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Mudville: May 28, 2024 7:45 am PDT

Peter Principle

BY KEVIN KERNAN

My condolences, Marlins fans. We tried to warn you.

That is, if there are any fans left other than Chris Vitali, editor in chief of BallNine.

A video of Marlins new president of baseball operations Peter Bendix emerged this week that showed the world what actually goes on when analytics totally outweigh the human element and when baseball people are pushed aside in an organization. This is what you get.

It was not a pretty sight as Bendix delivered no real answers in his on-field press conference.

Good luck, Marlins fans.

Help is on the way, though. On Tuesday the Marlins posted four new jobs, all for analytics. When in trouble, add more Nerds. That’s Baseball 2024, doubling down on analytics.

The jobs are data engineer, junior analyst, analyst and senior analyst. Get any of those jobs and maybe in a few years you too can someday be a POBO, president of baseball operations like Peter Bendix.

While they are at it, the Marlins might want to add some pitchers and hitters. They are 24th in batting average at .221 and 27th in ERA at 4.94.

Here is my favorite: the Marlins are 29th in OPS with a .607 mark, only the White Sox are worse at .588.

As for Bendix? What, me worry?

“I can confidently say it is too early to have a strong evaluation,’’ Bendix, 38, said of the players he brought into the organization and then offered a weird smile. “At the end of the day we have to remember that it is not even May yet (another strange smile) and the worst thing you can do is evaluate players too soon and come to the wrong conclusion.’’

I think the worst thing you can do is go 7-24.

In other words, Sir Peter is basically saying how dare you question his judgment.

A good friend of mine Joe Frisaro, a BBQ pitmaster, who has covered the Marlins for decades, (he’s been through four firesales) refers to Bendix as Peter Percentage.

That fits. Everything is based on percentages in his world, and right now the Marlins are a total buy-in to analytics. How is that working out there P.P.?

Bendix was with the Rays, but it is really not clear what he did in his job. He had a title, but I’ve been told that other people made the big decisions.

Now he is The Man. He must wear it. There is nowhere to hide. The Marlins had a bizarre off-season and a player I thought they should have kept, a player who fit that team in a good way, giving them much needed power and lengthening the lineup – Jorge Soler – was allowed to walk away as a free agent and signed with the Giants after hitting 36 home runs for the Marlins last season.

Marlins’ loanDepot Park is a tough place to hit home runs so you can’t just let your home run hitter walk away, but Bendix did exactly that, believing others would pick up the numbers Soler gave them. But that is just one small example of what’s wrong.

Solid manager Skip Schumaker is on the way out so that is going to be another loss for the Marlins. Pieces that played important roles like Jon Berti are gone too. Too much is relied upon Jazz Chisholm Jr. and in the Braves and Phillies dominated NL East, the Marlins have no shot, especially after this start. The Fish are already offering $5 tickets to games and still can’t draw a school of fans.

Their AA team in Pensacola had 5,038 fans at a game Sunday, though, and drew 60,195 fans for the month of April. Good for the Blue Wahoos.

Point the finger at owner Bruce Sherman for all that is wrong with this 2024 team. He seems perfectly happy with losing as long as he gets his WBC crowds and Caribbean Series crowds.

Point the finger at owner Bruce Sherman for all that is wrong with this 2024 team. He seems perfectly happy with losing as long as he gets his WBC crowds and Caribbean Series crowds.

This is an owner who played it cheap last year in “celebrating’’ the 20th anniversary of the Marlins 2003 championship with manager Jack McKeon so he has shown his true colors over and over. GM Kim Ng walked away from the Marlins mess in October after the 2023 Marlins made the playoffs. Sherman had his sights set on getting someone from the Rays to run his team, trying to duplicate the sustained small market success of the Rays. That’s how he wound up with Peter Percentage.

More Bendix.

Of his struggling catchers, he said, “both of these guys have track records to suggest they are going to bounce back.’’

Let’s stop right there, P.P.

Nick Fortes, 27, is a lifetime .211 hitter.

Christian Bethancourt, 32, is a lifetime .226 hitter. But Bethancourt spent the last two seasons with the Rays so he must be good in Bendix’ and Sherman’s eyes.

Now I know Bendix took sabermetrics in college at Tufts before becoming an intern with the Rays and climbing their interior ladder. Even he must know that .211 and .226 is nothing to write home about, but maybe he is so smart he doesn’t even have to look at batting averages.

“We’re always exploring ways we can improve the roster in the short term and the long term,’’ Bendix said, the go-to quote for analytic driven teams.

You see, you can have it both ways when you are smarter than others running teams.

Short term has to get a little better though at 7-24. Yep, the 2027 World Series is right around the corner for the Marlins, short term and long term success.

By the way, Chisholm has the highest OPS on the team at .745. This is all just a speed bump.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. #2 of the Miami Marlins reacts after being ejected during the seventh inning of the game against the Colorado Rockies at loanDepot park on April 30, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

“We don’t want to panic, a lot of these guys have track records or performances that we believe in and we know they are working hard, we know that they care, we know that they are trying. We are just all trying to get better,’’ Bendix said.

I heard the same speech at the Little League field the other day and then it was time to go get ice cream.

So what exactly is that balance between the short term and long term?

“It’s a constant thing that we are always thinking about,’’ Bendix said. “And I think with the record we have right now, it perhaps changes decisions, compared to a different record, but there is also nothing that is set in stone at this point, so we are really thinking about that every day.’’

Keep thinking. It is working so well. How about doing.

Schumaker benched Jesus Sanchez for half-assing a ball in the outfield the other day and also for taking off from first base and rounding second and heading to third on a fly out to right field (not the third out) in a recent game. Good for Schumaker. It is the major leagues.

The players are trying so hard, Bendix said.

Perhaps Sanchez was thinking about the short term and the long term at the same time and got confused. It happens. Perhaps he wasn’t thinking at all.

Bendix has a new team of “leaders’’ around him as well, most notably assistant GM Gabe Kapler.

Wonder when Gabe becomes the Marlins’ manager or general manager. Can’t wait.

Bendix was on a roll now.

The Marlins have been slammed with pitching injuries. Pitching depth is a problem. Hey, but don’t blame him or the Marlins.

“Unfortunately that is something that is the case around the league and that we knew was going to be the case,’’ Bendix said. “There are going to be opportunities to step up.’’

Asked specifically about innings for Max Meyer, who was sent to the minors after having success with the Marlins in a roster manipulation move, Bendix didn’t want to give away trade secrets.

“We have a plan with Max that we’ve communicated with him, with his agent, with our pitching coaches,’’ he said. “That doesn’t involve an exact number (of innings) but it involves a range that we and Max feel pretty confident that if he gets to that range, we would be setting him up for success in the future.’’

In other words, we are going to do the same old thing, limit his innings and hope for the best.

Isn’t baseball something. Imagine saying that about a young Bob Gibson or Greg Maddux?

Don’t pitch to learn to pitch.

Max Meyer #23 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on April 7, 2024 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

How about setting him up for future success by having him learn pitching, and going deep into games, locating his fastball and going from there – and rewarding that success? How about reading up about legendary pitching coach Johnny Sain, who really encouraged pitchers to throw every day in some form or talking to people like Leo Mazzone, who ran that incredible Braves staff? No, the answer is some mysterious innings limit number not anything to do about pitching or the flow of the delivery and being a max out madman on the mound.

The system is working so well, why change anything.

What about the pitching injuries across baseball, someone asked, a solid question.

Here we go again with “constant conversations.’’

Said Bendix, like clockwork, “It’s a constant conversation with our medical people, our coaches and with Max. There is no, unfortunately, there is no exact science to this. We are all trying to do our best with keeping pitchers healthy across the industry and I don’t think we as an industry are doing a great job. So it’s really about making sure we don’t give too much too soon to a player who is coming back from injury, while also making sure at the same time he gets enough of a foundation underneath him.’’

Got it there, Pete. It is going to be the same old thing and constant conversations and a look at the short term and the long term, and any other cliché you can throw out there for your soundbite; but you are not going to have any conversations with the likes of pitching coaches that have had tremendous success in the past or younger pitching gurus like former pitcher Justin Orenduff who are doing more than just thinking and having conversations about the problem.

“Unfortunately the act of throwing a baseball 95 miles per hour over and over is very difficult on the human arm,’’ Bendix added, another tired comment.

That is baseball’s version of “the system failed’’ and Bendix is letting us know don’t blame him.

Miami Marlins President of Baseball Operations Peter Bendix looks on during spring training workouts at Roger Dean Stadium on February 19, 2024 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

After mentioning this “is a long term process,’’ (Isn’t everything?) Bendix said, “In the short term this is going to turn around because we have a bunch of players who are really committed to making sure it turns around. We have a staff that is committed to working hard and putting them in the best position to succeed and we have guys with a track record of success. We have guys that are going to get back to the level of performance that they’re accustomed to, in the long term, my vision for where this organization is going has not changed. The vision is the same thing that it would be regardless of our record right now. I continue to have the support and the resources to get this organizations where it needs to be.’’

And he might have added, I also have a bridge to sell you.

Same bridge another Rays front office wunderkind named Chaim Bloom sold the Red Sox. How did that work out?

“I knew when I took this job to get this organization where I want it to be it is going to take more than one year, regardless of what happens this year,’’ Bendix added.

In other words, this year doesn’t mean squat in the long run.

What’s important is me having a long-term contract to get this right.

As for the offense, the Marlins can’t hit for average or power. As noted they are 24th in batting average at .221 and 26th in home runs with 23 and 27th in runs with 104, So what’s wrong? “It’s a lack of consistency right now from at-bat to game-to-game,’’ Bendix said. “We see the talent there, we see the ability. Then we see the players maybe trying a little too hard which leads to getting them out of their game, which leads to chasing a lot of pitches, which leads to being in bad counts.’’

Pitching is a mess, too. The Marlins are 27th in ERA with a 4.94 mark. A baseball boss’ No. 1 job is to build a bullpen and right now the Marlins bullpen is 25th in ERA with a dreadful 5.00 mark. Nice work, Pete.

His pitchers, he said, have to “attack the zone.’’

Okay, great.

What is the overall message to the team?

“To continue to work hard. Continue to control what you can control and that this will not last forever,’’ Bendix said.

Of course it won’t, no team is this bad, even the 2024 Marlins. Once again Peter Bendix is playing the percentages.

Call it the Peter Principle.

As for Marlins fans, you are being played, too.

Good luck.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

Comments
  • John

    Kevin I really enjoy your writing

    May 4, 2024
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