First person Cox tribute: former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez

Former Marlins manager and Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez on retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox:

“I always came out during media time on the road. He was always out there watching the other team’s bp, so I’d always go out there with him and talk. Smoke a cigar. When the media came around, I usually just hung out and heard what he had to say or what they were asking him about. It was either my first year or second when Kelly Johnson (was struggling) and Bobby told the media he reminded him of Stan Musial. I almost

Gonzalez (left) and Cox sharing a laugh

Gonzalez (left) and Cox sharing a laugh

spilled the coffee I had. Stan Musial, skipper? He was bad, like he’d never swung a bat in his life. Then all of a sudden it was like he was hitting off a tee. Whether Kelly read it or one of the writers went over and said ‘Bobby’s got a lot of confidence in you, he reminds him of Stan Musial’ or it was just pure coincidence. He went on to win player of the week; he just went completely off. You couldn’t get him out. The old gray fox.

“When I have a player going through those scenarios, like we had with (Chris) Coghlan last year, he was hitting .080, I take that experience that I was able to witness. When the media asks ‘How long are you going to leave Coghlan leading off,’ I’m like, ‘You know what? He’s hitting the ball on the nose. He’s walking, He’s close.’ You’re hopeful the player reads that, and you keep putting him in the lineup and he’ll get out of it.

“I can’t remember where we were, but (Cox) was (arguing a call) at first base. It would have been first and third, but we ended up with a man on third. He got ejected, and as he was going back to the dugout, he gave me the squeeze sign. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Did he just give me the squeeze sign?’ So we did. We squeezed. He always says, keep an eye on me all the time. After it happened, it worked, he goes ‘I didn’t think you saw it,’ and I said, ‘Well I didn’t think you put it on.’ It was funny. It worked. He is two and three, four steps ahead of everybody else.

“I never asked him a move, whether it worked or didn’t work, until like three or four days later. I didn’t want him thinking I was second-guessing. I just wanted to learn. We were playing the Pirates, it was a three-game set. We had won the first two games. This was going back to when we had (Gary) Sheffield, Vinny Castilla, Chipper (Jones), Javy (Lopez). It was a day game on a getaway day. He put (Mark) DeRosa, (Darren) Bragg, Matt Franco, he calls it the B squad, the B bombers. And I’m writing the lineup, I think that Pat (Corrales) might have had knee surgery at that time, so Pat wasn’t there. I’m writing the lineup, and I’m going ‘Man, oh man, we’ve got a chance to sweep the Pirates, and he’s taken the whole lineup out of the game for the day game.

“We go down early, and sure enough, next thing you know we’ve got base on balls, base hit, and I look in the dugout. The bench is stirring. Next thing you know, in the blink of an eye, it’s Sheffield, Vinny, Chipper. Before the Pirates knew it, we were up by four. We had one player left, a backup catcher, maybe Julio Franco left on the bench. And we win the game, we swept the Pirates, so I’m thinking I’ve got to ask him this.

“So on the plane I ask him, ‘Skipper, day game, and you take out the whole lineup?’ He said, ‘Fredi, you’ve got to play your bench, that’s No. 1, because if not, what are you going to do when you need to call on them?’ I go, ‘OK, but you took four of your starters out at one time.’ He goes, ‘It’s almost better.’ I go, ‘What do you mean it’s almost better?’ He goes, ‘You can put them anywhere you want to during the course of that game. Can you put Chipper in with the bases loaded, in the beginning of the game?’ I said ‘no.’ ‘Well, we did today and he hit a double. He pinch hit in a spot where they couldn’t walk him, they had to pitch to him, same thing with Sheffield.’ I said, ‘You know what, you old son of a gun, you’re absolutely right.’”

Previous tributes:

Royals GM Dayton Moore

Jeff Francoeur

Pete Van Wieren

Umpire Dan Iassogna

Joe Torre

45 comments Add your comment

Love the Braves in NC

September 26th, 2010
8:52 pm

Excellent tribute – sure hope we see more of Fredi next year. Looks like he has learned a thing or two from Bobby.

Mr. Enigma

September 26th, 2010
9:00 pm

Hopefully Fredi ignores all of his advice on how to not abuse middle relief pitchers like Jonny Venters.

Steven

September 26th, 2010
9:03 pm

This is the best sports-related anything I’ve read in a long time.

Bravesfan79

September 26th, 2010
9:14 pm

Hire Freddie now!

Gran Jen 1

September 26th, 2010
9:14 pm

Great article! Fredi is the only one to replace Bobby that won’t make me sick to see him sitting in the dugout! I think he could do it!

SG10

September 26th, 2010
9:22 pm

Excellent..very good stories. Thanks for covering these, Carroll

JRW7

September 26th, 2010
9:25 pm

Fredi Gonzales Braves Manager 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RHR

September 26th, 2010
9:42 pm

He told the same KJ story to SI on their Bobby tribute but the rest of it is new. I really like Fredi, hope we get him as our next skipper. Even though I knew it would probably be a disaster to pitch 2 rookies against the phillies aces last week in the back of my mind I knew Bobby was thinking it might work because the phillies had never faced those guys before, didn’t have a book on them. And also because he didn’t have any other choice lol but even though we got swept they certainly didn’t blow us out – rookies vs aces and all. He drives me nuts sometimes but even as i’m swearing at my television, i understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. thats just baseball and not many people know baseball better than 6.

Gumbylovespokey

September 26th, 2010
9:50 pm

I agree that is a great story, I hope they give Fredi Gonzalez and Ned Yost a good look in the offseason and don’t automatically give the job to TP. Or how about Roger McD for manager and Steve Avery for pitching coach?

Gumbylovespokey

September 26th, 2010
9:53 pm

Look folks, we likely lose those Phillies games no matter who we have on the mound going in, they were only the hottest team in baseball. I think Cox left it the way it was because the games we Had to win were the three against the Nationals. I think it was smart it’s about the numbers now, not pride. It just didn’t work out.

dnickle

September 26th, 2010
9:54 pm

Count me as a Fredi Fan!

Poorbrave

September 26th, 2010
10:08 pm

Fredi Ok
TP he!! no…
John Farrell -Red SOX Ok
Jose Oquendo Cards Ok.
Greg Walker White Sox Ok.

Just say no to TP………. Bring Leo and Pat Corrales back.

Fred Flinstone

September 26th, 2010
10:34 pm

I think TP has been promised the job. Otherwise, why have one of your minor league batting coaches added to the Atlanta dug out? Maybe to give him an early start on planning for next season?

Tomas

September 26th, 2010
10:38 pm

Seems like there’s always a Kelly Johnson story in this tributes……Dayton Moore also did it

Tomas

September 26th, 2010
10:44 pm

Freddy seems like the best fit, I really liked how he managed the Marlins

Navigator

September 26th, 2010
11:33 pm

Speaking of Kelly Johnson, I wonder if the Braves could have used his .282 batting average, 25 HR’s, or 69 RBI’s. Oh yeah, couldn’t play for Cox.

Brother John

September 27th, 2010
12:07 am

Hire anybody under the age of 55 for our next manager. I’d prefer one under 40! These old codgers are so set in their ways and stubborn to the point of stupidity — not to mention senility! Why these old decrepit men who barely could play the game in their youth are hired to “manage” youngs studs with more talent in their toe nail than the old geezer “skipper” ever had in his entire body is the biggest mystery of baseball to me. CHIPPER for manager. Knows the game inside out and EXCELLED at playing it!!

Mitchell

September 27th, 2010
12:35 am

He went on to win Player of the Week.

The end.

Not player of the month. Not MVP. Player of the week. That’s all Kelly Johnson will ever be.

To compare him to Stan Musial is idiotic. To suggest that the comparison to Stan Musial had anything to do with him breaking out of a slump is retarded.

And if it did, notice he only won Player of the Week. Rick Ankiel could be Player of the Week.

Doesn’t change the fact that he’s still Rick Ankiel.

It's out of here.....

September 27th, 2010
3:13 am

They can share a laugh next week as they vacation in the Bahamas. The Braves are DUNN. (that is the bat they needed, not the over priced and under performing DLee)

I have no clue on the next manager but expect we will be late as all the other openings are filled. Sad, sad end to a season of promise.

NorCal Brave

September 27th, 2010
4:00 am

Kelly’s numbers look good in Arizona, but Atlanta fans were screaming to get rid of him his last year here. He was a streaky hitter and his defense was awful. This season has been tough to follow; we had a magical May and June and now can’t find a way to put anything together. It’d be easy to blame injuries but every team has them. I honestly don’t see how a team that loses two series down the stretch to the Nats and another to the Pirates really believes it’s playoff material. Go get ‘em in 2011.

Guest

September 27th, 2010
4:11 am

Fred Flinstone

September 26th, 2010
10:34 pm

I think TP has been promised the job. Otherwise, why have one of your minor league batting coaches added to the Atlanta dug out? Maybe to give him an early start on planning for next season?

^^^^^^^^^^

Maybe they think/know that TP will leave if he’s not given the job and they want his replacement to get some “on the job training.”

avocado

September 27th, 2010
6:35 am

Yeah, ah huh, so why does Conrad continue to sit on the bench?

oldmike

September 27th, 2010
7:52 am

Why do we still want this team in the playoffs? Isa trhere some magic elixir that will transform them into capable of winning? I think this team has shown us it’s true colors. Over usede bull pen is now hurting us. Lack of production with runners in scoring position a major liability. No creativity from Cox. Awful leadership from the GM. Ankiel and Fransworth. Lee? Please!!! What a waste. What makes Cox good, makes him bad as well. He’s great if you want to be competitive. If you want to win the whole enchilada forget it. I am sick from watching this team. I screamed at the radio driving yesterday. Who needs that. Go Falcons!!!

DoninTococca

September 27th, 2010
8:48 am

Great column and great timing too. They may try Freddy or perhaps even talk to Joe Torrie…. now there’s
a manager fans would like to have.

ss

September 27th, 2010
8:51 am

joe torre is not likely. Good skipper, but i think hes calling it a career.

E-6

September 27th, 2010
9:19 am

There is some significance in the fact that Fredi turned down an opportunity to interview for the Cubs job – National League, payroll bigger than God’s although not the crop of young players the Braves have. My money’s on Fredi.

Dave T.

September 27th, 2010
9:44 am

When Booby goes I hope the whole coaching staff goes. How about our old hitting coach for manager?
Don Baylor???

WatchEmEveryNight_Fans

September 27th, 2010
10:02 am

TP manager? Please !!! We like TP but he can’t seem to get the bats going; how will he be as team manager?

Bernard

September 27th, 2010
10:03 am

I won’t kick a team while their down….so here it goes…a toast to the 2010 Braves & Mr. Bobby Cox, thx for the memories! :-)

WatchEmEveryNight_Fans

September 27th, 2010
10:05 am

Oh, and Don from Tocca … Joe Torri was here about 25 years ago. Even Ted Turner managed the Braves for part of a season. Not sure how we fared since I lived in Cubs territory and we were once again saying … Wait til next year.”

Oregon Brave

September 27th, 2010
10:24 am

Chipper ‘knows the game inside and out?’ Wasn’t he on the field when a runner scored from 2nd on an infield fly rule? Great ballplayer. But manager? My vote goes to D. Brundage. He’s been with the top farm team long enough to know what the young players will bring to the ballpark everyday.

collegeballfan

September 27th, 2010
10:27 am

No one has asked but Fredi Gonzalez gets my vote to follow Bobby Cox as Braves manager.

Notice I did not say “replace”. Some things just cannot happen.

The Big Dog

September 27th, 2010
11:15 am

Fred Gonzo has earned the Big Dog stamp of approval.

count_schemula

September 27th, 2010
11:22 am

Fredi and hire Maddux away from the Cubs as the pitching coach.

Dalmore

September 27th, 2010
11:56 am

Based on Fredi’s comments, you hire Gonzalez as the next manager and all you’ll get is another Cox.

Braves73

September 27th, 2010
12:04 pm

Sure, those moves worked when you had Sheffield, Castilla, Lopez, and Chipper in their prime and a competent bench. When Bobby goes with his “B lineup” these days, he’s running out a Triple A and sometimes Double A lineup. Nothing wrong with keeping all of your players involved and ready, but a little common sense and better understanding of your current lineup would go a long way.

Kelly who?

September 27th, 2010
1:21 pm

Kelly Johnsons numbers are skewed because of his home park, in Atlanta those numbers would be more like .265 17 55 and who would you sit so K.J. could play Prado, Infante I don’t think so and K.J. defense is very poor. I am glad he had a good year in Arizona but we did not miss him

Flatrock

September 27th, 2010
2:24 pm

I have heard that Fredi has already been told that the job is his, but won’t be announced until after the season is over. I sure hope Fredi is smart enough to get rid of Terry P.

chillahill43

September 27th, 2010
2:59 pm

cmon when is the last time he sat out 4 starters and put in 4 replacements, Oh wait thats right we won. Oh an the time before that we won and the time before that well we won imagine he will not even subscribe to his own philosophy now…. Its a year of missed opportunities.. Miss-management at the very least. And Baseball been berry berry good to me, but my Braves have let me down- The last week will show me what you are made of….. Now show me – What are you made of? GO Braves!

[...] Fredi Gonzalez [...]

gotigers72

September 28th, 2010
2:50 am

Please not Fredi! Did you see what he said about playing a slumping KJ? He would be the same as BC in playing slumping players. Do you want that?

He also wore out the bullpen for the Marlins. Ask around about that. Do you want that either? A BC clone. BC was a great manager at one time, but Fredi was around him in the last few years when he made so many WTF decisions that you couldn’t help but wonder if he was senile. How did the Braves do when Fredi was around BC? Not Fredi for sure. God, I would go crazy when Fredi would continue to play a McClouth or a Greg Norton. Especially when Frank or Scheurholz would not have the balls to fire him.

Eddfie Perez is da man. He has been mamaging in the Winter League in Venezuela for the past few years as an apprentice for the major leagues. Give he or Jose Oqendo the job.

Tater the FORMER Bobby Hater

September 29th, 2010
10:40 am

I have been one of the most militant of Bobby’s critics over the years and I have always been quick to point out when his stubborn loyalty to his players cost the team wins. (I still shudder when I remember how he let Charlie Liebrant to pitch to Kirby Puckett.)

Lately, however I have come to the conclusion that maybe Bobby has been right all along. After all aren’t loyalty, kindness and patience toward a fellow human being more important than a few numbers in the win column? So I would like to apologize to you Mr. Cox for all of my judgemental remarks. Thank you for caring for your players. Good bye and good luck in your retirement.

bobw

September 29th, 2010
1:25 pm

Relax–Fredi’s already been hired, I suspect, but no announcement will be made until after the season is well and truly over. Fredi turned down recently a chance to interview with the Cubs and while the Cubs ARE cursed, they pay very well.

[...] Fredi Gonzalez [...]

Orlando Brave

September 29th, 2010
9:37 pm

Nice job Tater, I was kinda pissed at Bobby and whatever else about losing as well. I guess, usually, it was Bobby that was an easy target. Hell, he may have lost us a few games like Wholers, Lonnie Smith, Charlie Liebrandt, Sheffield/Chipper, that umpire with the wide arse strike zone vs. the Marlins, and the other reasons we did not win more than 1 World Series. Aside from Arthur Blank owning the Braves, I wouldn’t change anything. Hire Fredi….

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