Marlins Bring Back Trader Jack

80-year-old McKeon named interim manager

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    A day after Edwin Rodriguez abruptly resigned as manager of the Florida Marlins, the team will bring back a familiar face to the Marlins clubhouse.

    The Marlins named Jack McKeon interim manager on Monday afternoon. At 80, McKeon becomes the second-oldest manager in MLB history. "I don't need this job," McKeon told the media at a press conference unveiling the hire this afternoon, "but I love it."

    Only the legendary Connie Mack, who managed until he was 88, surpasses McKeon.

    Not that anyone in the Marlins organization thinks Trader Jack is over the hill. Team President David Samson said of McKeon Monday, "he's sharper than half the people we have working with us."

    For his part, McKeon thinks any focus on his age is unnecessary. "I'm not 80," he said this afternoon. "My birth certificate says that, but I'm not 80. You guys said in 2003 I was too old."

    In 2003, McKeon replaced fired manager Jeff Torborg and helped lead the Marlins to their second World Series. He won the National League Manager of the Year award that year for his help turning around the Marlins, who were 16-22 when he took over but went 75-49 under Trader Jack.

    He managed the Marlins for two more seasons, then retired after the 2005 season with a 241-207 record with the club. Since then, he has served as a special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria.

    Regardless of his age, McKeon is definitely old-school. "Maybe I'm not hip with the Twitter and the Facebook, but I don't have a problem disciplining players," he said Monday.

    Perhaps outfielder Logan Morrison will give Trader Jack some Twitter lessons anyway. A man so quick to quip would be perfect for the medium.

    McKeon made no promises in this afternoon's press conference, but acknowledged that the Marlins have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot. "There is enough talent in that room to maybe play in October," he said.

    He did warn, "I'm not a miracle worker, but I hope the magic stayed with us." With the Marlins sitting 12.5 games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies (and 7.5 games back in the NL Wild Card Standings), the team would have to finish the season 58-22 to win 90 games and reasonably expect to be in the playoff hunt.

    Step one will be turning around the team's recent swoon. The Marlins are 1-18 in June, and currently mired in a 10-game losing streak. "We need to kick a little butt, be more aggressive and play the game the right way," he said of the team's struggles.

    For his career, McKeon is 1011-940 with five different teams. His first managing job, with the Kansas City Royals in 1973, came before any of the current Marlins had been born.

    The Marlins do show some interesting parallels with the 2003 team. Both featured pitching staffs with promising young arms (Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, and Dontrelle Willis in '03; Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez in '11) and a once-in-a-lifetime power hitter (Miguel Cabrera in '03; Mike Stanton in '11).

    Can McKeon recapture the magic from 2003? Back then, he had the benefit of Willis and Cabrera falling in his lap to bolster the lineup. It looks like he won't have that help coming any time soon.

    Nonetheless, the move at least gives the Marlins a colorful presence in the dugout, albeit one that smells heavily of cigar smoke.

    David Hill is a Miami native and cofounder of Marlins Diehards, the only Florida Marlins blog with perspective on the eccentricities of Marlins fandom.