Fredi Gonzalez should top Braves’ list to replace Cox

Bobby Cox to Fredi Gonzalez: "So what day should I clean out my office?" Kidding. Sort of. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Bobby Cox to Fredi Gonzalez: "So what day should I clean out my office?" Just kidding. Kinda, sorta. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 4:30 p.m.)

It’s quite possible that Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez was the leading candidate to replace the Braves’ retiring manager, Bobby Cox, even before this week. If he’s not at the top of the list now, something is seriously wrong.

Gonzalez was liked and respected in the Braves’ clubhouse when he was here as a coach. He reaffirmed what kind of leader he was this week.

On Monday night, he pulled his best, but probably most immature, player, Hanley Ramirez, out of a game for loafing after the ball.

On Tuesday, he benched Ramirez from the Marlins’ lineup in the aftermath of Ramirez throwing a fit and ripping his manager for not having the proper perspective since, “He never played in the big leagues,” and adding: “It’s his team. He can do whatever he [expletive] wants.”

Smart people are blessed with having a stop sign between their brain and their mouth. Ramirez is not among them.

When a manager or coach lets something like this slide, he loses credibility in the locker room. Part of Jim Mora’s downfall with the Falcons could be traced to a lack of accountability with the players, particularly his constant defenses of DeAngelo Hall when Hall was going through the motions in practices and games. Mora lost the team. I know this because players told me.

Gonzalez made it clear he would not play favorites, even though Ramirez hit a league-leading .342 last season with 106 RBI, a .953 OPS (baseball’s fashionable stat: on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). He immediately scored points in the clubhouse. Former Brave Wes Helms defended Gonzalez. He also said of Ramirez, “Everybody has a bad day. But I don’t think a bad day comes from not hustling. That can’t be stood for.”

Then he said Ramirez needs to apologize to the team, even  invoking the memory of one John Rocker in Atlanta. “I was in Atlanta when the Rocker thing went on,” Helms said. “He was made to do the apology , but when he apologized to the whole team and held a 30-minute meeting, it gives you a little sense of easement. Kind of puts it to rest a little bit. Because right now when you don’t hear that, there’s still anger built up inside of you. One of the best things to cure anybody is to talk about it.”

Back to Gonzalez. It shouldn’t take much convincing for him to, 1) leave Florida and, 2) come back to Atlanta. In his four seasons as Marlins manager, the team’s payroll has ranked 29th, 30th, 30th and 26th (this season). You complain because the Braves’ payroll this year is at $85 million. Try managing a team at $30 million less.

Yet, Florida is over .500 for the third straight year. The Marlins are coming off a sec0nd-place finish in the National League East.  In 2008,  voters were so impressed with Gonzalez managing the Marlins to an 84-77 record and a third-place finish in the National League East — despite a sickly $21 million payroll (less than half of the next closest team) — that he was named the league’s Manager of the Year by The Sporting News.

The Marlins have little fan support. They have a kooky owner, Jeffrey Loria, who actually balked at bringing Gonzalez back this season. (Loria denied an ESPN report last October that he was exploring hiring Bobby Valentine to manage. But given the report came from the best national baseball writer, Buster Olney, I know who I’m siding with.)

There was a time with coach Terry Pendleton seemed like Cox’s heir apparent. I don’t believe that’s the case any more. The team’s general hitting woes don’t help his cause, and there’s a sense that general manager Frank Wren is not as closely tied to Pendleton as his predecessor, John Schuerholz.

For what it’s worth, Gonzalez’ contract runs through 2011. There are ways around these things. The Braves need to find that way. When Cox steps down, they will never have an easier decision.

Earlier posts

Hawks should look at Larry Drew for coaching job

Is it ‘hot seat’ time already for Mark Richt at Georgia?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

253 comments Add your comment

Hollywould

May 19th, 2010
12:24 pm

I agree Jeff. Gonzalez would be the man but with TP still in the dugout I think they will go that way.

JMar

May 19th, 2010
12:31 pm

Yes, yes, 1000 times yes.

Mr_Ed

May 19th, 2010
12:34 pm

agrre with you Jeff, Gonzalez should be the man to replace Cox, TP just needs to go the way of Rocker and just fade away, now rather than later

Jeff Schultz

May 19th, 2010
12:34 pm

Hollywould — I think TP only gets the job if the Braves go on to have a great season and Frank Wren feels compelled to give it to him for continuity. But I don’t believe Wren is as tied to Pendleton being the next manager as John Schuerholz might have been. Plus, the fact the Braves’ offense generally has struggled doesn’t help TP’s cause.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc sports editor. ajc sports editor said: Ready for Fredi? Here's what our Jeff Schultz sayeth: Fredi Gonzalez should top Braves’ list to replace Cox http://bit.ly/bt2E6t [...]

Gumby

May 19th, 2010
12:39 pm

I agree too but as Hollywood correctly stated TP is here. And I don’t have a problem with Terry either. I think he has a lot of respect from the players and mangement. Another name that I think will be looked at is our old 3rd base coach Ned Yost. With all that said though Freddy gained a lot of respect from me for his actions. That is the kind of thing Bobby would do too and I guess Freddy learned from him how to deal with that type of situation. Good job of being a good manager by Mr. Gonzalez.

Braves73

May 19th, 2010
12:39 pm

100% yes!!!!

Garett Anderson

May 19th, 2010
12:40 pm

What about Ned Yost!

Sonny Clusters

May 19th, 2010
12:41 pm

We was hoping Coach would get some consideration but Fredi would be fine with us. Is he a nose picker? When picking a replacement for Bobby Cox,. Frank Wren should probe into the situation and try to dig out the best qualified candidate.

Dan

May 19th, 2010
12:43 pm

I absolutely agree. I would like to think Freddi would want to take the Braves job. He did the only thing he could do with Ramirez, this is certainly not the first time that guy has been a major headache. Gonzales would be at the very top of my list of candidates.

JJ

May 19th, 2010
12:49 pm

Glad to see the sentiment for Fredi. I have been saying he should be Bobby’s replacement since he was the 3B coach. This should be a no brainer.

Jeff Schultz

May 19th, 2010
12:50 pm

Gumby — I would take TP over Ned Yost. I would take almost anybody over Ned Yost.

Roy Hobbs

May 19th, 2010
12:52 pm

Way outside my pay grade, but I think a short list would include:

Ned Yost
Freddi Gonzales
Terry Pendelton
Dave Brundage (sp?) Gwinnett Coach (courtesy at the very least)

Hankie Aron

May 19th, 2010
12:54 pm

Jeff,
I couldn’t agree with you more with getting Fredi as manager next season.He’s a perfect fit. But, we are just now 1/4 of the way through this season. I doubt much changes but it seems like this great story should have been wrote in september or october.

Terry Forster

May 19th, 2010
12:54 pm

I have big league experience! I could certainly be a great example to Mr. Ramirez if he would just imitate my style as I hustle up to the buffet. How much are those all-you-can-eat seats?

FDB

May 19th, 2010
12:58 pm

Wow. I actually agree with what Jeff has written. This does not happen often.

KnightInATL

May 19th, 2010
12:59 pm

There is really no doubt in my mind that Fredi would be at the top of the Braves list. But the contract thing is definitely a roadblock. I don’t see any reason where Jeffrey Loria would allow Fredi to saunter on over to a division rival while still under contract.

JTH

May 19th, 2010
1:02 pm

Gonzalez would be able to relate better to our Latino players. Maybe he could help Escobar screw his head on straight.

No way do I want TP as the manager. It’s amazing that one year wonder became the hitting coach. Sure he helped kickstart the Braves “Dynasty” of the 90’s but he’s been paid back many times over now. When Cox goes, he needs to go too.

nothingxs

May 19th, 2010
1:03 pm

How unfortunate that other Marlins fans sometimes don’t seem to understand what it is they have in Fredi.

meh

May 19th, 2010
1:04 pm

whoever it is should bring back Don Baylor as hitting coach.

T.O

May 19th, 2010
1:05 pm

T.P is one of the worst hitting coaches in the big leagues. Look how bad this team is struggling at the plate and we’re talking about promoting this guy?? McCouth, Melky, Esco, McCann and the list goes on. These guys have made no adjustments and continue to not produce. Can you explain to me what a hitting coach is suppose to do? Those Melky at bats are like watching a high school kid up there. He can’t get the ball out of the infield. T.P needs to be fired ASAP! I would vote yes for Freddy G!

Jerrell

May 19th, 2010
1:06 pm

I agree. He’s a great manager, bring him on.

Ryno

May 19th, 2010
1:15 pm

What’s Bruce Bochi doing these days? I always admired the way he ran the Padres. Let’s give him a call?

mn possum

May 19th, 2010
1:15 pm

Hire Doc Rivers.

Ted Striker

May 19th, 2010
1:18 pm

Good column, Jeff

extremus

May 19th, 2010
1:19 pm

If Gonzalez would come to Atlanta, I believe he would make an excellent manager for the Braves. He has repeatedly shown the ability to get more out of less overall talent and payroll, and has shown the constitution required to effectively deal with clubhouse issues. He would maintain the level of professionalism that’s come to be associated with the Braves, but bring to the table a new sense of urgency and passion that I really think are lacking on the team right now.

I know continuity can be a tempting thing, and sometimes it’s the correct thing, but not this time. If Gonzalez (or anyone else) is hired come the offseason, I believe at least some of the current Braves coaching staff needs to go in order to create a truly rejuvenated atmosphere and new direction. That includes Terry Pendleton, whom I’m just not convinced has been effective at his job as batting coach since he came aboard. Again, that continuity thing can sometimes be bad in the long run for your organization; some great players just aren’t nearly as good as coaches.

BravesAreDone

May 19th, 2010
1:20 pm

Shultz for manager!

JimmyO

May 19th, 2010
1:20 pm

Jeff, I take it your not a big fan of Ned Yost. Any specific reason? Just curious.

BravesAreDone

May 19th, 2010
1:20 pm

schultz… sorry!

skip

May 19th, 2010
1:22 pm

Lets just hope that whomever the Braves hire as their new manager he’s not as hidebound and set in his ways as Cox. We need someone with a fresh approach, someone who’s not afraid to cut the dead wood.

Dug

May 19th, 2010
1:26 pm

Forget all those names..It will be Glavine..what do you think they are grooming him for? He is getting exposure in every aspect of the business this year and he’ll take over next. 10yrs. he’ll be GM…

beauvighn

May 19th, 2010
1:34 pm

I would see what it would take to lure Dusty baker away from Cinncy…

Innocent Bystander

May 19th, 2010
1:34 pm

Can we bring back Leo to head up the pitchers? But seriously, Fredi should (and probably will) be the next manager of the Atlanta Braves. Good article, JS.

Elmo

May 19th, 2010
1:34 pm

Maybe they just need a Clean Break from the past. No friends of friends or whatever – somebody that can come in and give a Sober Look.

Greg Norton

May 19th, 2010
1:35 pm

I can manage, give me a chance. Just don’t give me a bat and ask me to pinch hit…Mark Bradley

Leon "Pooch-Kick" Trotsky

May 19th, 2010
1:37 pm

Jeff:

I agree w/you 100% (yikes, that’s a scary thoght!), anyone but Ned Yost. I would take that buffoon Stalin before Ned.

Joe Fan

May 19th, 2010
1:38 pm

Yes to Fredi and a resounding no to TP. And if not Fredi, then give Eddie Perez consideration. Also don’t forget Wellman at Mississippi if you want someone who can handle younger players and brings fire to the dugout.

JimmyO

May 19th, 2010
1:41 pm

Dusty Baker ? Are you serious? First he’s an under achiever. Second, anyone recall the “black players play better when it’s hot statement” ?No racists thank you.

bobofan

May 19th, 2010
1:41 pm

I agree, and hope Frank Wren and other management makes it happen–sooner vs. later–if legally permitted.

unknown hinson

May 19th, 2010
1:42 pm

Completely agree, I would like to see Freddy come back and manage. He’s done a great job there in FL.

Greg

May 19th, 2010
1:42 pm

Look on the bright side if TP gets the job – we can hire a new hitting coach

unknown hinson

May 19th, 2010
1:43 pm

Bulldog Sam

May 19th, 2010
1:43 pm

Please no Dusty Baker. I do not think I could stand to see him chew on that toothpick for 162 games,

Granpa

May 19th, 2010
1:44 pm

Glavine manager, Smoltz pitching coach, Chipper hitting coach

martha

May 19th, 2010
1:49 pm

I think Bochi is with the Giants now. I like that idea though. What about Mark Grace as hitting coach? I read sometime back that Gracie would like to become a manager at some point, but starting out as a hitting coach could help him get a manager’s job somewhere down the road. Any thoughts?

Jerrell

May 19th, 2010
1:51 pm

What exactly is wrong with Ned Yost that your Aunt Tilly, or my cousin Chris are preferable? Those a strong words. Inquiring minds want to know.

Fire Frank Wren

May 19th, 2010
1:51 pm

Has there ever been a duo of starting pitchers that together lost 40 Games? D Lowe and KK are on pace to lose 50 this year, good thing we didn’t pay them 23 miliion dollars a year. Tune in tonite and you can see the latest edition of history in the making. Can’t wait to see who old Frankie picks for Manager.

Big Al

May 19th, 2010
1:52 pm

Promote that Phil Wellman guy and make it mandatory in his contract that he do that soldier routine and rosin bag toss every time the umpires make a bad call against us.

Pat

May 19th, 2010
1:54 pm

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

May 19th, 2010
1:59 pm

I would take a clone of Ned Yost over Ned Yost.

Hopefully KC hangs-on to him, tightly.