MIAMI (AP) — Talking about the direction of the Miami Marlins, new personnel boss Michael Hill thrust out his right hand adorned with an enormous World Series championship ring.
"I want to repeat this," he said. "We want to play in October." Hill was promoted Sunday to president of baseball operations, completing owner Jeffrey Loria's latest franchise shakeup. Another executive, Dan Jennings, was promoted to replace Hill as general manager.
The new leadership is off to a terrific start. The moves were announced before the season finale against Detroit, when Henderson Alvarez pitched a no-hitter and Miami scored on a wild pitch in the ninth to win 1-0.
Hill replaced Larry Beinfest, fired Friday after 12 years with the team. Hill has been with the Marlins for 11 years, including the 2003 championship team, and his promotion inspired him to pull his ring out of the jewelry box.
"I wear it when I want to think about where we need to go," Hill said. "On special occasions I bring it out, and today is one of those days — a little reminder for me of what we're working toward." The Marlins finished last in the NL East this season for the third consecutive year, and it has been a decade since their most recent playoff appearance. Their loss total has climbed each of the past four years, and despite the emergence of several young players, they finished with the worst record in the NL at 62-100.
"We need to get better," Hill said. "The future is bright here. We knew this year was a season of transition. People see the young talent we have here, the pitching. But we do have work we need to do. The process starts today to make things better."
Although Loria's budget constraints will continue to limit the front office's options, an upgrade of the offense will be the top priority. This year's team ranks last in the majors in runs, home runs and batting.
Hill became only the third head of Marlins personnel in their 21-year history. Dave Dombrowski was the Marlins' general manager from 1993-01. "Michael is an amazing guy who has earned this well-deserved recognition," Loria said in a statement. Regarding Jennings he said, "I have tremendous respect for his baseball mind and know he'll make a great addition to Michael's team."
Loria didn't attend the news conference. Neither did David Samson, who remains as team president. Hill said he and Jennings haven't been told how much Loria is willing to spend on payroll in 2014. "We'll get direction from Jeffrey and David as to what we can do, and we'll do the best we can," Hill said.
Loria has been widely criticized for being too involved in baseball decisions, but Hill and Jennings said they had no problem with the owner's hands-on approach. "I don't think there is a single general manager or president of baseball who has complete autonomy," Jennings said. "Jeffrey is very intelligent. He has been part of every call and the decisions made in my tenure here, and he has done a tremendous job asking very intelligent questions. For me those are things he should ask, and for us — the people he entrusts to make these decisions — it holds us accountable. He has been very fair and forthright in allowing us to make the baseball decisions."
Jennings, who has been with the Marlins for 12 years, was promoted from vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager. His background is in scouting, and early in his career he drove 50,000 miles a year to check out talent.
Hill is a Harvard graduate who speaks Spanish, which comes in handy in Miami. He worked closely with Beinfest and said they had a cordial conversation Sunday. "He gave me his blessing, and I thanked him," Hill said.
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