Debates will be ongoing as to whether the Braves were justified in their firing of manager of Fredi Gonzalez Tuesday, or whether the front office is merely making him the scapegoat for their own miscalculations about this season (as I believe).
But there’s one thing that’s not up for debate: The handling of Gonzalez’s firing, as orchestrated by general manager John Coppolella, was one of the clumsiest transactions in pro sports history.
• As the Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported, Gonzalez first learned he had been fired from a travel agent, not Coppolella. About an hour following the Braves’ loss in Pittsburgh Monday night, the manager received an email confirmation of a flight that had been booked for him for Tuesday to return to Atlanta. The Braves still had six games remaining on their road trip, including three more in Pittsburgh. So it wasn’t difficult for Gonzalez to conclude he had been fired. But that wasn’t confirmed until he confronted team officials in the team hotel Monday night. (Coppolella was on the trip at that point but president of baseball operations John Hart wasn’t. Hart joined the team on Tuesday and the plan was to tell Gonzalez at that time.)
• Gwinnett Braves manager Brian Snitker was phoned by Coppolella Monday morning and told the Braves were going to fire Gonzalez the next day and the team wanted him to take over as interim manager. Snitker was having breakfast with his wife at the time. “My wife and I were having breakfast, and it kind of, I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ It kind of got my head spinning a little bit. I felt like I just kind of dropped out of the sky into the clubhouse.”
So let’s recap. The organization that preaches class and professionalism and doing things the “Braves way,” felt it more important to tell a travel agent (the night before) that Gonzalez was getting fired and tell Snitker, his temporary replacement, a full 24 hours ahead of time that a change was coming.
Even if you attempt to justify giving Snitker a heads up — enabling him to pack for the trip — 24 hours notice is a bit much. More than a bit, actually. And certainly, there is no reason to feel compelled to book Gonzalez’s return flight with a travel rep before the manager is even informed that he’s gone.
This wasn’t a high security situation — Take his parking key card! Security, escort him out! — and certainly there is no shortage of Pittsburgh-to-Atlanta flights. Was Coppolella worried fares were going to go up?
There are clumsy ways to do things. But Coppolella and the Braves just took clumsy to a new level.
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