New leadership, same challenges for Marlins

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 6, 2014 at 3:59 pm •  Published: March 6, 2014
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JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — When Miami Marlins executives Mike Hill and Dan Jennings started working together in 1995, their job was to create a scouting department for the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"We had zero staff, zero paperwork, zero scouting manuals," Jennings says.

"Dan's office was a little better than mine," Hill says. "Mine was literally a closet."

Nearly 20 years later, limited resources remain a challenge, with Hill and Jennings now running the Marlins for famously frugal owner Jeffrey Loria. When Larry Beinfest was fired last September after 12 years with the team, Hill replaced him as president of baseball operations, and Jennings was promoted to succeed Hill as general manager.

Hill and Jennings have been with the Marlins since 2002, but now they're in charge of a franchise where little has gone right since the team moved into a new ballpark two years. A brief, uncharacteristic spending spree by Loria became a fiasco when the subsequent roster dismantling antagonized fans, and the Marlins staggered to consecutive last-place finishes, losing 100 games last year.

Hill and Jennings will try to lead the Marlins back to contention while drawing on diverse backgrounds. Jennings is an Alabama native who had a brief tryout as a pitcher in the Yankees organization, then paid his dues by driving up to 50,000 miles on his car every year while scouting 300 games. Hill is an Ohio native who was an outfielder, first baseman and running back at Harvard, then rose through baseball's ranks to become the only African-American currently in charge of a major league team's baseball operations.

"We complement each other in our strengths," Hill says. "Our backgrounds are obviously different. Dan has more of a scouting background. I don't consider myself completely analytical, because I have put on a uniform and played the game. But I try to think everything through.

"We both like good players. That's the bottom line."

Marlins president David Samson says it's fun to watch Hill and Jennings interact.

"It's like family, right?" Samson says. "They have different talents, and you put them together and you end up having a baseball operations department that can create winning."

Loria's tight payroll makes it difficult to win, and he has a reputation as a micromanaging owner widely blamed for constant turnover in the clubhouse and manager's office. But Hill and Jennings both defend their boss of more than decade, saying that while he indeed is part of the decision-making process, he asks good questions that lead to a sensible consensus.

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