06/23/10 2:59 PM EST
Dismissal catches Gonzalez by surprise
Former manager says lack of consistency was to blame
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Before leaving Baltimore, Gonzalez made it clear that he didn't think his conflict last month with All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez had anything to do with his job status.
"I felt like we could have played a little better," Gonzalez said. "We haven't been consistent in winning."
After beating the Orioles, 10-4, on Tuesday night, the Marlins improved to 34-36. They are 7 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East, and six off the pace in the Wild Card race.
Speculation over Gonzalez's job security arose in the final days of the 2009 season. Yet, the move, after the team won two straight, caught Gonzalez off guard.
"Very surprised," Gonzalez said when asked whether he saw the change coming. "I think as a manager, you're always the guy [held accountable]. ... I don't know if there's a perfect time."
The Marlins named Edwin Rodriguez, who had been managing at Triple-A New Orleans, as their interim manager.
Gonzalez scheduled a flight out of Baltimore in the late afternoon. His parents had been in town for the trip.
Initially, Gonzalez said he would address the Marlins beat reporters with a conference call Thursday. Instead, he addressed his situation with a pool reporter Wednesday.
On May 17, Gonzalez made national headlines by benching Ramirez for a lack of hustle in a game against the D-backs.
Ramirez criticized Gonzalez the next day. After Ramirez apologized to his teammates a few days later, the incident hasn't been brought up. Still, the 26-year-old shortstop has had a down year, by his lofty standards.
The 2009 NL batting champ entered Wednesday hitting .293 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs. The numbers are impressive, but down from the .342 average he posted a year ago.
Ramirez is starting to heat up. Over his last two games, he has driven in six runs.
Asked whether the fallout with Ramirez led to Wednesday's move, Gonzalez said: "Not true. I don't want him to be blamed for that."
Since October, Bobby Valentine has been linked as a possible replacement for Gonzalez. Now that Gonzalez has been replaced, the speculation will intensify.
From the start of Spring Training, the Marlins have talked openly about having the talent to reach the playoffs. Team owner Jeffrey Loria made that clear for months.
"I never felt any pressure. I wanted to win," Gonzalez said.
At 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, Gonzalez said he was called into a meeting at the team hotel with Marlins president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Michael Hill. He was informed that he was being replaced.
The Marlins also dismissed bench coach Carlos Tosca and hitting coach Jim Presley.
On an interim basis, Brandon Hyde was named bench coach, and John Mallee takes over as the hitting coach. Both were promoted from the Minor League system.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Gonzalez had not spoken with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria about the decision.
On Saturday, Gonzalez had the misfortune of being victimized by a batting out of order mistake in the ninth inning against the Rays.
Asked whether that had anything to do with what took place, Gonzalez added: "That never came up in the conversation. They just told me they're going to go in a different direction."
With one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Marlins won 87 games under Gonzalez last year.
Even though the payroll rose to about $46 million this year, it still is among the lowest in the game.
"You feel like, as a manager or coach, whatever players you get, you feel like you can win with," Gonzalez said about the payroll.
Gonzalez was in good spirits as he met with reporters and friends in the hotel lobby before leaving Baltimore. He said the news was rough on his parents.
"It was hard on them," Gonzalez said. "I told them right from the beginning, 'Your son now is going to be a bull's-eye in the newspaper. My name is going to be mud.'"
Gonzalez replaced Joe Girardi in 2007, and he posted a 276-279 record. He has won more games than any other Florida manager. Now, his name is being linked as a possible replacement for Braves manager Bobby Cox, who is retiring after this season.
Gonzalez spoke with Cox shortly after he was let go by Florida.
Raised in Miami, Gonzalez leaves with no regrets or animosity.
"How could I be mad? We did the best we could, win, lose or draw," Gonzalez said. "We left it on the field. I had a good experience."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.