10/01/10 6:50 PM EST
Rodriguez guides Marlins under watchful eyes
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Edwin Rodriguez is keenly aware of the fact there are many eyes watching him. They are observing his actions in the clubhouse, in the dugout and when the Marlins are on the playing field.
Under difficult circumstances, Rodriguez became the 10th manager in Marlins history when he replaced Fredi Gonzalez on June 23. Initially, the 50-year-old was promoted from being Triple-A New Orleans manager on an interim basis.
Six days later, team owner Jeffrey Loria announced that Rodriguez would continue the job for the remainder of the season.
The transition made Rodriguez the first MLB manager ever to be born in Puerto Rico. Wearing that distinction is a source of pride for him, but he also knows that he is under a microscope.
"Being the first Puerto Rican manager, I was thinking about that way before they named me," Rodriguez said. "I was thinking about how I should conduct myself as a Latin and a Hispanic manager, because I don't want to be labeled. Sometimes people put labels on Latins and Hispanics. I said, 'I want to change that.'"
With class and professionalism, Rodriguez guided the Marlins, keeping them competitive in a season filled with adversity. For much of his tenure, the team was at or slightly above the .500 mark.
Finally, in September, after the wear of losing to injuries the services of starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, along with All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, a winning record began to slip away.
An infielder in his playing days, Rodriguez saw limited action with the Yankees and Padres in the 1980s.
As a player, he was known for being hotheaded, and he was given the nickname, "Gallo," Spanish for rooster. On occasion as manager, the fire surfaced, but he made a point to control it.
The game that drew his ire most came in an Aug. 5 loss to the Phillies at Sun Life Stadium. The Marlins thought they had pulled off a walk-off win in the ninth inning on a Gaby Sanchez grounder down the third-base line. Instead of being the decisive hit, the ball was ruled foul by umpire Bob Davidson. If ruled fair, Ramirez would have scored easily.
Rodriguez sprang from the dugout and argued fiercely with Davidson.
Animated on the field, Rodriguez made his plea. Carlos Ruiz's homer in the 10th inning lifted Philadelphia to a 5-4 win.
"Every time that I go out there, even after that tough game we lost to Philadelphia, I was ready to put on a show there," Rodriguez said, meaning to really let loose arguing. "But I was thinking about this job has a lot of responsibility. I felt that in that situation and many situations."
Rodriguez's composure played a large part in the Marlins clubhouse staying together, while the team played hard until the end of the season.
|"I was thinking about how I should conduct myself as a Latin and a Hispanic manager, because I don't want to be labeled. Sometimes people put labels on Latins and Hispanics. I said, 'I want to change that.'"|
|-- Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez|
Whether Rodriguez will return or not remains uncertain. The Marlins plan to evaluate their managerial situation after the season, and they're considering other candidates, including Yankees bench coach Tony Pena and Jim Fregosi, a former big league manager who currently scouts for the Braves.
Rodriguez remains a candidate, but all he knows right now is that he will travel back to his home in Puerto Rico on Sunday night after Florida's final game. From there, he will see what happens.
What Rodriguez has shown this season is he is deserving of a big league opportunity, either as a manager or a coach. That may come for him with the Marlins are other club. Over the course of the season, he's received a number of compliments from his peers.
Atlanta's Bobby Cox, St. Louis' Tony La Russa, Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel and Washington's Jim Riggleman have all spoken highly of him.
"The biggest compliment came from Bobby Cox," Rodriguez said. "He was saying I was doing a good job with my bench, with whomever I had on the bench. He said I was using them the right way.
"Jim Riggleman said, from the first series we played against them, that he liked the way I was managing the bullpen. Then Tony La Russa said one day, 'Guys are playing hard for you.' Even Charlie Manuel made some comments about the way the players have been playing for me. When those guys are saying those things, those are the biggest compliments. That means a lot."
Unlike the two Marlins' managers before him, Rodriguez didn't have a mentor with Hall of Fame credentials.
When Joe Girardi managed Florida in 2006, he learned the ropes from Joe Torre. Gonzalez, meanwhile, came from the Braves system. Frequently in his days managing the Marlins, Gonzalez talked with Cox.
Rodriguez spent eight years previously in the Marlins' Minor League system. During his career, he's managed and been a general manager in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. He's also been a Major League scout.
What's he's done through the years is study the careers of the great managers.
"Before I got here, I was always trying to learn from managers like Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre," Rodriguez said. "Just by watching and reading about them. I would talk with coaches who had worked with them, and I was always asking questions."
Jose Oquendo, who is from Puerto Rico, is on La Russa's staff. For years, Rodriguez has been friendly with Oquendo.
"Oquendo is in Puerto Rico for Winter Ball, so I'd talk with him a lot," Rodriguez said. "He's always giving me pretty good insights on how Tony would handle situations. Not only the in-game situations, but how he handled preparation, and how he handles the staff."
If given the chance, Rodriguez said he would like to manage a big league team from the start of Spring Training. That way he could put his stamp on the team.
The trademark of an Edwin Rodriguez team, he says, would be their devotion to fundamentals.
"If there is something I'd like to be related to is that my teams would be the 'Masters of the Obvious,'" he said. "They'd be the masters of the routine plays, fielding ground balls and all of that.
"I think if I ever had a chance to work with a team in Spring Training, I'd concentrate on that. I'd even go farther than that. I'd say from the first week, we'd spend 80 percent of the time in the spring just working on fundamentals. Moving runners. Catching the ball. Making the routine plays."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.