Friday, October 15, 2010
Did Fredi Gonzalez deserve his anointing?
Mark Bradley is skeptical about Fredi Gonzalez:
He never quite lifted the Marlins to the playoffs — got them over .500 in both 2008 and 2009, though — and this year’s team was thought to be (at least by owner Jeffrey Loria) of playoff caliber. And that’s why Gonzalez was fired after 70 games. And before you say, “Well, Loria wouldn’t know a baseball from the back end of a buffalo … ” let’s consider that Loria did hoist the World Series trophy in 2003 after changing managers in midseason.
But my quibbling about Gonzalez has less to do with his Florida days than with his background: The Braves are essentially hiring from within, and after having the same manager from June 22, 1990 to Oct. 11, 2010, this was their chance to look outside and tap someone who wasn’t immersed in The Braves’ Way Of Doing Things. Other clubs are much heavier into statistical analysis. (Terry Pendleton, the hitting coach, was actually surprised earlier this season when I mentioned that his club led the league in on-base percentage.)
The Braves’ Way worked largely because players loved playing for Bobby Cox. I’m not sure they’ll love playing for Gonzalez quite so much. That’s not a knock on the new man. It’s simply to say that there is — or was; got to get used to using the past tense — only one No. 6.
The Marlins didn't exactly leap into contention after Gonzalez was fired. At the time they were 34-36; under new manager Edwin Rodriguez, they went 46-46. In Gonzalez's (nearly) three-and-a-half seasons managing the Marlins, they won (nearly) half their games. Which seems pretty good, considering the club's payroll throughout those years.
Which is neither here nor there. Maybe the Marlins would have played a little worse without him; maybe they would have played a little better. I just want to suggest that the Braves' familiarity with Gonzalez might be a plus rather than a minus.
No, I'm not a big fan of "legacy" picks. Teams get in trouble all the time by picking someone they're supposed to pick, because of his name or his history. Call it nepotism or cronyism or nostalgia, but it's rarely a good thing.
This isn't that, though. Fredi Gonzalez never played for the Braves. He played for the Yankees. Actually, he played for the Yankees in their farm system, never reaching Triple-A. A long time ago. Gonzalez did coach for the Braves. He was their third-base coach from 2003 through 2006, during which time management presumably became quite acquainted with him ... but certainly were not beholden to him.
Management presumably does believe that he's a good fit as manager ... and that's a bad thing how, exactly? The Braves' Way of Doing Things seems to have served the organization fairly well for quite some time. No, that Way doesn't seem to include a great deal of statistical analysis ... But Gonzalez has been known to keep an open mind, and I can personally report that he attended the SABR Convention in Atlanta this summer.
Nobody can know how Gonzalez will fare in Atlanta. But I don't see any good reason to quibble with his hiring.