It was only rumored yesterday, but last night Buster Olney reported that, yep, 80-year-old Jack McKeon is going to take over the Marlins as interim manager.
It’s fun to put McKeon’s age and experience into perspective with little factoids such as “McKeon’s first game as a Major League manager happened over three months before I was born” and “Jack McKeon’s first game as a manager at any level occurred when my now-62-year-old mother was six-years-old,” but that gimmick will get old pretty fast. So too will the plain old old jokes. Yes, McKeon is old. There’s not much he can do about that.
As an interim hire, though, I like it. Partially because I was always a fan of McKeon’s when he managed the Padres, Reds and Marlins on his first go-around (I don’t remember his earlier jobs). He let his players play, didn’t seem to be under the delusion that managing a baseball game was as sensitive as nuclear disarmament talks and, thanks to his experience and front office stints, seemed to recognize talent and put it in the best position to thrive rather than simply impose his will. It’s the kind of manager I’d want to hire if I ran a team.
But maybe more importantly, this gives the Marlins some flexibility. They got boxed in when Rodriguez did well as the interim manager following Fredi Gonzalez’s firing last year and, despite looking elsewhere, felt obligated to give Rodriguez a shot at the job. The Cubs did the same thing with Mike Quade. It’s the classic in-season interim manager trap that, while it sometimes works out well, often leads to compromise hires.
But McKeon? To put it delicately, he’s not the long term solution in the dugout, so it will allow the Marlins’ brass several months to figure out exactly who they want leading the team when they move into the new ballpark next spring.