Let me preface this by reaffirming I’ve never held Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez responsible for the Braves’ record during this massive makeover and I’m not suggesting he get fired now.
However . . .
No team loses 12 straight without the manager sharing culpability. When a team goes on stretches like 1-19, 3-23 and 12-41 – reminding me of those early Atlanta Thrashers’ days – it’s because just enough players on the roster are mailing it in and the manager is lost to find ways to motivate a group against the backdrop of a lost season.
Gonzalez was not going to make the Braves winners this season. Casey Stengel couldn’t make the Braves winners this season. Once you get past all of the euphemistic labels and ramblings from president of president of baseball operations John Hart and assistant general manager Jon Coppolella, here’s the truth: Both knew all along they were sacrificing this season – and possibly 2016 – with the hope that the young players they were getting back in trades would make the Braves contenders again in 2017. All of those walking “parallel lines” talking points were bunk.
Hart and Coppolella also took a significant risk by dealing Alex Wood, a solid left-handed starter with a controlled salary, along with top prospect Jose Peraza and others to Los Angeles for Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old Cuban prospect. If Olivera turns into the player Hart and Coppolella imagine, then maybe the deal will be worth it. If he doesn’t develop, that trade will hurt the Braves more than any other (because at least Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were headed to free agency and Evan Gattis was destined to be a fourth outfielder and spot catcher).
But none of that alleviates Gonzalez of responsibility for what has been a complete unraveling in the last two months. His bullpen and lineup may be second-rate and the starting pitching has abandoned him. But in the end, it’s a manager’s job to find ways to win games and he’s not doing that.
Before this season, I predicted the Braves would win 67 games. Some thought that was low. But now, at 54-83, they would have to go 13-12 in the final 25 just to hit that number. It’s more likely they go no better than 8-17, which would mean they lose 100-plus games.
One significant question in the last 25 games: What can Gonzalez do to make it appear that his team cares?
•Recent ramblings Dawgnation: Lambert good but didn’t do enough to cement starting job Dawgnation: Lambert, lightning and the joy of Keith Marshall MyAJC: Kennesaw State’s little startup off to a dazzling start AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets roll, Spurrier escapes, Petrino goes down AJC: Falcons won Julio Jones trade but would like to forget 2012 draft Dawgnation: Greyson Lambert’s big test won’t come in opener, it will be later AJC: Hello, football: Thoughts on UGA, Tech, Kennesaw, both GSUs Dawgnation: It’s Lambert over Ramsey for now, but assume nothing for future at Georgia AJC: Falcons were never going to let Julio Jones get away MyAJC: Gomes provides some needed comic relief to Braves’ season MyAJC: Brian McCann makes his perfect return to Atlanta AJC: Ready to start picking? ‘Sack Schultz 2015’ now open for business Dawgnation: CFB Special: Mark Richt, empty nester, is seeking that winning feeling again Dawgnation: CFB Special: Your flawless game-by-game predictions for Georgia AJC: Arthur Blank says he’s backing away — this I’ve gotta see Dawgnation: Richt having fun with stonewalling but UGA’s QB debate a real problem MyAJC: Falcons have issues, so Matt Ryan can’t be one of them AJC: Falcons sign Grossman, so we know what they think of backups MyAJC: Braves’ Bethancourt says he has learned from mistakes AJC: Hector Olivera gets two hits in Gwinnett debut, nears call-up AJC: Dawgnation: S.I. says Georgia will go 10-2 (agree), play Auburn for SEC title (disagree) AJC: Poll: Is Falcons’ biggest concern D-line, O-line, running back? Dawgnation: Report: Georgia arrest-free lately but still ranks high (with rest of SEC) nationally AJC: Falcons are putting trust in young running backs MyAJC: Will Braves keep Julio Teheran in this makeover? MyAJC: It’s more than just an exhibition game for Dan Quinn AJC: Scheduling history suggests Falcons will win 10 games AJC: Goodell, Brady have damaged reputations, need to settle MyAJC: Falcons’ fortunes will tip on finding a pass rush AJC: Dimitroff says Falcons not interested in Rice or Smith (for now) MyAJC: Smoltz finally reunited with Glavine, Maddux AJC: Digi-Blog goes to Cooperstown… My AJC: John Smoltz did it right and did it clean MyAJC: How Detroit landed John Smoltz — and then blew it with him MyAJC: Smoltz’s drive carried in baseball — but not hockey or comedy AJC: Julio Teheran trade rumors make no sense MyAJC: For FSU, Jimbo Fisher, perception is reality