When Bobby Cox manages his final game in four months, give or take, depending partly on how long Troy Glaus channels Harmon Killebrew, the Braves officially will begin a search for his replacement.
Logic says general manager Frank Wren already has a list with a few names. But if he lost it in a drawer, it’s no big deal. The search just got a whole lot easier. The Florida Marlins fired manager Fredi Gonzalez Wednesday morning. This would be a good time for Wren to phone Gonzalez and see if he would be willing to accept a job as special consultant in charge of, I dunno, looking for a new house.
I’ve written about Gonzalez in the past, most recently when he earned the respect of his peers and the players in the Marlins’ clubhouse by benching the immature Hanley Ramirez (click here) for laziness. He is a former Braves coach who has managed winning teams in Florida despite a minuscule payroll, little fan support and, perhaps worst of all, a knucklehead for an owner (Jeffrey Loria).
Loria considered hiring Bobby Valentine after last season. When it was reported, he denied doing any such thing. I’m guessing Loria also produced BP’s oil spill estimates.
Loria fired Gonzalez after the Marlins started the season 34-36. In a sense, the firing was expected. Gonzalez was set up for a fall in spring training, when Loria declared that he considered Florida a playoff team.
Not that the Marlins could compete for the playoffs. But that they WERE a playoff team.
“I expect us to make the playoffs,” Loria said. “We’ve got all the ammunition we need.”
What a yutz.
For the record, the Marlins’ $57 million payroll on opening day ranked 26th out of 30 teams. In the National League East, they trail Philadelphia ($141.9 million, fourth), New York ($134.4 million, fifth), the Braves ($84.4 million, 15th) and even Washington ($61.4 million, 23rd).
When a team has a lower payroll than the Washington Nationals, the owner should respond by building bronze statues for a manager that goes 34-36, not by firing him.
Gonzalez never publicly complained. “You feel like, as a manager or coach, whatever players you get, you feel like you can win with,” he said about the payroll.
Gonzalez shouldn’t feel too bad. Loria also has fired Joe Girardi in 2006, even though Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year. Three years later, Girardi won a World Series with the New York Yankees.
We perceive Braves owner Liberty Media as a bottom-line corporation that doesn’t really care about the baseball product. But if owners were historical rulers, then Loria is Napoleon and Liberty Media is Alexander The Great by comparison.
No problem. This could be a blessing for the Braves.
If the Braves have a strong season — and postseason — I believe hitting coach Terry Pendleton will be strongly considered by Wren as Cox’s replacement. But anything other than a strong October and I think Wren will look outside the organization.
That shouldn’t even be an issue now. The Braves should see if Gonzalez is open to a position with the organization immediately, whether as consultant or pro scout. The final managerial decision can be made later. Get him in the fold now.
Something tells me Gonzalez is not going to be unemployed for long.
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