If you’re looking for one word to describe the Atlanta Braves right now, the word would be frustration. They have certainly been frustrating for Braves fans to watch, and the outbursts from Chris Johnson and Justin Upton on Sunday show that the players are frustrated as well. The team could use a kick to get them back on track, and that kick should come from Fredi Gonzalez.
Gonzalez coached under Bobby Cox for the Braves in the mid-2000’s, and much of Gonzalez’ coaching philosophy is adopted from the Hall of Fame manager. Like Cox, Gonzalez almost always supports his players in the media and has been known to give them multiple chances to prove themselves (sometimes to a fault). However, one major difference between the two of them is that Cox was always willing to get in an umpire’s face and get ejected, while Gonzalez has been reticent to do so.
On it’s face, a manager getting ejected from the game isn’t that big of a deal. Another coach is typically capable of performing all of the duties required if the manager is sent back to the clubhouse. When Cox would come out to argue a call though, it typically was to keep a player who had a gripe with the umpire from getting ejected. Most former Braves speak highly of Cox for this, saying that the Braves skipper would have their backs even when he knew they were arguing a correct call by the umpire. It’s why so many of them say they loved to play for Bobby Cox.
That’s not what you see with Fredi Gonzalez. This doesn’t mean that Gonzalez isn’t passionate or that the players don’t feel that he has their back, but it seems like there’s a lack of accountability. Braves hitters either nonchalantly walk back to dugout after a strikeout, or they blow up on an umpire. There just doesn’t appear to be much genuine passion from the players or the manager.
Even if both of those ejections are avoided, it probably doesn’t change the outcome of the game. But if Gonzalez had gone out and got in the umpire’s face, it’s the type of move that could light a fire under the Braves hitters. It’s not a move that makes any tactical difference, but it could help provide urgency to a team that could desperately use some.
We don’t know what’s going on in the Braves clubhouse. Gonzalez could be screaming at the players at the top of his lungs once a week. The players admit that they have to do better at the plate, but the results remain the same. Something needs to change, and Fredi Gonzalez being a little more demonstrative is at least worth a shot.