From the moment he inexplicably was fired as the Florida Marlins’ manager — and maybe even before — Fredi Gonzalez looked like the obvious choice to replace the Braves’ Bobby Cox.
Apparently, it was so obvious that Cox’s desk chair won’t have a chance to get cold.
Our David O’Brien is reporting that Gonzalez, the former Braves coach, will be introduced as the Braves’ new manager on Thursday — one day after Cox is scheduled to hold his going away news conference at Turner Field and three days after the team was eliminated in the National League Division Series.
If the timing is surprising, the choice isn’t.
Earlier Tuesday, I posted a column saying that the challenge of Cox’s replacement will be recreating the same clubhouse chemistry that Cox helped cultivate this year. Gonzalez will do that.
Braves general manager Frank Wren could not have made a better decision. Gonzalez is liked and respected by players. That was the case as a coach in Atlanta and the manager in Florida, despite being fired by Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins’ clueless owner. Loria is the same classless moron who ordered his team to not honor the retiring Cox in the Braves’ final visit in Florida, making Florida the only organization to do so. (Cox had criticized Loria for Gonzalez’ firing, and the truth apparently doesn’t go over well with him.)
I’ve banged the drum for Gonzalez before:
Gonzalez, who has maintained his home in Marietta, had winning teams in Florida in 2008 and 2009 despite working with the lowest payroll in the majors. He is like Cox in many ways in that he’s honest and up front with players, keeps an open line of communication and expects only hard work and unselfish play in return. He can be unlike Cox in that he will call out a player publicly if he is pushed to, as in the Ramirez case.
He does not play favorites, and that plays well in the clubhouse. Ramirez is Florida’s best player. But Gonzalez pulled him for loafing after a ball, then benched him the next night for throwing a fit and ripping his manager publicly.
Ramirez was quoted as saying:: “He never played in the big leagues,” and added: “It’s his team. He can do whatever he [expletive] wants.” He and Loria deserve each other.
Somehow, Gonzalez took the fall. But Gonzalez will end up with a better job, and the Braves will end up with the perfect replacement for Cox.