So, the Atlanta Braves fired Fredi Gonzalez today. For Braves fans, like myself, this is way, way too late. Gonzalez was a member of the Bobby Cox coaching tree, which stands for a lot in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Gonzalez always struck me as someone with all of Bobby’s bad tactical habits–poor lineup construction, rigid and sub-optimial bullpen management–and none of his good, specifically that players almost universally loved Bobby. I never got the sense that players loved Fredi the way most of them loved Bobby, but I’m not in clubhouse so it’s just conjecture.
For most of Gonzalez’s time in Atlanta, his management buffoonery was all fine and funny. He event spawned an amusing twitter account, Frediot. And, over the course of a 162-game season, bad managing doesn’t make a ton of difference. These things do make a difference, though, when the number of games condenses. For instance:
- 2011: Fredi managed one of the great September collapses in baseball history and the Braves barely missed the playoffs.
- 2012: Fredi managed a one-game playoff loss.
- 2013: This happened with the Braves facing elimination in Game 4 of the NLDS.
Drink that in people. You don’t often encounter idiocy on the level of, and I’m quoting Fredi here:
“We were thinking, and we had it set up. We double-switched and put our best defense out there. We had it set up to bring him in for four outs. I think six outs was something that we weren’t even talking about in the dugout. But I think with two outs we were planning to do that. We set up the eighth inning to be able to do that.”
Leaving Craig Kimbrel, only baseball’s best relief pitcher at the time, who was warmed up and ready to go with the tying run in scoring position in the eighth inning of an elimination is almost criminal in its stupidity. At the very least it represents the type of rigid thinking and misuse of company resources that should get management fired at a damn Dairy Queen, let alone as the well-compensated manager of a Major League franchise. Kimbrel, according to Deadspin’s lip reader, was pretty upset. I have no idea how Fredi Gonzalez survived that three-year stretch from 2011-13, even though 2012 wasn’t entirely his fault (thanks for nothing, infield-fly rule). But one game would have made a big difference in 2011, and Fredi’s tactical shortcomings sure as shit mattered in 2013.
Look, the Braves are so bad that veteran Nick Swisher is happier playing AAA ball in Scranton–fucking Scranton–than in Atlanta. With the Braves at 9-28, it’s hard to blame him. Fredi Gonzalez is not a great manager, but he isn’t responsible for this year’s mess and most of the same braintrust who kept him around before and after he left Kimbrel in the bullpen is still around to hire the next guy. I hope they do better this time.
I wish Fredi Gonzalez nothing but the best. I also wish he’d either, a) never been hired to manage the Braves or, b) fired sometime before Oct. 7, 2013.