MIAMI -- Baseball's hiring axiom, Go With Whom You Know, drove Florida Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga to make his best friend club president as he hired Carl Barger from the same job with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It may also be why Gene Lamont is an early front-runner to be the Marlins' first manager when the National League expansion team begins play in 1993.
Lamont, the Pirates' third base coach, is widely thought to be poised and ready to manage. Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland says he would love for Lamont to get the chance. And Barger knows Lamont. Very well.
Lamont, 44, an offseason resident of Sarasota, wants the Marlins job and thinks the Barger factor gives him an edge.
"When I heard that Carl would be down there, first I was happy for Carl, because it must be what he wanted," Lamont said last night. "Second, I thought, 'Well, this surely couldn't hurt my chances.' I have a real good relationship with Carl."
Huizenga and Barger, neither of whom could be reached yesterday, say they will first hire a general manager, likely within a few months. They say a field manager will be aboard as soon as possible after that, a timetable that would allow an employed coach such as Lamont to finish the season with his current club. Lamont said he has not been approached about the job.
Florida's intention to bring in a manager a year early will allow that man to help set up and shape the Marlins' minor-league teams that will begin play next year. Whether the eventual big-league manager might spend next season managing the Marlins' highest-class farm team has not been determined.
"It would be interesting coming in a year early," Lamont said. "I've been youth player-oriented since I managed in the minors so long [eight years], so that would be interesting."
The two-man Marlins hierarchy is sensitive to Pirate raiding, Huizenga because he already has lured Barger; Barger because, as he puts it, "I bleed black and gold." Huizenga even said in announcing Barger, "It's the last thing we would want to do is hire people away from Pittsburgh."
But Pittsburgh doesn't seem to mind as it relates to Lamont.
"Every manager has a guy he thinks is a prime candidate to manage. I think Gene could be a fine manager," Leyland told USA Today this week in Toronto before the All-Star Game. "I hope I lose a coach in the near future."
To be sure, there are bigger-name managerial candidates to consider, such as Dave Johnson, Rene Lachemann and Pat Corrales. But none has Lamont's personal history with the club president, who enjoys the complete confidence of the club owner. Leyland notes that Barger is so proud of his Pirates coaches, "I think he would want to take a look at a
couple of guys on our staff."