Marlins general manager Dan Jennings was selected Monday to replace Mike Redmond in the dugout. Jennings has 31 years of experience in professional baseball, but he never played in the majors and has never managed.
"It is outside the box, I will not deny that," Jennings said at a news conference. "My mom, whom I love deeply, asked me, 'Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?'"
Redmond was fired one-quarter of the way into his third season Sunday after the Marlins were nearly no-hit in a 6-0 loss to Atlanta. The defeat dropped Miami to 16-22, but team president David Samson said a change had been in the works since the Marlins started 3-11.
Jennings' first game was Monday night, a 3-2 loss in 13 innings at home against Arizona.
The shake-up was the latest orchestrated by owner Jeffrey Loria, reinforcing his reputation for impatience. Jennings is Loria's sixth manager since June 2010.
"Jeffrey Loria makes me laugh!" former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones tweeted.
No other candidates were considered, Samson said, in part because the Marlins have gone through so many managers already.
"There's nowhere else to look anymore," Samson conceded. "We're running out."
The Marlins consulted with Commissioner Rob Manfred and complied with Major League Baseball's minority hiring requirements, Samson said.
Former players have become first-time managers in the majors, but the move from the front office to the dugout is unusual. According to Baseball Reference, Jennings is the first major league skipper with no experience as a manager or big league player since Braves owner Ted Turner managed his team for one game in 1977.
Outside observers weren't the only ones surprised by the choice of Jennings.
"The first thought was, 'What's going on here?' It's only natural for the players to have that, too," slugger Giancarlo Stanton said. "But you've got to realize what's positive about this, and know he's a baseball guy who's here to turn us around."
Jennings met with the team before batting practice Monday.
"One of the questions was, 'Are you going to wear a hat?'" reliever A.J. Ramos said. "Because I've never seen him with a hat on. But he fills out the uniform."
Jennings' father, who is 77, has been a high school football coach for nearly 50 years. But Jennings' only coaching experience was with a high school baseball team in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1980s.
"There are going to be cynics," he said. "There are a lot of managers who arrive in that chair via a different path. We now have a new path."
Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said he's optimistic Jennings will do well despite his lack of managing experience.
"We wanted a leader," Hill said. "We wanted a motivator. We wanted someone knowledgeable in the game. There's no better person I can think of. There's no one who knew our players better than DJ."
Jennings said he hesitated before agreeing to change jobs, and stipulated he wanted Mike Goff as his bench coach. Goff, who had been an advance scout, was a coach for the Mariners in 2005-2007. He replaces Rob Leary.
The 54-year-old Jennings, who was in his second season as general manager, has been with the Marlins on the personnel side since 2002. The Alabama native had a brief tryout as a pitcher in the Yankees organization, and then paid his dues by driving up to 50,000 miles on his car every year while scouting 300 games before he joined the Marlins.
"I feel like a rookie manager and an experienced baseball man," he said.
By going with Jennings, Loria avoids the expense of adding someone to the payroll. Redmond was under contract through 2017, and the Marlins are also still paying Ozzie Guillen, who had three years left on his deal when he was fired as manager in 2012.
Loria didn't attend the news conference.
"Looking forward, we need a different set of skills to harness the potent combination of talent we've put together," Loria said in a statement. "We can't think of anyone better suited for the job than Dan Jennings."
Jennings is under contract through 2018, and it's possible he'll return to the job of general manager after this season, Samson said. For now the GM duties will be delegated to others in the front office.
The Marlins had the same 16-22 record in May 2003 when Loria fired Jeff Torborg as manager. Replacement Jack McKeon led a turnaround that resulted in an improbable run to the World Series title.
The Marlins haven't been to the post-season since, but they began this year with high hopes after a busy winter.
"In my heart, this is a playoff team," Jennings said. "That's the message that is now my job to convey to them."