What’s going on with Skip Schumaker and the Miami Marlins?

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What’s going on with Skip Schumaker and the Miami Marlins?

Sunflower seeds erupted from Skip Schumaker’s mouth as the apoplectic manager of the Miami Marlins unleashed a volcano of wrath upon home plate umpire Laz Díaz.

The reason for Schumaker’s disgust: A moment of confusion during the eighth inning of Monday’s game against San Francisco that saw the wrong Giants reliever emerge from the visiting bullpen, thus allowing un-warmed-up Giants closer Camillo Doval the opportunity to throw a few extra pitches. That mistake, according to Schumaker, should have led to a pitch clock violation and a ball. Instead, Doval was given a clean count, which sent an incensed Schumaker back onto the field and then into the locker room, ejected from the game.

Doval completed the four-out save to hand Miami its 14th loss of the young season.

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How did the Marlins get here?

Less than six months after a storybook trip to October, the Marlins find themselves deep in quicksand and sinking fast. Miami’s 4-15 record is second-worst in the major leagues. The lineup is last or second-to-last behind the similarly dysfunctional White Sox in most offensive categories. Only the Astros (decimated by injuries) and Rockies (they play home games on the moon) have a worse team ERA.

To make matters worse, USA Today recently reported that Schumaker’s contract option for 2025 was voided by the Marlins over the winter, making the 2023 NL Manager of the Year an impending free agent. The Miami Herald then reported that the voiding was done at the request of Schumaker himself and that the Marlins are still interested in retaining his services beyond this season. What’s clear is that the 44-year-old manager, who is highly regarded across the sport after just one season in the job, is displeased with the current state of the organization.

When asked by Yahoo Sports, Schumaker, who was hired by Miami ahead of last season, declined to speak on the record about his contract situation, expressing that he did not want to create a distraction for his team or his players. However, the overwhelming expectation both within the Marlins organization and around Major League Baseball is that Skip will leave town this winter after two seasons in Miami. It makes for a jarring vibe shift compared to the celebratory atmosphere that surrounded Schumaker and his club at the end of 2023.

So what happened, and where does all this leave the team and its leader moving forward? Here’s a somewhat simplified version of events, as Yahoo Sports understands them.

After the Marlins were bounced in the 2023 wild-card round, team owner Bruce Sherman determined that the magic of the 2023 season, driven in large part by a 33-14 record in one-run games, was mostly a mirage. In his assessment, the MLB roster assembled by GM Kim Ng and the minor-league system she oversaw were not set up for sustained success. Experts around the game echoed this sentiment to Yahoo Sports. Most people commended Ng for the job she did at the big-league level with the resources she was afforded, particularly in 2023, but described Miami’s organizational infrastructure and processes as woefully inadequate and behind the times.

When Sherman attempted to hire someone above Ng to oversee the organization’s refurbishment, the first woman GM in baseball history understandably balked. She had, just months prior, helped guide an overlooked, underfunded team to its first full-season playoff appearance in two decades. Many of her moves — signing Jorge Soler, trading for Luis Arráez, acquiring Jake Burger and Josh Bell at the deadline — were huge wins. She’d thrived on a shoestring budget, and for her efforts, she was force-fed a demotion. And so, instead of sticking around under a new boss, Ng left the Marlins.

In her place, Sherman hired Peter Bendix — a longtime executive with the Tampa Bay Rays, a club whose sustained success has enamored Sherman — as Miami’s President of Baseball Operations. Sources tell Yahoo Sports that Bendix’s assessment of the organization was similar to Sherman’s: Despite a successful 2023, the team needed to revamp its infrastructure.

The Marlins did not, however, enter full rebuild mode over the winter, in part because the front office believed the team had an outside chance to compete and in part because doing so would have further alienated an already stilted fan base after the franchise’s most invigorating season in years. But while the club held on to trade chips such as Arráez and Jesús Luzardo, its general inaction in the offseason indicated that a downward cycle was coming.

That, according to sources, disheartened Schumaker, who has no appetite for anything resembling a lengthy rebuild. In a world of dedicated personalities, Schumaker, players past and present told Yahoo Sports, is uniquely hell-bent on excellence. And so, according to the Miami Herald, he approached Sherman and requested that the owner void the team’s option on his contract for 2025 — a request to which, “in a show of good faith,” Sherman agreed.

The consensus around baseball seems to be that all parties in this situation, with the exception of Sherman and his frugality, are acting rationally. Sherman wants to build a more sustainable winner. Ng was disrespected by the owner’s desire to insert somebody above her. Bendix is fulfilling his assignment to gradually renovate the organization. Schumaker doesn’t want to stick around for multiple losing seasons.

The only major point of contention, sources say, is that Schumaker, members of his staff and some returning players thought the roster was worth additional investment, at least for one more bite at the apple in 2024. They believed that a few upgrades here and there — Soler, reportedly, was interested in returning, but the Marlins didn’t want to pay him — could have pushed Miami back into the wild-card chase. Instead, Bendix played it safe, a decision that has, admittedly, aged well in light of Eury Perez’s season-ending elbow injury and Miami’s awful start to the season.

‘I want to play for that guy so bad’

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the expectation now is that Schumaker will finish this season with Miami before departing in the winter. His relationship with Bendix, by all accounts, remains healthy, with the Marlins POBO telling Yahoo Sports: “I was extremely fortunate to walk into a situation in which there was a really good manager already in place.” Other sources around the team expressed zero concern that Schumaker would take a lackadaisical approach to being a “lame-duck manager,” a sentiment supported by his passionate display Monday.

The confidence in Schumaker, already one of the game’s most respected managers despite his relative lack of experience, shows just how high his star has risen over the past 18 months. And even before he took the Miami job in October 2022, Schumaker developed a reputation for his attention to detail and outstanding communication skills during coaching stints in San Diego and St. Louis.

As players past, present and even future will tell you, the 12-year big leaguer garners respect but doesn’t demand it.

“He’s just a winner,” Garrett Hampson, a utility man for the Kansas City Royals and a member of the 2023 Marlins, told Yahoo Sports. “Everything he does, everything he cares about is all about winning. I’ve never seen someone so detailed about the little things. I think that’s part of why we were so good in one-run games last year.”

“Skip is a guy you want to run through a brick wall for,” Miami slugger Jake Burger told SiriusXM last winter.

“I want to play for that guy so bad,” an infielder on another team told Yahoo Sports.

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker is expected to be at the helm of a different (and better) team by this time next year. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker is expected to be at the helm of a different (and better) team by this time next year. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

What’s next for Schumaker?

Come this winter, Schumaker is set to be an incredibly sought-after free agent, especially in the context of Craig Counsell’s resetting of the managerial market this past November.

Because while all the managerial chairs have butts in seats as of mid-April, that is sure to change once the music starts playing. And given how Counsell supplanted the seemingly safe David Ross in Chicago, it’s reasonable to believe that a team with a manager already in place could see Schumaker as a worthwhile upgrade. Indeed, one front office member, when asked about Schumaker, described him as a “Counsell type.”

Beyond his in-clubhouse and on-field prowess, Schumaker is described by those who’ve crossed paths with him as a uniquely kind and other-centered person. In the gossipy, prattling world of baseball, not a single person Yahoo Sports talked to had a negative thing to say, on or off the record, about Schumaker.

Said one front office member who has shared an organization with the Marlins manager: “My experiences with Skip were consistently A+. Great human being. Coachable. Genuinely humble. Knows what he doesn’t know. He wants to learn while understanding his limitations. He loves the game. He fights for his players. He is an excellent communicator. He has strong morals without being preachy about them.”

So when the dust settles in Miami at season’s end, Schumaker is likely to land on his feet — future bright, reputation intact — in a more advantageous situation, the recipient of a more lucrative contract. Meanwhile, the Marlins, led by Sherman, Bendix and whoever replaces Skip, seem set to embark on a hazy future and a long rebuild, without one of the game’s best managers at the helm.

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