Gonzalez knows if Braves fizzle, he’ll be one to catch heat

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with the job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with his job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

(UPDATED: 11 p.m.)

One refreshing thing about Fredi Gonzalez, unlike so many in his position, is that he’s not going to try to project himself as someone who has all the answers.

He’ll listen to criticism. He’ll seek feedback from his Yoda-like predecessor, Bobby Cox. He’ll talk to former managers who are now long into retirement, and even managers on other teams. If ultimately Gonzalez fails as manager of the Braves, it won’t be because of ego, arrogance or obstinance.

“I talk to other managers all the time, people I respect,” Gonzalez said Friday. “Why not? I talk to them about dealing with different situations, dealing with crisis. But the bottom line, what most of them say, is you just have to be yourself. You have to be honest with players. You’re going to make decisions that are going to be second-guessed. That goes with the territory. But at the end of the day, you can’t tell yourself, ‘Oh, I should’ve done this or that,’ even though there are always situations when you’re going to feel like that.”

We can’t be certain what Gonzalez was feeling late Thursday night, except to assume it wasn’t good. As the calendar turns to September, the Braves are sliding again. We know what happened last time they were here. Several decades from now, when Turner Field is gone, people likely will pass by the former stadium site and hear horrifying screams, as if it’s some haunted former battlefield or asylum.

Here are details of the latest bad ending: With the Braves leading 5-4, closer Craig Kimbrel allowed a game-tying homer to Erik Kratz in the ninth and Cristhian Martinez gave up a three-run bomb to John Mayberry in the 10th. The 8-5 loss to Philadelphia, which opened a homestand, buried the Braves another foot in the National League East (they’re now 6½ games behind Washington). The bigger concern is that they’ve now dropped nine of their last 13.

Chipper Jones knocked over Phillies catcher Erik Kratz but was thrown out at the plate in the fourth inning. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones knocked over Phillies catcher Erik Kratz but was thrown out at the plate in the fourth inning. (AP photo)

Gonzalez took a lot of heat for the team’s 10-20 slide last season. The criticism wasn’t because of one back-fired decision in particular, but merely because he was the guy in charge when the team caved in like a sinkhole. He tried to stop it. He called meetings. He benched guys. He changed the lineup, the batting order, the color of his socks. If he overused the bullpen, it’s only because the Braves’ starting rotation had imploded. It’s not like he had a lot of options.

But the Braves went down on his watch, so it was on him.

If they go down again, it will be on Gonzalez again. The only difference this time would be that he would be left with less certainty about his future. Ownership would be criticized because, well, has anybody ever actually met a Liberty Media executive? General manager Frank Wren will be criticized because he was content to come back this season with largely the same team this season.

But owners don’t get fired and Wren is afforded more of a platform to convince decision makers that he handed Gonzalez a playoff roster despite budget constraints (albeit, constraints created in part by Wren’s decisions to give big deals to Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami and Dan Uggla). So really, this home stretch is on Gonzalez.

“I took heat last year, but that’s OK,” Gonzalez said. “You have the bulls-eye on you when you’re the manager or you have the head coach’s title.”

The Braves aren’t a bad team. They’re just not great, or currently stable. It’s only natural when there’s a losing streak and fans hear thunder that they’re going to look up and wonder, “Oh no. Not again.”

Gonzalez said before the season that he had gone over last year’s demise a zillion times in his head. When asked what he would do differently in a similar situation, he said he wasn’t sure but he’d try anything. He didn’t offer any more insight Friday.

“You have to be patient,” he said. “You can move guys down in the lineup, give them a day off. But in the end they’re your guys. Every move you make, if it works people say, ‘Great job, Fredi.’ If it doesn’t work, it’s, ‘Fredi created a panic situation.’ At the end of the day, you can’t have regrets.

“We chose this profession. I was watching Jon Gruden interviewed on HBO, and I think his dad was quoted in his book saying, ‘Jon, if you don’t change your ways, this job is going to kill you.’ They asked Gruden about that and his eyes started watering. That’s the stuff that we take home every day.”

What Gonzalez has been taking home of late can’t be good — and his team is not giving any indication that’s going to change.

By Jeff Schultz

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177 comments Add your comment

David from Athens, AL

August 31st, 2012
7:11 pm

Interesting … Time will tell ….Go Braves!

Max Sizemore

August 31st, 2012
7:17 pm

Tampa’s Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball. Fredi should call him.

Brian

August 31st, 2012
7:17 pm

He’s done a great job with a limited payroll and starting pitchers that haven’t produced. Frank has too. If people don’t like what they have, they should show up more. 40,000 a night buys a lot of talent. See the Phillies the past few years for your example.

David from Athens, AL

August 31st, 2012
7:18 pm

Jeff,

Just heard Boscan was added to roster for tonight’s game. Who was sent down for one day?

Birdhair

August 31st, 2012
7:20 pm

Wren is the one who should be fired. Miss the playoffs this season that’ll be 1 playoff appearance in 5 seasons for Wren

Dawgdad (The Original)

August 31st, 2012
7:22 pm

When you keep Kris Medlen in the bullpen long after it is apparent, you need starting pitching and when you have a second baseman signed for his explosive bat hitting .207 and playing everyday, you invite criticism. Last year, he failed to pull DLowe out of the starting rotation long after there was any hope of Lowe actually pitching effectively. This year he continues to prop up Tommy Hanson, long after objective analyst has said, he is not going to be effective. Last year Scott Proctor was trotted out in close games long after it was apparent he was totally ineffective.

Hard to feel sorry for Fredi, he makes his own criticism, with his decisions.

Bye Bye Fredi

August 31st, 2012
7:23 pm

Can’t happen soon enough. He is a blunderhead, and we need a real manager; not someones buddy.

Nova Scotia Steve

August 31st, 2012
7:24 pm

Is anyone just a tad bit pleased the Braves are playing important baseball in September for the fourth consecutive year?

It’s certainly appreciated from the keypad of this blogger.

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
7:37 pm

Max Sizemore … Maddon is terrific, no question.

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
7:38 pm

David from Athens– Don’t know anything about Boscan being added today. Only move I heard when I was down in clubhouse was release of Jack Wilson. Rosters expand tomorrow.

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
7:41 pm

Nova Scotia Steve — Important baseball in September is good, but as far as whether people should be “pleased,” that depends on how high your bar is.

David from Athens, AL

August 31st, 2012
7:42 pm

Thanks, Jeff!

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
7:42 pm

Back to Boscan — It’s listed as a transaction today on the Braves official page. But team says they haven’t made a move yet. That’s all we can report.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 31st, 2012
7:54 pm

Not saying it’ll happen again but last Sept I think Ryan hit one that disrupted an Adam West Q&A at DragonCon

Nova Scotia Steve

August 31st, 2012
7:55 pm

Missed opportunity in the 1st – how many times have we said that in television past 13 games?

DaveinNEPA

August 31st, 2012
7:57 pm

This team has a recent history of coming up small in Sept……….09, with a chance for the WC they lost 6 in a row to end the season………10, they needed to win on the last day to back into the WC……………11, well we know how that ended!!!

Does anyone here really think anything will be different this September? They have been sputtering along as of late. Tonight is aperfect example………..we get the first 2 guys on base and then don’t score (again!), then Minor throws a cookie to Howard and we’re down a run. What I see is deja-vu all over again.

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:02 pm

Braves could be swept this weekend. Phils are playing better. Their pitching is much better. The Braves are starting to whistle past the graveyard as they start showing signs of September 2011.

So now watching McCann. Seems his shoulder is bad and he is wearing glasses again. If Oral Roberts or some other healer doesn’t come around and put his hand on Mac and heal him, then I let him walk. Not paying a blind man who has a bad shoulder and runs like he has a piano on his back no matter what he USED to be!

Billy

August 31st, 2012
8:04 pm

Joe Maddon is one of the best..period.

Lakewood

August 31st, 2012
8:07 pm

At this point, & I hate to say it – I don’t think that picking up McCann’s option next year is a definite. I love watching him play – & have for the last few years. But what’s his option? Something like $13MM? Dude’s body is breaking down – 2nd straight year he has been worthless in September. At some point the logical business aspect of baseball comes into play.

DaveinNEPA

August 31st, 2012
8:08 pm

Gotta say I agree with the McCann comment. If I were FW, I wouldn’t pick up that option for next year, not for that kind of money. The guy hasn’t produced very well since coming off the DL last season. This is far too long for it to be “just a slump”. To me, it looks more like diminishing skills. (Uggla is in that category too).

Russ, the Temporary Mascot aka UGA IX

August 31st, 2012
8:08 pm

Jeff, I know this is a baseball blog but I want to reach out to you and say I will never forget that you were there for me during the tough times like the a$$ painting – even offering to take me to John’s Creek when I was replaced by the late Big Bad Bruce. What I am trying to say is “thank you” and you will never want for anything when you are in Athens. I have a sound heart and kidneys and slobber only minimally. I expect to be on the job for a long while. Thanks, Brother.

Steve

August 31st, 2012
8:09 pm

Jeff, what would happen if the Braves and the second wild card team finished the season with the same record? How would it be determined which stadium they play the silly 1 game playoff in? Coin toss?

Sonny Clusters

August 31st, 2012
8:11 pm

Enter your comments here

Steve

August 31st, 2012
8:13 pm

Excellent comment Clusters!

Sonny Clusters

August 31st, 2012
8:14 pm

We was too quick to push the enter button and we ended up posting Enter your comments here. That’s not what we was really trying to say. We was going to ask about Bobby Cox being “Yoda-like” and ask what that is. Was Yoda a nose picker, too?

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
8:15 pm

Lakewood — I’d be stunned if they don’t pick up McCann’s option. What happens beyond next year is the question — unless they trade him.

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
8:16 pm

Russ, The Temporary Mascot — Haha. I’m there for you. I’ll stop by your cage before the game tomorrow and bring a piece of salami.

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
8:18 pm

Steve — On home field in wild card: There’s a series of NFL-like tiebreakers. The first one is head-to-head.

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
8:20 pm

Braves have acquired infielder Jeff Baker from the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later.
Here’s official release:

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers announced today that the two clubs have completed a trade, as the Braves have acquired infielder Jeff Baker from the Tigers in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Baker, 31, has batted .254 (43-for-169) with four home runs and 24 RBI in 69 games this season between the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers. Last season, he hit .269 (54-for-201) with 16 extra-base hits in 81 games for the Cubs.
A veteran utility player, Baker owns a career average of .298 (189-for-634) against left-hand pitchers and has experience at second base (153 games), third base (89 games), first base (89 games), right field (65 games) and left field (11 games). Originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the 2002 June free agent draft out of Clemson University, Baker has played 529 games over parts of nine major league seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers.

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:24 pm

So whats with the Baker aquisition?

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
8:24 pm

Correction: Braves’ deal is for player to be named later or “cash considerations.” So I guess it depends on … the economy?

Steve

August 31st, 2012
8:27 pm

Washington 6, STL 0. STL = no hits. Would have been nice if the Braves were hot while Washington recently lost 5 in a row. Don’t think we will see that again but I hope I am wrong!

Lakewood

August 31st, 2012
8:28 pm

Jeff, I would be stunned also. My point is that at some point you have to look at it & see if it really makes sense despite the players popularity (not to mention the fact that we are already up against a strict budget every year now) to keep him at a career low performance level. I will always be a huge McCann fan.
My hope is that both he & Uggla get hot at the right time & lead us to glory. That’s my wishful thinking at least…

DaveInNEPA

August 31st, 2012
8:29 pm

@JS
Do you think this deal for Baker means the Braves are getting more reluctant to keep trotting Uggla out there?

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:30 pm

With September 1st looming at Midnight, Braves may be looking at the possibility of letting Hinske sit this one out in lieu of a right handed bat like Baker.

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:31 pm

McCann= Pinball Wizard!

Steve

August 31st, 2012
8:32 pm

Wow. McCann = No extra base hits the entire month.

Steve

August 31st, 2012
8:34 pm

Uggla struckout??!! WEIRD!

Birdhair

August 31st, 2012
8:35 pm

Just don’t understand why bloggers wont bring the heat on Wren

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:36 pm

:::shaking head:::::

Steve

August 31st, 2012
8:36 pm

Wow Chipper!

Jeff Schultz

August 31st, 2012
8:37 pm

Chipper Jones slams into Phillies catcher Erik Kratz at home but is thrown out as Kratz somehow holds on. Chipper gets ovation but Braves still trail 1-0.

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:38 pm

I don’t totally blame Fredi or Wren. I don’t totally blame any single Braves player.

The Braves are just a perfect storm of ineptitude.

ATLcracker

August 31st, 2012
8:38 pm

Any chance Uggla is the player to be named later in the Baker trade?

Where the Thinking Bloggers Are

August 31st, 2012
8:39 pm

Wonder if Chipper will be able to get out of bed tomorrow?

Fair Weather Fan

August 31st, 2012
8:40 pm

Jeff, what time this evening will the print master demand your attention from us adoring bloggers?

whyusAtlFans

August 31st, 2012
8:40 pm

Wasnt it two outs? Wasnt that a bloop hit? Arent u running at the crack of the bat and have a nice lead at second? didnt the throw play into u being able to beat it? LOL. Braves are sad when it counts man! How couldnt Chipper score there. If he’s that slow he cant be healthy and is a liability, 40 or not dude.

NorCal Brave

August 31st, 2012
8:42 pm

Can Baker suit up and replace Uggla tomorrow? And when, if ever, will Fredi go full time with the catcher who can still hit?

SOS Braves

August 31st, 2012
8:42 pm

What a joke this team is. Twice now they have had 1st and 2nd with no outs and come up with nothing. LOSERS.

Fair Weather Fan

August 31st, 2012
8:43 pm

Now please explain to me again why the Braves acquired a utility infielder? Isnt Simmons coming back soon? Is Pasternicky persona non grata in Atlanta?