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.