Braves’ new GM should’ve decided on Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez watched the Braves spiral down the stretch again. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Fredi Gonzalez watched the Braves spiral down the stretch again. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Fredi Gonzalez watched the Braves spiral down the stretch again. (Curtis Compton)

There were reasonable arguments to keep Fredi Gonzalez as the Braves’ manager. There were reasonable arguments to fire Fredi Gonzalez as the Braves’ manager.

But there was no reasonable argument to do what the Braves did Friday.

Interim general manager John Hart announced Gonzalez will return for a fifth season in 2015, despite the Braves going 7-18 in September, missing the playoffs for the second time in four years and finishing with the franchise’s worst record since 2008 (79-83).

I was neither in the “Fire Fredi” nor “Don’t Fire Fredi” camp.  I merely believed the Braves should wait and leave that decision up to their new general manager. In fact, after GM Frank Wren was fired, both Hart and team president John Schuerholz said the decision on Gonzalez should and would be left up to the team’s new architect.

The fact Friday’s announcement was made means one of two things:

• Hart and Schuerholz lied. Their intent was to keep Gonzalez all along, regardless of whom the new general manager was going to be. If that’s the case, good luck to Schuerholz and Hart in the recruiting process as they tell candidates, “We’ve already made your most important decision for you.”

Or . . .

• This whole GM search is a bit of a farce. Hart told me Sept. 25 that he was open to remaining as general manager for a year or two while he mentored as young candidate, like Braves assistant John Coppolella.  But the Gonzalez announcement suggests the Hart part of that equation is a done deal. Hart, Schuerholz and Bobby Cox haven’t made it a secret that they’ve supported Gonzalez all along and blamed Wren for the team’s ills.

Back to Gonzalez. I understand some of the arguments to fire him. The team fell apart down the stretch for the second time in his tenure. The Braves fell from 96 wins in 2013 to 79 wins with predominantly the same core, and not for the reason everybody would’ve projected: losing two starting pitchers in the spring, Kris Medlin and Brandon Beachy.

Gonzalez can’t hit for B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Chris Johnson or anybody else who fizzled this season, but ultimately the manager is responsible for getting the most out of his players. In that respect, Gonzalez failed.

Here’s my counter-argument. The Braves, while talented, have had a poorly constructed roster in the past few years. There was no legitimate leadoff hitter, no even real No. 2 hitter. They were overloaded to Nos. 3 to 7. Wren saddled Gonzalez with players who were low-percentage hitters and struck out too much. He made a big mistake on Upton, giving $75 million to a player that almost every other general manager avoided.

The Fire Fredi camp screams: The Braves underachieved this season. The counter: Is it possible winning 94 and 96 games the previous two years was overachievement?

Wren hired Gonzalez. But it wasn’t long before each quietly was blaming the other for the team’s problems. That’s usually how unsuccessful general manager-manager/coach relationships unfold.

My belief all along has been that both deserve blame but Wren deserves more because ultimately he is the team builder and saddled the franchise with lasting mistakes — Upton, Uggla, Kenshin Kawakami – that Gonzalez had to deal with.

So I’m fine with Gonzalez coming back next year to prove himself with a potentially improved roster. What I don’t understand is the decision of bringing him back being made now, before a permanent general manager is in place. It’s not like there’s a game to manage tomorrow.

And if Braves and Hart have decided that the general manager already is in place, just go ahead and announce that instead of continuing this charade.

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— MyAJC: Full column: Frank Wren did a lot right but big things hurt him
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— MyAJC: Georgia’s next 7 games are what really counts
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— MyAJC: Levenson gone but timing raises questions

Reader Comments 0

108 comments
Kvol
Kvol

Look at the Cardinals low n talent but have a manager that can create a cohesive Team. Fredi did not have the respect of his players and could not adjust when the home runs were not forth coming. Also did not now when to pull the starting pitching. 2015 same old stuff.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

He did decide on Gonzalez. Well, Bobby Cox decided on Gonzalez, and Hart decided not to buck him on it. No GM candidate worth hiring would take this job now, so the new GM has to be Hart. Get ready for more of the same old stuff.

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

I've been saying it... I think 2013 was a fluke. They were lucky as can be winning 96 but it was clear that the construction of this team wasn't going to go very far in the playoffs and sure enough they got killed.


Also... Just FIRE Fredi Gonzalez. He caused two catastrophic failures in the last couple of years and the only way to make sense of this is to blame the manager since he was the one constant.

MiltonAJC
MiltonAJC

If Freddie didn't 'lose control of the clubhouse' then he must have been a part of this clubhouse that had no drive, no heart, and no clue.  So sure, bring back the guy who lead them to mediocrity.  11U rec league was more compelling than the 2014 Braves...


Braves1945
Braves1945

The Fredi decision is a good indicator to me as to what is going to happen under what JS calls tweaking the Braves lineup for 2015. I think this can be summed up in two words, "not much". The Braves need a lot more than just tweaking to be competitive next year. But based on the logic of the "volume of work" that brought about Fredi's re-hire, I don't see much of a change coming.


Watching the events of the last month of the season, I see Gattis gone. I would also expect that Jason will be traded leading to the retention of both Uptons. And the sorry part of this is I don't see the people responsible for re-hiring Fredi getting much in return. We will be fed the same line that BJ will get special help this off season. If BJ is retained no matter what the financial burden is to the club, I don't know why anyone would buy another ticket so long as he and Fredi are part of this club.


If anybody who has watched the recent events unfold expects any more than a 4th or 5th place next year, you aren't dealing with reality. All of the other teams in the NL East must be ecstatic that Fredi will return. 


I don't see a single reason for a Braves fan to be optimistic about the 2015 season.

theoriginaltruth
theoriginaltruth

The new GM DID DECIDE....Hart will end up running this team for a couple of years, maybe all the way into the Cobb stadium....


This is too important to get it wrong....count on it...

cvan32802
cvan32802

I don't see retaining Fredi as the key to the future success and retaining him only sends the message that poor performance gets rewarded which is a big problem with this team. I have been a Braves fan since moving to Atlanta in 1978 and been through good years and bad years.   But watching this team fall apart this year was painful because you could see it happening as early as July when they still lead the division and needed to win against the second division in July and didn't.   Fredi had several points where he could have righted the ship.   If Wren was pulling the strings on the lineup then Fredi should have leaked it -- the "it's all Wren's fault" story sounds like revisionist history by the pro-Fredi group lead by Cox.   Fredi needs to go.   Hopefully they will fall apart early next year and he'll be gone, but another season down the tubes.


In any event, the Braves are just too painful to watch.   I will find another team to support.    Failing fire Fredi has permanently cost them this fan.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

The night Wren was fired, Schuerholz came on the Fox Sports game broadcast, and eerily, like a post lost game  Fredi, yakked and yakked about the "Braves Way" and how the sun will come tomorrow, betch yer bottom dollar. The more he yakked, the more antennae went up - and finally - it dawned - these guys may not be planning to do anything other than they did today - fire Wren. And the formation of a "committee" to make the  tough decisions also did not bode well. 


Any one who has spent five serious minutes in the business world knows that "committee decisions" is an oxymoron. Committees are formed in business and politics to avoid tough decisions and/or to "spread the blame" or for CYA purposes for the results of decisions that have to be made no matter how much one would like to avoid them. 


I think Schultz is right  It is highly possible, based on all of the yakkety yak,  that this is all eye wash and that Hart has been set from the start to become GM, and that Bobby Cox's friend would get another year. No matter what. 


This Gonzalez decision kind of proves that theory. Cox, who obviously still has a lot to say about what goes on in the Braves' organization, and what doesn't, did not want a new GM brought in who would very likely not protect his pal and hand picked successor. And what potential new GM worth a dime would agree to come in here with such a critical decision already made for him? Hence, Hart had to agree to take the spot - but reluctantly for PR purposes. 


Being owned by foreign corporation is not really a good thing for a professional sports organization, and especially for its fans who suffer through watching its teams with great winning potential not even make the play offs.  



billygreen
billygreen

Don't care; unless Ted Turner owns the team, no body else cares, either. Ted wanted to win; as you can see from the above analysis, and the comments following, the acting GM and JohnnyS don't care one bit about the postseason; it about helping friends keep their jobs. Granted, FG probably could not have done more than he did, but who knows whether or not that's the case. The new GM will either be Hart, or some other rolly polly that will do what JohnS says to do, with no independence, so now, for all intents and purposes, JohnS is the GM. If the Braves make the postseason next year, I'll be surprised; I'm no fan of Ted, but he did field a WS class team, something no one else has done before or since. (The Braves teams that did make it after he sold out to AOL made it because of momentum from Ted's preceding teams, but that quickly ran out of steam)...

theoriginaltruth
theoriginaltruth

@billygreen  It took Ted 15 years to get out of the way and let Cox and Schuerholz turn the team around.


Hart will do fine as GM and too bad you, like Schultz aren't smart enough to know it.....

DrTruth
DrTruth

"Hart and Schuerholz lied."


On rare occasions Schultz lurches uncontrollably into the truth...This is one of them.

PantherDawg
PantherDawg

Freddi was hand picked by Cox he was supposed to be his clone. I am willing to give him one more year with the changes coming and see how he does if it's the same old same old then wax him.


Thank you Liberty Media...I wish you would sell the team to somebody who cares and has passion. I feel your cold corporate hands on our team.

sandmar
sandmar

A nice article Mr. Schultz. The essence of which you summed up in two words, " Gonzalez failed". The Braves are now run like one of our political parties,sneak away to Cobb County in the middle of the night,keep Gonzalez, although Mr. Shuerholtz plainly said the new GM would have that pleasure. The fans only recourse is to withhold the "vote" in the form of ticket sales. Having been a Braves since their arrival in 1966,I don't remember a time where I was more disappointed. They needed new blood with a new perspective. You just have to follow the money. Bobby and Fredi are business partners and Bobby has to protect Fredi's employment. Once again,I have to quote your synopsis, "Gonzalez failed",....... 'nuff said.

Lew06
Lew06

Maybe he did.

skeeterN
skeeterN

You people just don't get it........the model is "the Braves way" and the model architects are who??? Shuerholz and Cox.  Yeah, you gonna get a lot change with that model.

toybuilt
toybuilt

It was Bobby Cox's decision all along. Fire Bobby. Gonzalez is his friend, assistant coach, and protege... he should not have had a say in the matter.

Kanyon
Kanyon

Have you forgotten Fredi "the manager" not bringing in Kimbrell in the 8th???  There are some things that Fredi "the manager" has or hasn't done that support not bringing Fredi "the manager" back!!!  Anyone ANYONE with the least bit of common sense knows that this Braves organization will never amount to SUCCESS in the PLAYOFFS which should be the goal!!! 1 title (world series of course) in 14 YEARS with the same mgmt. while switching players everyway which way but loose and expecting better success! If you did all these changes with players and no change in success (winning more world series titles), why not change the one constant??? INSANE!!! You even have the manager in those 14 YEARS advising you on how to run your team mgmt.??? WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW!!! Good luck with this cobb county, maybe you can change this team's success. Apparently the Braves don't think it (PLAYOFFS/WORLD SERIES SUCCESS) ever has anything to do with the team manager!!!

nick1234
nick1234

A manager can only make out the lineup card with the roster that the GM provides. 

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I don't expect the fans on this board to be happy, but I see this past season as Wren's failure. I wondered most of the year how this roster could maintain a winning record at all. I found out - they can't.

Gonzalez deserves a chance to take a better roster on the field. Now dump BJ in the near east dumpster so we can move on from Wren's failures with a fresh outlook. Both Uptons if that is necessary.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@TreeRollins  go down and read tmc blog...all Fredi  deserves is a one way ticket to AA some where else.  open your eyes man, you're smarter than that. 

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Nicely written Jeff! I pretty much agree with all the premises you laid out there.

jc312
jc312

Yeah, Gonzales was saddled with under-achievers, but that doesn't excuse him for some of the things the team could have and should have done: bunt, move the runner over, hit-and-run, hit the ball the other way, run the bases with intelligence, throw to the cut-off man, etc.. 


The Braves were horrible at the fundamentals, and that WAS within Gonzales' control. He also overworked his pitchers, something several national writers commented on. 


Finally, the "Braves way" is humbug -- it's a bunch of players who fit the Schuerholz template of being emotional flat-liners who toe the corporate line. Change starts at the top, and nothing changes until Liberty Media decides it wants a fresh approach. 



And until it does, it's not getting my entertainment dollars.  

Jack_®
Jack_®

There was never any doubt about Fredi being manager if Cox had any thing to say about it. Makes looking forward to next year a dismal thing.

Pocaroba
Pocaroba

I don't know what is the best move for the team to make. I kind of lost my faith in Gonzalez the final 6 weeks of the season. However, when I listen to all of you who seem so sure that the team needs to just blow everything up, I think about past organizations that got away from a successful management style. Specifically, the Orioles and the Earl Weaver years. It's essentially taken them 30 years to get back to any sort of consistency. I'm glad Wren has gone and I feel satisfied with Hart temporarily because he has had success in the past. It would be dumb to just walk away from all that has worked in the past. This is a team that has provided Atlanta/southeastern U.S.  with a contending professional sports team for 20 of the past 24 years. Let's see the Falcons or Hawks ever do that, or a hockey team that sticks around for half that. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Pocaroba  Just happy to be there is the damn problem, "one and done" they are happy!  Second means  you lost, what don't you understand. 1 World Series Win in 50 plus years, could have been more if not for Cox and the Braves way? Just happy to put up a little yellow sign saying we got second, third again!!!!!!!  Braves way= 1 WS under Cox and JS. The Marlins have won more WS than Braves in last 10 years.  Most fans want a winner not a runner up. Giving awards to all kids that play breeds losers. If you not first you lost. Braves & Fredi are not winners. 1 and 50 years we may all be dead before it happens again.  I love the Braves but "hate management" They only care about their own a@@ and don't give a damn about fans. First time since 1961 I bought another teams hat yesterday after they said FG would be back.

Management lied to fans...I hate a liar!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@58Supersports @Pocaroba

It's actually 1 WS win in 48 years in ATL, but your point is well taken. Forty-eight years with only one championship inspires satisfaction only in those who embrace low standards--Quicherbichin, for example.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@Pocaroba Earl Weaver could manage circles around Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez, as he proved during several seasons. Orioles' ownership had a lot to do with their lack of success after Weaver's career ended, just as Braves' ownership has something to do with this team's relative lack of success in recent years.

GT71
GT71

Well, Schultz got this one right.  The new guy should have a big say and the Braves' mis-management said so a week ago.

What happened?

Did Fredi catch Schueholz in bed with a dead woman...or a live boy?

MiltonAJC
MiltonAJC

Braves GM Job Description:  "Turn around major league baseball team by doing the same old thing the same old way with the same old people.  No one with new ideas need apply"


richbrave
richbrave

There's no doubt that FC is still quite influential in management's decisions.


I say it's time to move on. SCHUERHOLTZ retires with BOBBY riding his coat-tasils into the sunset. When? I personally think two years from now.


I do believe HART wants to be the president of the BRAVES, and would acquiesce to being GM until then. In fact as this article points out, I believe that's already a fait acconpli.

LakeDawg
LakeDawg

Cox is firmly in control. Lol 

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Yes they did. It was the right PR move to announce his staying lest too many fans get their hopes up too soon. It was not a great move for the franchise for next year, but that is beside the point. They did not want the idea that any other, real, positive changes would be made (other than Wren - and maybe BJ's departure.  But don't forget - we need to "keep Justin happy." So BJ's departure is not as big a given as many seem to think it is. 


It should be a "given" - no doubt about it -  especially if you are keeping a manager who had no qualms about sending him up to the plate again, and again, and again, in games that could still be won . . . in the late or last inning with runners on base. We could see that again next year . . .cringe!  But, you would have to watch the games in order to see it.  

NOVAJacket
NOVAJacket

We won't win until Fredi G is gone...

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Jeff, it is your second option. New GM will be internal. Same old, same old.

Wilbo
Wilbo

"And if Braves and Hart have decided that the general manager already is in place, just go ahead and announce that instead of continuing this charade."


That's not the charade, Shooltzo. The charade is that Braves actually care about winning.



Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

@Wilbo the Braves care about winning. You, not so much. All I have ever seen from you on any board is constant whining. I can only guess that it's due to the incontinence of your thoughts dribbling down to your fingers.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Can't revamp the roster because it'll cost too much after they eat BJs contract. Without revamping, forget about 2015.

At least the Mudcats logo is now in the fold.

HoosierAaron
HoosierAaron

Stop the bus. I specifically remember reading an article when Frank Wren traded for Dan Uggla. He said he CALLED Fredi Gonzalez and told him he had the opportunity to acquire Uggla and asked his opinion since they were together in Miami. Fredi said do it.

SO...to say that Wren is completely and solely responsible for the makeup of the roster is not accurate. 

Fredi obviously had some input on those decisions as well.

Big mistake keeping Fredi....big mistake.

BSNBC
BSNBC

Fire the loser!  Atlanta deserves better than this crap on the field!

leftygolfer48
leftygolfer48

Things aren't any better in Gwinnett, I watched them most of the season and they were awful, couldn't execute, couldn't move baserunners and could not hit. So the new Atlanta GM has to not only fix the big club, he has to put some talent at the Triple A club just in case. I know that I won't be spending anymore money on Braves baseball until this thing gets fixed. Comcast has plenty of other teams to watch.

tmc
tmc

1. The Braves always rush the important decisions. They set their budget before Dec. 10 and sign and trade players before then... instead of going to spring training in a position of power for trades. Been that way for decades.

2. My reasons why Fredi Gonzales should have been fired: a) Fundamentally horible during his tenure. They found ways to lose games under Fredi. Errors, mental mistakes, bad breaks... it's an epidemic under Fredi. His teams have been sub-par in fundamentals (1/3 of the game).

b) two 2nd half collapses in 3 years under Fredi. The first two years ago was epic in September. This years was a complete 2nd half collossal since the All Star break.

c) this year, the players quit on Fredi. I don't care what Bobby, JS, Fredi or anyone else says on this. If you know anything about baseball, you could see it plain as day. And THAT is a message from the players.


I call that strike 1, strike 2 and strike 3. You're out.


Which brings me to the largest problem with the Braves organization. It's John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox with the way they have been running and manipulating the organization for decades. It's well past time for a clean slate from top to bottom in the organization. While they both have had success, you can debate how much on another post, the time has past them bye and it's time for a change. How do i know this? because they continue to push the same buttons and expecting different results. They have created an atmospher of acceptance of mediocrity through out the organization... it's beyond time.


Heard Fredi Gonzalez say on the radio today: "it's our goal every year to make the playoffs. We fell short of that this year..."

When that's your goal and it's publically stated over and over, that is what you strive and settle for. 

It's about CHAMPIONSHIPS! And until THAT is the mantra amoung the brass, the wrong people are in charge for the Atlanta Braves.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@tmc

And for the Hawks, and for the Falcons, and for the Thrashers, and for the Flames, and for the Dream. Hard to believe one city can represent so many postseason failures.

RangeRover
RangeRover

No problem!

After 24 years as a STH 2015 will be my 4th consecutive season not attending a Fredi Gonzalez managed game.

Don't mind spending money...despise wasting it!