Thoughts on Fredi Gonzalez

Today Tomorrow Today, unless all indications are way off, Fredi Gonzalez will be named the next manager of the Atlanta Braves. Is this a good move? Well, I don’t think it’s a horrible move, like Peter Hjort does. The post is a little vague, but in the comments he points to some examples of poor management by Gonzalez. But still , I’m not too worried. I think the choice reflects the fact that it will be hard to step into Bobby Cox’s shoes, and it’s clear that the front office wants to replace Bobby with a manger familiar with Bobby’s style and clubhouse culture. Gonzalez likely won’t have the autonomy and input that Bobby had, but he won’t be rocking the boat of a team that played well for the most part this year.

In my opinion, mangers don’t have much impact on how their teams perform. They handle the press, they keep order in the clubhouse, and make a few on-field decisions here and there—most of which are non-controversial. The most important thing is to keep the core of this team focused like it always has been. This is a team that was united for Bobby: a manager who loses this clubhouse would face a serious revolt. That’s the biggest danger with this club.

What are some positives that Fredi brings, maybe ones that Bobby didn’t have? Well, he attended SABR 40 in Atlanta this year. I read an article in which someone talked about why he was there (which I cannot find now, link would be appreciated) and he stated that he was looking to hear new ideas. Not sure if he found any (and he missed my presentation with Sean Forman!) but it’s nice to know he’s on the lookout.

I also have personal anecdote about Fredi. In one of my classes, I have the students read Moneyball for an assignment and write a paper about it. Several years ago, a student approached me and asked if she would mind if she got some advice from an acquaintance of hers who worked in baseball. It turns out that the acquaintance was Gonzalez. He worked out at the gym where she worked, and he was happy to talk with an undergraduate student about a school project. I don’t remember the specifics of her paper or the comments that Gonzalez gave her, but he didn’t rail against the book or offer over-the-top praise—after all it’s just a book. Overall, I was impressed that a sitting manager would take the time to discuss a school project with a virtual stranger. Whether that makes him a good manager, I don’t know, but I certainly consider it a positive.

Fredi will have a clubhouse behind him the moment he steps onto the field, which is something that few new managers can do. Let’s hope he keeps their trust and doesn’t screw this up. Welcome back to Atlanta, Fredi.

6 Responses “Thoughts on Fredi Gonzalez”

  1. Matt C says:

    J.C.-How do we explain Buckshowalter’s impact on the Orioles? This is not a rhetorical question. How would you explain it?

  2. We’ll see how it goes. Initially I’m not bothered too much by the hire, although it is a bit weird that the Braves are hiring someone who was fired last season.

    Looking at “internal” people, the only other places I would go are Eddie Perez or Ned Yost. Maybe, just maybe, Chipper. But that won’t happen as long as he’s trying to play. And in a pipe dream, one of the trio of Maddux, Glavine, or Smoltz wouldn’t be bad either.

    Honestly, the whole thing reminds of the first time Bobby left and Ted Turner said that Bobby Cox would be the guy he hired except for the part where he just fired him.

  3. Edward says:

    I wouldn’t worry about a talented manager who was fired by the Marlins this past season; the same owner fired Girardi after leading the team to playoff contention with a team payroll equal to half of A-Rod’s salary. Fortunately, he will not have an Escobar/Ramirez type of personality to deal with this time. I say good hire.

  4. Marc Schneider says:

    I would like the organization to be more stats-oriented, but it isn’t and that’s the way it is going to be. I agree that the manager–at least the in-game tactical element of the job–is relatively unimportant although everyone gets bent out of shape when a manager makes the “wrong” move. But, really, is there any manager in baseball that really manages according to the sabermetric “book?” If you have good players and the manager isn’t a jerk, the team will win. There is no indication Fredi is a jerk. The issue with the Braves is on the field, not in the dugout.

  5. Brandon Gay says:

    The way I look at this, Fredi Gonzalez will bunt when I don’t want him to bunt, intentionally walk hitters when I don’t want him to, and use a somewhat statistically unenlightened method of bullpen management. Just like every other baseball manager on the planet.

    Fortunately, most of that stuff makes almost no difference at all in the grand scheme of a season.

    Gonzalez is a good guy who will earn the respect of his players, respect the game, foster a positive clubhouse environment and work well with the front office. He is exactly the kind of guy who Frank Wren and John Schuerholz can work with. And, his ego won’t preclude him from using Bobby Cox’ help with talent evaluation, which I think he is skilled at. If Gonzalez starts liking what he hears at SABR and picks Bobby’s brain about minor league talent once in awhile, he could be damn near the perfect manager.

    I find it sort of ironic how so many people are upset the Braves’ didn’t try harder to find a sabermetrician. Sabermetricians should understand managers just don’t impact the game very much. So, what’s there to be upset about? It’s sort of like an atheist complaining that God isn’t doing anything.

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