To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Braves hired Fredi Gonzalez to be the new manager, basically never leaving the spot vacant.
I’m not wild about it.
First off, I don’t like that the Braves don’t seem to have really searched for a new manager at all, but only hired the guy who was around. (Fredi spent more time in Atlanta the last three months than Kasim Reed.) I mean, no doubt they did their due diligence and they talked to lots of guys within the organization, but there was no search process. When the Braves hired Roger McDowell, they went outside and did a search, and I think it worked out pretty well.
Secondly… I’m just not impressed by Gonzalez’s record in Florida. He went about .500 with .500-level talent. Low as the Marlins’ payroll is, they have and had some awfully good players. But that’s not really what I’m talking about.
Fredi, it seems to me, has Bobby’s weaknesses with tactical managing (that is, lots of bunts, awkward pinch-hitting decisions that blow an extra player, heavy use of a few relievers) without Bobby’s strengths as a leader of men. The central incident of Gonzalez’s career in Florida was a blowup over a lack of hustle by his best player, Hanley Ramirez, that unnecessarily exploded into a major story and didn’t really go away until Fredi was fired. I just can’t see that sort of thing happening to Bobby.
Maybe I’m wrong, but what I think the Braves are doing here is trying to find someone who will continue what worked for Bobby… and that just doesn’t work. You can’t replace a great manager with an imitation. He just can’t do what his predecessor did, and when he tries, he’s going to get tuned out.
It is now more vital than ever that Chipper Jones rehab his knee and join the team. Because if the Braves are going to compete in 2011, Chipper — and Tim Hudson — are going to have to take on clubhouse management. I know that everyone likes Fredi, but it’s hard for me to see that anyone respects him, or how he’s going to build that respect. That pushes things a level down, to the players whom the other players certainly respect, to keep the clubhouse functioning.
My guess is that Fredi Gonzalez will manage the Braves for most of two seasons, being replaced by a coach in late 2012 with a record a little better than his Marlins record. I hope I’m wrong.