Fredi Gonzalez, the only real choice? Not so fast (UPDATE)

UPDATE: The Braves have scheduled “a major announcement” for 2:15 p.m. today after Bobby Cox’s already scheduled valedictory at Turner Field. Sounds like Fredi will be introduced today, as opposed to tomorrow.

The last time the Braves held managerial news conferences on consecutive days — one to bid farewell, the next to say hello — it didn’t work out so well. They fired Joe Torre in the press lounge of the old stadium in October 1984, and the next day we were back to greet …

Eddie Haas.

Who lasted 121 games.

Yes, there’s a huge difference this time. Fredi Gonzalez has been a big-league manager; Haas never had. (And, after being canned by the Braves, never would again.) But the Braves back then were so certain Haas, who’d been their Class AAA manager, would be the man to improve on what Torre had started that I developed a kneejerk response to kneejerk promotions. I’m leery of Perfect Choice successions because they so rarely turn out to be.

Everyone in baseball was so convinced the Braves would anoint Gonzalez as Cox’s successor that it had to be either the worst-kept secret or the best-constructed ruse in the history of the world. Turns out it wasn’t the latter. And clearly the Braves have their reasons: He did meritorious work here before leaving to manage the Florida Marlins, who might just be unmanageable. That said …

He never quite lifted the Marlins to the playoffs — got them over .500 in both 2008 and 2009, though — and this year’s team was thought to be (at least by owner Jeffrey Loria) of playoff caliber. And that’s why Gonzalez was fired after 70 games. And before you say, “Well, Loria wouldn’t know a baseball from the back end of a buffalo … ” let’s consider that Loria did hoist the World Series trophy in 2003 after changing managers in midseason.

But my quibbling about Gonzalez has less to do with his Florida days than with his background: The Braves are essentially hiring from within, and after having the same manager from June 22, 1990 to Oct. 11, 2010, this was their chance to look outside and tap someone who wasn’t immersed in The Braves’ Way Of Doing Things. Other clubs are much heavier into statistical analysis. (Terry Pendleton, the hitting coach, was actually surprised earlier this season when I mentioned that his club led the league in on-base percentage.)

The Braves’ Way worked largely because players loved playing for Bobby Cox. I’m not sure they’ll love playing for Gonzalez quite so much. That’s not a knock on the new man. It’s simply to say that there is — or was; got to get used to using the past tense — only one No. 6.

Please understand: Fredi Gonzalez is not Eddie Haas, who was overmatched from Day 1. Fredi Gonzalez is a solid hire made for logical reasons — the Braves know him and like his way of doing business. But I was hoping for someone who wasn’t a Cox acolyte. I was hoping for someone like Jose Oquendo, who’s the third-base coach in St. Louis and who has apprenticed under Tony La Russa. And, apart from their love of stray animals, Cox and La Russa have as much in common as chalk and cheese.


396 comments Add your comment

StottsEra

October 13th, 2010
9:36 am

you have a point
i wanted eddie perez anyways

StottsEra

October 13th, 2010
9:37 am

your point specifically about it working b/c all the players like cox and that may not work with fredi

MatthewH

October 13th, 2010
9:37 am

INtgeresting column, Mark, but I must disagree. You, yourself even say that Gonzalez is a “solid hire for logical reasons”. Why is there the need to take the Braves in another direction?

MatthewH

October 13th, 2010
9:38 am

sorry-can’t type. Should be “Interesting”

Fredi G

October 13th, 2010
9:39 am

First to hire!

Mark Bradley

October 13th, 2010
9:40 am

That’s OK, MatthewH. You’re allowed to disagree.

MatthewH

October 13th, 2010
9:40 am

Also, as much as I enjoy your stuff, I sometimes wonder if there has to be a contrary position in the paper (since JS wrote a column approving the hire). Your heart doesn’t seem to be in this one.

StottsEra

October 13th, 2010
9:41 am

matthewH, you take the braves in another direction, b/c bobby was so good and trying to hire that type of manager, no one will ever be as good as bobby was

or maybe fredi could be

La Jolla Dawg

October 13th, 2010
9:45 am

I remember Eddie Haas from his days as the manager of the Richmond Braves–he was a very successful there. The Braves weren’t wrong for promoting from within and for giving him a chance to duplicate that success. I applaud the organization for promoting from within. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Too often we don’t see that type of loyalty.

Anonymous Reader

October 13th, 2010
9:46 am

Funny how Bobby has, for the past two-plus decades, made the mid ’80s of Hass, Wine and Tanner (and god knows who else) seem like a thousand years ago. Funny how his departure, after all he and the franchise accomplished, it now opens the window for us to see how great a cog Mr. Cox was in all this.

Patrick

October 13th, 2010
9:46 am

So, I have to ask this question – after having a winning managerial formula for the past 20 years, why would you want to stray too far away from that? How many “statistician” managers have come and gone in the time that the Braves had one single manager?

I think FG will be successful in that he’ll be walking into a system set up for him to succeed, however that could in the end being the biggest downfall. I’m worried that in trying to replace a legend, you’re almost doomed to fail.

Mark – if Fredi (or another Bobby-type) isn’t your pick, who would you rather see at the helm?

Jesse Stone

October 13th, 2010
9:47 am

I would like to see Dave Martinez, an ex-Brave and Joe Madden’s 2nd in charge, get a shot.

Bobby Cox

October 13th, 2010
9:47 am

Mark, I thought it was your role to overhype the Braves, and in fact jinx them forever, and our role to poo poo the manager and his decisions. This doesn’t feel right to me.

Brad Morse

October 13th, 2010
9:48 am

I think they hired Fredi because they were happy with the work he did for them before going to Florida and feel he can succeed with the players the GM fields.

If we expect him to be 10% of what Bobby Cox was, that will give Fredi an unfair start. Fredi needs to manage the team the best way for him, not with a set of guidelines, but I think the Braves front office will support him in every-way, knowing Bobby Cox was a once in a lifetime type of coach.

All I'm Saying Is...

October 13th, 2010
9:49 am

Comparing Fredi Gonzalez to Eddie Haas is a bunch of horse manure and you’re better than that Bradley. Not only is it irrelevant — my goodness, how many years ago was that? — but Haas’ resume actually hurts your argument.

You would have been better off simply stating that the organization would be well served to take a week or so to get past the events of the last few days, take a breath, scan the landscape of available managers, and make sure that Fredi is their guy. Of course, with major league managerial openings in Chicago, L.A., NY, etc., I’m not sure the Braves would have had the luxury of taking their time.

So, I say that hiring Fredi is a great move, will provide a different voice in the clubhouse and a different managerial style on the field (even if Bobby was his mentor), and should improve our ability to relate to the predominant number of Spanish speaking players in the Bigs.

LET’S GO BRAVES!

CajunStorm

October 13th, 2010
9:49 am

Say it StottsEra….1st…You know you wanted to. Anyway, how do you follow a legend? It has not been an easy task in any sport. one of the most glaing and the only one I can compare to a top 5 all-time coach like Bobby is when Phil Jackson left the Lakers and they hired Rudy T. Couldn’t have been a better hire on paper but Rudy didn’t last 1 season.

That being said, my choice was for Dusty Baker. I think he initially didn’t sign his extension with the Reds to feel out the Braves andwhen it was clear that fredi was the Man….Dusty signed. Nothing against Fredi because I really like the style of play his Marlins played and how he hadled a team full of young but talented players. Good (maybe GREAT) hire. We’ll soon see…

Larvell Sugar Bear Blanks

October 13th, 2010
9:49 am

Time and a couple more of solid bats in the lineup will tell the story on this hire. Fredi could be the Braves next Mike Smith.

Brad Morse

October 13th, 2010
9:50 am

I think the Braves have been fortunate with talented GM’s, sure, they made bad trades in the past, but every GM does, it’s life.

Thank you John and Frank.

Josh Kinsey

October 13th, 2010
9:50 am

True that both managers are from same mold.

However one thing that I am looking forward too that Fredi does more than Bobby is being aggressive on the basepaths. For those that don’t understand I mean stealing more bases. Bobby never liked manufacturing runs that way and it’s the only problems I ever had with Cox.

Follow me on twitter @jkinsey60

GStateBen

October 13th, 2010
9:50 am

Just remember how Freddie handled the Hanley situation. Loria took Hanley’s side and Freddie instantly rose up the MLB respect ladder with that move. Sitting a big time star for not hustling. Even worse, he looked better to his own players but management didn’t support him.

That speaks volumes. Marlins have one of the best scouting talent in baseball but one of the worst upper management in professional sports. Braves have a great scouting department and the system to win is in place. Address 3rd base, LF and CF and make a run at the Phils again.

Here we go!

5150 P.O.A.D

October 13th, 2010
9:50 am

Please no more CORSO sayings. Anybody but CORSO.

DawginLex

October 13th, 2010
9:50 am

Mark you know good and well this was the only choice.

Anything else would have been ridiculed.

Bottom line is the guy has to win, which I believe he will. This pick is the safe pick for job security for Wren and Co. and keeps Bobby cox in the picture as the overseer with his hand picked successor.

This was the only choice.

All I'm Saying Is...

October 13th, 2010
9:51 am

Sorry, no managerial opening in L.A. Should have typed Milwaukee among other places instead.

LET’S GO BRAVES!

Lame Duck

October 13th, 2010
9:51 am

You try to be negative but this is a half hearted effort on your part.

dobearsbare

October 13th, 2010
9:51 am

I’m sure someone wrote this same column when Tom Lasorda was hired to succeed Walter Alston in what was a very similar circumstance to what the Braves have now. That’s the counterpoint to Eddie Haas, and while it may be the exception rather than the rule, it does show that such hires can succeed.

JD

October 13th, 2010
9:52 am

Who will be a new hitting coach?????

Eric

October 13th, 2010
9:52 am

Mark – you have to keep in mind that just because someone coached for Bobby doesn’t mean he’ll manage exactly like Bobby. Ned Yost, for example, is a very different manager, had success…even though he was unfortunately let go, essentially, for doing things Bobby never would.

That is to say – Fredi is going to have his own style, with some influences from Bobby, and some he learned from his own experiences as a manager at both the minor and major league levels.

My concern might be that everyone seems to think the staff will remain mostly in-tact. I think that is where you can change a bit of the culture, and it may only be TP getting the boot.

War Eagle 30082

October 13th, 2010
9:52 am

I think it’s a good choice. I think Eddie Perez or Terry Pendleton would have been good choices also.

MB, do you have any feel for how many assistant coaches will remain, or do you think FG will start with an entirely new crew?

Mark Bradley

October 13th, 2010
9:53 am

I wouldn’t have ridiculed someone else just because he’s not Fredi Gonzalez, DawginLex.

Time

October 13th, 2010
9:53 am

Those Marlins teams that never made the playoffs weren’t missing them because of the manager. They missed them because there were more talented teams in the division. They were arguably the 4th most talented team in the division during Gonzalez’s management.

It’s a perfect hire for the Braves. You know he fits the “Braves way” of doing things and the transition should be as smooth as it could possibly get.

And really, unless there was some interest by Torre in the Braves job, which noone has reported any indication of, then there’s not a better choice out there.

Mark Bradley

October 13th, 2010
9:54 am

It’s tough to say on the staff. I think Roger McDowell is a lock to be back.

Warren Haynes For President

October 13th, 2010
9:54 am

Why would the Braves want to make a huge cultural shift away from Bobby Cox style baseball? The Braves organization is considered one of the finest examples of how to run a franchise.

Nurse Ratched [Randal Patrick McMurphy]

October 13th, 2010
9:54 am

Ozzie Guillen would have been the smart choice… has exposure to the Braves organization, too…

LOVE to see you showing your cajones on this issue, Mark Bradley. Dead nutz on, Sir… ;-)

War Eagle 30082

October 13th, 2010
9:55 am

Any chance that Chipper will decided to retire, and FG will name Chipper as his hitting coach?

bulldawgrob

October 13th, 2010
9:55 am

Enter your comments here

Pacuvio

October 13th, 2010
9:55 am

You would choose a guy with no experience over a “solid hire for logical reasons”? Your choice, Jose Oquendo, would be more likely to become the next Eddie Haas than Fredi. Glad your not in the front office!

Mark Bradley

October 13th, 2010
9:55 am

Chipper’s not retiring.

chc4

October 13th, 2010
9:56 am

I think we should hire Mike Singletary.

DawginLex

October 13th, 2010
9:57 am

Mark, Not saying YOU would have ridiculed another selection. Braves fans and baseball folks across the country would have been mystified at passing over Gonzalez.

southern hope

October 13th, 2010
9:58 am

Yes, why so fast? I mean, geez louise, we can’t even interview another guy? And why the rush?

The Temporary Mascot formerly known as Russ

October 13th, 2010
9:58 am

Any word on a new mascot?

sg10

October 13th, 2010
9:59 am

Mark,

The braves have continued to go in the right direction for the past two year. I think most of the credit goes to F. Wren. He has been decisive and often making early and quick decision. He has completely overhauled the pitching which is very solid now. He should be given chance to do that with the hitting too. He has been welcome change from J. Schuerholz who had clearly reached saturation in his way of doing things. May be other general managers, while making trade moves, like to deal with the new face too. In short, there was no real need to shake things up with the direction things have gone past two years. Bobby Cox did the best managing job in past several year, while showing sense of urgency. He didn’t stick with the failing players for too long if he had real alternative. There were no Prado-warming-the-bench-while-Johnson-Stinks events or Greg Norton pinch hitting in one key situation after another while there were other options available. Can’t help but feel that it had something to do with F. Wren, who has shown quick, decisive nature, having an input in those decisions. Braves actually played statistical match-up quite a bit late in the season and playoffs. I am wondering who might have provided that input if TP or BC are not that inclined. Actually, our bench coach (Chino?) did fabulous job in few innings that he managed while Bobby was ejected.

Herschel Talker

October 13th, 2010
9:59 am

MB:

Well said. There’s no reason they couldn’t have looked outside the Bobby Cox tree. This hire seems hasty, despite Fredi’s solid credentials.

HT

BRAVO TACO

October 13th, 2010
9:59 am

I’m interested in Fredi’s philosophy – hard to tell what it is exactly from his days under Fidel Loria. It will be interesting to see who we can lure here now without the draw of Bobby and a middle-of-the-road payroll. Getting to the playoffs this year and having good, young pitching helps, but I think the change in free agent signings will be palpable.

CraZyTraDeMaN

October 13th, 2010
9:59 am

I’d rather be a fan of the Phillies than pluck the fruit from the LaRussa tree of coaching!!! It’s probably rotten anyways!!

Josh Kinsey

October 13th, 2010
10:00 am

Big question is not about manager, but how Braves are going to spend all big $ coming off the book? (Wagner, glaus, most likely Saito,) that would over 12 million to spend.

And it won’t be on 1st (Freeman) or closer (Kimbrel/Venters)

Tweet me @jkinsey60

MitchC

October 13th, 2010
10:00 am

How did I know that Mr Negative, Mark Bradley, was going to find something contrary to say about this hire. I remind you, good sir, that you were the one who said, and I quote “Ba Humbug, third place”, about the 2010 Braves, before their injuries, and I told you they would get the wild card. Who was right?

However, I agree with you, about this topic. . First, I was surprised that the team moved so quickly, just hours after the season was over. Second, I do agree that when a legendary manager of 20 plus years retires, there should be more of a search done, and maybe a different kind of manager hired.

You mentioned Eddie Haas. Please, dont say that name, The 1985 Braves were predicted to finish first, after they got Bruce Sutter, and we all know what happened that year.

I think Gonzalez will end up as an okay choice. The Braves definitely need one more power hitter. The playoffs proved that, but.. if I was a new manager, taking over for a guy whose retiring after 21 years, I wouldnt mind taking over a team that won 91 games, and got the wild card, with so many key parts injured.

Wren and JS did the “safe hire” in hiring Gonzalez. I think he will do okay. The 2011 Braves fortunes hinge on whether Chipper can return somewhat healthy,. and whether we get another power hitter. We have plenty of pitching, but, the playoffs showed us that we definitely need more run production in the lineup.

kbrab

October 13th, 2010
10:01 am

I believe that Fredi Gonzalez is the right choice. If he had been given any real team (his FLA teams had a few nuggets and a ton of holes) to work with, I think he would have done much better. Plus, I think a huge shift in management style after Cox could have introduced a culture shock which could have really hurt the team next year.

As long as Gonzalez replaces TP, I’ll be completely happy with the pick and we’ll see how right or wrong we are as the future plays out.

tenn braves fan

October 13th, 2010
10:01 am

This is a perfect example of what happens when a columnist has a deadline. Just make up some strange gibberish.

Braves Fan Lost In Ohio

October 13th, 2010
10:02 am

I think it was really important to get a manager locked up fast, especially if you feel good about him. Just look at how many teams are in the market for a new manager, and some of those places are very attractive.