Report: 'Zero' chance Girardi manages '07 Marlins

Updated: September 23, 2006, 1:59 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Florida manager Joe Girardi insisted he's focused on helping the Marlins continue their surprising playoff push, despite rumors he'll be fired after the season.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, citing unidentified sources, reported Friday that Girardi's chances of returning next season are "zero" on a scale of 1 to 10.

"There's one thing I can't control, and that's sources," Girardi said before the Marlins played the Phillies on Friday night. "My job is to make sure this club wins games and we've done that. The focus should be on the players and what we're able to accomplish in the next nine days and if we reach our goal. The focus should not be on me or anything other than winning games."

Girardi, in his first season on the job, is a strong candidate for NL manager of the year after leading the team with the lowest payroll in the major leagues into the wild-card race.

But Girardi's job security has been questioned because of a strained relationship with owner Jeffrey Loria. A much-publicized rift between the men erupted at a game Aug. 6, when Loria berated an umpire while sitting behind the plate. From the dugout, Girardi told or asked the owner to stop, witnesses said. Loria angrily left his seat and confronted Girardi after the game during a 90-minute clubhouse meeting.

Loria wouldn't endorse Girardi when he finally addressed the matter three weeks later.

"The one thing I do not want to happen is the players should not be in the middle of this," Girardi said. "The players are called upon to play."

With a roster dominated by rookies, the Marlins were widely projected to lose more than 100 games. Instead, they became the first team in history to have a winning record after falling 20 games under .500. Florida was 11-31 on May 21, but improved to 73-72 on Sept. 12. The Marlins lost to the Phillies 5-2 on Friday night to drop to 76-78. They are five games behind wild card-leading Los Angeles, while the Phillies trail the Dodgers by a half-game.

"They know what's at stake," Girardi said. "We're playing a team that's four games ahead of us and it's a three-game series, so we pretty much have to win every game. We're playing for a playoff spot. The club doesn't need a rallying cry."

With two years left on his contract, Girardi would be owed $1.5 million if he is not picked up by another club. With Dusty Baker on the hot seat with the Chicago Cubs, Girardi, a Northwestern graduate and Chicago native, has been rumored as Baker's replacement.

The Marlins already have identified possible replacements for Girardi, the report said, including a trio of third base coaches: Fredi Gonzalez (Atlanta), Joey Cora (Chicago White Sox) and Manny Acta (New York Mets).

According to the source, Girardi and general manager Larry Beinfest "barely speak" and do not communicate about team decisions on a regular basis.

"His introverted behavior and lack of people skills have caused most of the problems," the source said of Girardi, who spent one season as the Yankees' bench coach after a 15-year playing career. "Both sides are at fault."

However, the source said the front office is pointing to specific in-game decisions that ultimately may lead to Girardi's demise.

Fighting for a wild-card spot, the source described Marlins management as "shocked" that Girardi brought back rookie-sensation Josh Johnson after an 82-minute rain delay Sept. 12 against the New York Mets. The right-hander left the game four innings later with cramping in his forearm and was later shelved for the season.

Before ending his pregame interview in the dugout Friday, Girardi disputed a report that said Johnson was sidelined with a strained ligament in his forearm.

Girardi said Johnson has a strained muscle, adding, "There's nothing wrong with his ligament."

Girardi also was criticized for inserting reserve outfielder Reggie Abercrombie as a defensive replacement in Sunday's 8-7 loss against Atlanta. Florida's 10th-inning collapse was aided by two errors by Abercrombie that opened the door for a five-run inning.

Marlins president David Samson appeared this week on ESPN and said the team would evaluate Girardi at the end of the season, but the source said that process already has been completed.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.

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