No. That’s not a good thing.
When he was hired as Braves manager to replace Bobby Cox, I tried to assuage the fears of Braves fans who’d only seen snippets of his managing style with the Marlins; who were concerned that there was no actual interview process and that Fredi Gonzalez taking over was more of an old boys’ club anointing; that his history with the Marlins didn’t bode well for a team like the Braves who were expected to win.
I was wrong.
The Braves are teetering precariously close to gacking up a playoff spot that should’ve been wrapped up a week ago and a large part of that is due to their manager.
I’m not quibbling with his benching/platooning of Jason Heyward—Heyward’s obviously not 100% and he’s been atrocious against lefties. Nor am I going to get too crazy about the lack of patience among the lineup. While the aggressive approach is espoused by hitting coach Larry Parrish and obviously supported by Gonzalez, the Braves don’t exactly have an intimidating lineup; nor have the hitters—apart from Chipper Jones—ever been historically patient. Dan Uggla‘s walks are down, but he accumulated the high walk totals earlier in his career playing for…Fredi Gonzalez.
He might have been use his relievers more judiciously—but he hasn’t had a great deal of choice given the way his starting rotation has been decimated by injuries; he could conceivably have taken his foot off the gas and used Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty less frequently, but their velocity and stuff has been consistent all year.
As for some of his maneuvers, there’s no defense. The one I remember most vividly was his brain-dead, “I’m gonna manage using stragety” in April against the reeling Mets when he called for a suicide squeeze with one out and the bases loaded; two strikes on pitcher Tommy Hanson with Eric Hinske was on third.
I understood the thought process—Hanson was the pitcher; Gonzalez could have Martin Prado leading off the next inning if it didn’t work—but the correct call was to tell Hanson to keep the bat on his shoulder, hope for a walk and leave it up to the speedy Prado to try to hit one into the gap or wreak some havoc with his legs.
Hanson missed the bunt and struck out, Hinske got caught in a rundown.
Just like that the Mets were out of the inning.
It was inexplicably horrible decision-making.
Last night he committed another egregious gaffe.
Jack Wilson came to the plate.
Jack Wilson can’t hit.
Worse, he’s gone from Jack Wilson to “Hack” Wilson with 9 walks in over 200 at bats this season.
Hinske was on the bench.
Neither Wilson nor Hinske have hit Vazquez well, but at least Hisnke is a threat to do something.
Wilson popped out to right field.
The next inning, Hinske was sent in to pinch hit for Jose Constanza.
Presumably it was because….
I have no idea what it was “because” of.
What good did it have to use Hinske to lead off the 8th inning when the proper time to use him was in the 7th when there were two runners in scoring position and the Braves were trailing by three?
These are just two examples and I’m quite certain that Braves fans will be able to point out at least a dozen more in which Gonzalez has either cost his team a game; could have cost his team a game; or misused his pitchers to accrue a possible cumulative fatigue that is affecting them as the season winds down.
I was wrong about Gonzalez.
I said he’d be fine. I said he’d make a few blunders, but for the most part would run the bullpen well and keep the team in line off the field while dealing with the media.
He has handled the clubhouse well and the media adequately while saying stupid things to explain away his ridiculous decisions; but he’s doing the one thing a manager cannot afford to do—costing his team games because of strategic mishaps.
The Braves won’t do it, but one of my criteria to make a managerial change is if the manager directly and negatively influences his club’s finish.
If the Braves miss the playoffs, it will be due to their manager Fredi Gonzalez.
And on that basis, I’d fire him.