It’s a topic that can’t be avoided if you are in a discussion with Atlanta Braves fans and followers: The fate of Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez both in the present and in the future, regardless of whether or not the Braves make the playoffs in 2012.
If you read the papers, and scan the Twitterverse, there aren’t a lot of people in the middle on this one. Either they want Gonzalez gone yesterday, or they think he’s doing a fabulous job.
Lately, the talk has been of the Braves inability to catch the upstart Washington Nationals in the National League East race, and their having to settle for a wild card spot. The overwhelming feeling has become that Gonzalez was given the tools to get the job done, but that poor managerial execution has been the issue.
I think too much is being made of it, and that while Gonzalez has certainly made his share of mistakes, he hasn’t done anything to indicate that he completely lacks the skills or ability to successfully manage a major league ball club.
More so, the Braves lack of late-season surge both this year and last can be attributed to a combination of factors, most of which are completely out of the manager’s control. Last I checked, Fredi wasn’t pulling any strings on Dan Uggla’s arms to cause him to strike out 150 times by the beginning of September.
CBSsports.com’s Matt Snyder would concur:
…the Braves are comfortably in the playoffs and there’s no chance Gonzalez loses his job. Just keep in mind, though, the Braves’ historic collapse last season. If they collapsed again — and it would be far less historic, as their spot is 3.5 games safe — Gonzalez would almost certainly get the ax. So how worried would you be with a 3.5 game lead? I’m guessing it crosses his mind from time to time.
And should the Braves surrender their softly padded lead in the wild card race, then yes, I think a hard look would need to be taken at a possible managerial change. Taken from the perspective that Gonzalez isn’t necessarily a bad manager, but he might not be the best manager for this Braves squad.
In my estimation, the one coach in the city of Atlanta that should truly be looking for the impending pink slip, is pitching coach Roger McDowell.
I’ve heard of the mythical “sideline firing” in football, but I’m more looking for the time that McDowell goes out to give a pitcher a pep talk, when he’s closely followed by Braves GM Frank Wren, who gives Roger the standard baseball pat on the backside, followed by the inevitable “You gave it your best, kid. Let’s see if we can’t finish this for you”