Should Fredi Gonzalez's Game Management Be a Concern?

By Chad

Throughout the 2011 season, Fredi Gonzalez has taken a lot of criticism on the way he manages the Atlanta Braves. From his reliance on the bullpen in the first part of the season, to his infatuation with Jordan Schafer and now Jose Constanza’s speed, many people have watched curiously and critically as Gonzalez has managed the Braves this year.

This is to be expected, though. He is filling the shoes of the great Bobby Cox. Bobby managed the Braves for 21 years. Fans and players were used to the way he managed the game, though he did not always have choruses of praise for the way he managed the games.

Needless to say, Gonzalez was undoubtedly going to take criticism for the way he managed, naturally because he was replacing one of the greatest managers in the history of baseball.

Managing is in many ways, like playing chess. You have to make the right moves at the right times and hope that you see your opponents next move and don’t get blind-sided. You have to play situations. You have to be concerned with your starting pitcher when he comes through the lineup for the third time. You have to be concerned about the hitters coming to the plate and the relievers that you have available in the bullpen. You have to send the best hitter to the plate in the situation that you are in. Defensive replacements are great if you utilize them at the right time. Removing a regular from the lineup could be detrimental if you go to extras, because their is no recovering that bat once it is taken out.

The list is endless. Percentages, performances, situations, statistics and other things all go into managing a baseball game. Being in the spotlight of a major sports team in a big city undoubtedly brings heat and criticisms over the way managers manage the game.

I am not critiquing Gonzalez and the way he manages the game. I know that he is better at this than me and the majority of people in the world.

There are, however, a couple things that has made me question whether there is something more going on about Gonzalez’s management than most people notice.

First, here are two quotes (taken from here) from Sunday’s loss from Brandon Beachy and Chipper Jones that could give some insight into some grumblings:

Beachy – “Nothing changed. I left a fastball up to Barney and he went the other way with it like he’s been doing the whole series. Gave one to Ramirez that had a little too much plate. That’s two singles. I felt fine, felt in control.”

Surprised that you came out?

“That’s not my call.”

But you felt like you could keep going?

“Yeah. Like I told you last time, there’s never going to be one time in my career that I want to come out of an inning with runners on.”

On batting sixth, not a problem for you?

“No. He’s the manager.”

I recognize that Beachy is a competitor. He wants to pitch as long as he can in a game and he felt that he let the team down in some ways for not getting those two hitters out in that 6th inning.

What is interesting, though, is that his frustration showed through the interview. I don’t think he was questioning Gonzalez’s judgment, but he was not happy with the Braves’ loss and his part in not finishing the game.

Chipper is different than Beachy. He is infamous for saying what is on his mind. He does it when he calls out other players and he has a knack for showing frustrations through the media.

This is the first time that he has hit 6th in the Braves’ lineup since 1997. It makes sense for the team, because he is in the top 5 in the league in hitting with runners in scoring position. He has also expressed in the past that he likes hitting in the 3 hole.

I think he wants to win. That is his #1 priority. He wants to go to the top again and go out with a bang. If Gonzalez gets him there, that will make everything better.

Here is one last quote from Gonzalez which you can find here:

“If I managing a game thinking about what questions are going to be asked at the end of the night, I would retire,” Gonzalez said. “It would be time for me to be gone. You manage a game to try to win the game. … For me to say, ‘I don’t want to make this decision because I don’t want to answer the question at the end of the night’ and take the safe way out, I would retire.”

Gonzalez has his team in a good position right now to make the playoffs. They have a 6 game lead in the wild card and could extend that with two more games against the San Francisco Giants. He also knows that teams can get hot and make up ground in a hurry. Thus, his game-managing decisions will be questioned when he doesn’t do what people “think” he should do.

It is definitely something to keep an eye on.

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