had an active offseason, signing free agents Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Furcal, Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones and Jeff Baker. The offensive additions should give manager Mike Redmond more options.
To get the club back on solid footing, the team is preaching a "team first" philosophy.
With their youth and lack of success in recent years, the perception is that expectations are low. But that's not the belief within the organization.
There is a quiet confidence that better days are ahead. Why?
"The men in that clubhouse," Hill said. "I think they believe in each other. There is a tremendous amount of talent in that clubhouse. When there is belief and talent, special things can happen."
MLB.com: There has been front office and roster changes after a 100-loss season. What are some of the cultural changes you are trying to bring to the club?
Hill: Within this staff, as we start this 2014 season, we want to make sure we have everybody on the same page. We brought all of our baseball operational staff into Jupiter at the beginning of Spring Training, just to spend time together. We talked about our philosophy and the "Marlins Way" of doing things. The way we do things starts at the Major League level and trickles down to the Minor League levels, and even into our international programs. We had all of our international staff here. It was just a time for us to be together and to really refocus on what we want to do in moving forward.
MLB.com: What is the "Marlins Way"? What is it that you want to see be the stamp on this franchise?
Hill: It depends on exactly the area that we're talking about. If we're talking about pitching, we want to be aggressive and pound the strike zone. If you're talking offensively, we want to be aggressive within the strike zone. If you're talking about baserunning and how we run the bases, we want to be aggressive and force action for the defense. Those were a lot of the philosophical stuff that we discussed as a group. That's something you will see, starting with [Redmond] and our Major League team, and trickling down to our Winter League, Summer League staff.
MLB.com: For you personally, you've been promoted from the general manager to president of baseball operations title. What has changed in terms of what you do?
Hill: It's always been a collaborative effort, and it will continue to be a collaborative effort here. That's something that we preached with our Major League team. It's a team mentality. We know that one person can't do the job. It's a group. It's an organization. It's a team that will allow us to be successful. That's pretty much the theme I've tried to establish with our players to our field staff.
We're going to work together. There is no ego. We're checking our egos and our ranks at the door. It's about the logo on my hat, the Miami Marlins. That's collectively working to be successful.
MLB.com: How do you see that moving forward? Do you see the resources being there to do what you need to do?
Hill: That's never been a concern of mine. Whatever we're given in terms of what our payroll is, we're going to work within those constraints to put a productive team on the field. We've never made excuses about anything. Am I hopeful that revenue increases and we're able to do more things? Definitely. But it won't change the way that we work.
That was another major area that we stressed with our staff. We have to be creative. We have to outwork people. We have to go above and beyond. Be it internationally, with our international scouting and development, or with our amateur Draft, or if it's going that extra mile with our pro scouts and identifying those undervalued assets. They may not be in the right place for someone else, but they may work for the Marlins. We can't leave any stone unturned as we try to build and create as much depth as possible.
MLB.com: You've brought in some front-office people who have been with the A's, with the D-backs, with the Rays. What do they bring to this organization?
Hill: Just a wealth of experience and knowledge. We wanted to add to this front office, to give me and D.J. as much support to help us do our jobs effectively. Mike Berger, our new assistant GM, and Craig Weissmann, our new VP of player personnel, and Jeff McAvoy, our new director of pro scouting, are people who understand that you have to be creative. You have to find players in non-traditional ways. It was easy to get those guys onboard with what we're trying to do. They have experience doing that. I think that just gave us more manpower in the field, to help us do what we want to do.
MLB.com: The sabermetrics people, and a number of metrics websites, don't seem to like some of your moves, and direction your organization is taking. I know you have people who look at the data, do you feel there is a disconnect with some of what you do and how you are being perceived?
Hill: It's not really that important to me. The most important people in this organization are those 25 men who will be breaking south with the Miami Marlins on Opening Day. There is a firm belief in one another, and each other that this team is going to have a great year. The sabermetricians, they don't play the game. They do their jobs, and I understand they have a job to do. But I believe in our people. I believe in this team. I have no doubt that we're going to be better.
MLB.com: How much do you look at those metrics? And do you have your own data you look at?
Hill: It's part of the process. We'd be foolish not to look at all of those things, but it's not the bulk of our decision-making process. It's a piece of it. As is our people, our video and other things that are used to make decisions.
I like the changes we've made to the makeup of this roster. I like what we've been able to bring in, both on our roster and non-roster invitees. Bottom line is the proof will be in the pudding, and how we go out there and perform. At this point, I couldn't be happier or be more excited with what we've been able to do.
MLB.com: The strength of this organization right now is pitching. Assess the depth in that department.
Hill: We do have some surplus at the upper levels, but we're not going to stop looking for it. You can never have enough of it. And as quickly as you can have a surplus, you can have a shortage in a blink of an eye. Pitching dominates this game, and we want to make sure we can be strong in that area.
MLB.com: What about the position players through the ranks? How are you there?
Hill: We have some very key pieces for us, offensively. We're going to continue to try to build as much depth as possible, up the middle, behind the plate and at the corners. Wherever we can do it, via waiver claims, trades, you can't have enough overall depth.
MLB.com: Obviously, through the years, there has been tremendous turnover in this organization. How much do you guys want to bring stability and be able to retain your core players and move this thing forward?
Hill: That's our goal. Obviously, we'd love to have all of those things for us to keep everyone forever. But that isn't the reality of our game. There is going to be turnover. From our standpoint, we want to just build a club of good players, of good teammates. Players who support each other and who are going to help us win ballgames. I think the better we do on the field, the better ability we'll be able to do other things.
MLB.com: Some players who have been here a while, like Giancarlo Stanton, have said there has been a lot of talking through the years. Do you agree that the time is now for action?
Hill: Exactly. There has been more than enough talk going on over the offseason. It's time to play.