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O’Brien: Fredi Gonzalez is “a pretty good manager”

May 31, 2013, 8:15 PM EDT

Fredi Gonzalez Getty Images

In a scathing column directed at Braves bloggers, the AJC’s David O’Brien spent a great deal of time setting up and then knocking down a plethora of strawman arguments supposedly made by Braves bloggers and Tweeters. Gonzalez has been the target of criticism ever since he took over for Bobby Cox in 2011.

Look at the wording O’Brien uses in his column:

The most predictable tweets and blog comments today and — depending upon game results — later tonight will come from a segment of the audience that’s convinced itself that Fredi Gonzalez does nothing right (at least not on purpose).

“Will blame”. “Surely will complain”. “Watch the anti-Fredi contingent twist itself into pretzels arguing”.

O’Brien then defends Gonzalez because the Braves have a good record in an arbitrarily-selected period of time, because Gonzalez is bilingual, and because Cox was also the target of criticism during his tenure. It’s just a very curious column overall, one that is very unconvincing.

I cannot speak to the day-to-day strategical decisions made by the Braves’ skipper (Craig can do that), but I do notice a lot of parallels to the praise Phillies manager Charlie Manuel received from the Philadelphia media between the time the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 until they disappointed in the NLDS in 2011. In fact, almost the same exact arguments O’Brien uses in favor of Gonzalez were used by Stan Hochman to praise Manuel back in 2011, just to cite one example.

But Manuel’s flaws are plenty — he is easily one of the worst managers in terms of decision-making. He refuses to use closer Jonathan Papelbon in non-save situations on the road, he has a strong aversion to platoon match-ups (only exacerbated by the same aversion of GM Ruben Amaro), and he is unable to enforce scheduled off-days for oft-injured stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley despite insistence they would get more rest. The Phillies media, for the most part, either did not recognize these as flaws or ignored them due to the club’s success. Over the past year and a half, though, Manuel has been criticized quite a bit by the same Philly media that was quick to defend him. The Phillies teams circa  2008-11 were good enough to hide Manuel’s flaws; now that the team is weaker in almost every way, his shortcomings are much more apparent.

It seems like the media ebbs and flows between deifying and dethroning managers. It’s not the media’s job to do either. And there’s a difference between rebutting criticism and deifying. Citing team wins since last July 4 and praising bilingualism is about as close to deifying as you can get, at least as far as baseball managers go.

Manuel, by the way, can speak Japanese.

  1. The Goche - May 31, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    DOB : analysis :: Fredi : management.

  2. jjschiller - May 31, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    DOB lost all his credibility with regard to the new manager, before Fredi managed a single game, when they went on their little roller skating date. Erm, motorcycle date. A multi part series of articles, designed to show us the human side of the new manager.

    The “media” that covers the Braves patently refuses to ask questions that their scared will make Fredi mad. Not even a “you went to the right side armer with a lefty and a switch hitter due up. The 8th was his no matter what?” Just pretend it never happened.

    The cower to court access, and then they have the nerve to move their “work” behind a pay wall.

    In North Korea, all you can get is state media. At least they don’t ask you to pay for it..

    • yahmule - May 31, 2013 at 11:30 PM

      Someone dares to charge for their original content on the entitlenet?

      • jjschiller - Jun 1, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        You’re smart enough to get my point.

  3. randygnyc - May 31, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Only because both were mentioned in the article, I’ll throw this out there;
    Yesterday, between 1:45pm and 6:19pm, Charlie Manuel forgot more about the game of baseball than Fredi Gonzalez will ever know, even with the advantage of a handheld, wifi connected Ipad.

    • dan1111 - Jun 1, 2013 at 2:04 AM

      If that is the case, the Phillies are now in even bigger trouble.

      At least they will be able to make a by turns funny and heartwarming movie about Manuel’s sudden amnesia and slow return to managerial success.

      Here is one snippet. It comes right after the scene where Cole Hamels throws 372 pitches because Manuel doesn’t remember what a pitching change (or a pitch) is. The game mercifully ends in the seventh inning due to rain, with a score of 83-2.

      Ryan Howard: [Holds a baseball in Manuel’s face] Don’t you know what this is? Don’t you remember? Your whole life is in this thing! It’s a BASEBALL!

      Charlie Manuel: Base…ball?

      Howard: The pitcher throws it past the batter. The batter tries to hit it. If he hits it, he runs the bases and tries to make it home.

      Manuel: Why?

      Howard: [Shakes his head in concern] We need you to make it home if we are going to have any shot this year.

  4. melkipershero - May 31, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Anyone else hear BJ Upton may be asked to go to the minors? The Braves did a very un-Brave like move with his contract. Looks Adam Dunnish so far

    • yahmule - May 31, 2013 at 11:31 PM

      He has always been grotesquely overrated.

  5. kiwicricket - May 31, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    Fredi ‘Mr Squeeze Bunt’ Gonzalez is noticeably wrong more often than most other managers. Reasonably fair to call him a bad manager due to things like that.

  6. dondada10 - May 31, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    As a Mets fan, I’ve seen a lot of Fredi. My impression after all these years of him being an opposing manager is that he’s a dolt. He seems to manage to suppress the big inning.

  7. Craig Calcaterra - May 31, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    Fredi is not a good strategic manager. He has had some talented teams who have basically played to around their talent level. He abused arms a couple years ago but has gotten better. He is like Manuel in that there isn’t much drama, and at least that’s ok.

    O’Brien and the rest of the AJC crew are total sycophants.

    • dlf9 - Jun 1, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      Fredi worked V-O’F-K very hard two years ago, but really has not done so since then.

      The talent on last years team should have had the team around 4th in the division following Washington, Philly, and the Reyes/Ramirez/Buerhle/Johnson/etc. Marlins. The Braves best hitter was 40 and could only be counted on for 110 games. The only other bet for a good season came from the catcher and the RF and a team expecting good hitting from behind the plate is often disappointed. The pitching staff was Hudson and a bunch of semi-prospects. Then they lost their SS and best pitcher mid-way into the year. And yet they made the playoffs.

      The year before the club’s talent was, if anything, even less impressive on paper. Fredi rode — perhaps overrode – an amazing bullpen and zippo else into September and made it to game 162 before not quite making it.

      The players love him and there is never any drama off the field.

      I remember far too many comments about “Booby” nitpicking his fondness for Keith Lockhart or willingness to platoon Ryan Klesko. Fans tend to look far too much at the micro managing issues and fail to see the big picture. Is Fredi as good as Bobby Cox? Certainly not yet and probably never will be. But obsessing about lineup construction in May misses the point.

    • realgone2 - Jun 1, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Craig hit the nail on the head with the AJC/O’Brien comment.

    • misterj167 - Jun 1, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      “O’Brien and the rest of the AJC crew are total sycophants.”

      I agree wholeheartedly, and it’s not just for the Braves, it’s for all Atlanta sports teams. Unlike in cities like NY or Philly, the media in Atlanta is much more consolidated and much less tolerant of any criticism. The only outlet that did things differently was 790, run by Steve Shapiro, and since I haven’t been in Atlanta for the last few years I have no idea if they’ve been brought into that fold, too.

      For the record, I think Fredi is a good manager, but not a great one. Like Cox, I think he looks at the season as a whole rather than short-term goals, and while that will keep the Braves competitive, it’s doubtful he will do anything to take them to that next level. But I think he’s improving and I think the fact that the Braves will have stability in the manager position (while he may not be a great manager, I can’t see him doing anything that would get him fired) is a good thing.

      But eventually it still falls on the players. It doesn’t matter how much you pay someone, if they can’t hit at least .200 they don’t deserve to be a starter, period. I realize there’s pressure to play these big contract stars, but the reality on the field is that three guys are hurting the team and we will be better if they ride the bench until they remember how to hit.

  8. Walk - May 31, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    I lost respect for gonzalez when he started batting his pitcher eighth in a past season. I am against the pitcher batting eight, but there are good reasons for it. What got to me was that when he was asked about the move and why he did it he said he did not know why but that tony larussa had done it so he was doing it. He had no reason to make that move other than another manager had done it so it must be ok to do. Very much a face palm moment for me. It has not gotten any better. We now have one less pitcher than needed in the bullpen, one more outfielder on the roster, and a third catcher. Roster construction is not 100% a managers responsibility but he can easily advocate for a trade or sending a guy down and bringing another up. Hopefully alex wood coming up last night is the beginning of fixing the roster issues.

  9. chrisdtx - May 31, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    YO CARSH. I think DOB was pointing his (rather stupid and sycophantic) invective at blog *commenters*, not bloggers themselves. Important distinction, I think.

    • realgone2 - Jun 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      He was chris. I used to go to that blog a lot. There are nutjobs on there, but if you even remotely question a Braves’ decision you get a smart ass reply from him. It’s like discussing music with an elitist hipster and you questioned his favorite bands new concept album. I stopped going to his blog a few years ago.

  10. Kevin Gillman - May 31, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    Let’s be honest here guys, Fredi Gonzales replaced a legend in Bobby Cox. Of course he is going to get criticized, yet here are the Braves standing on top of the NL East. He has also had to deal with many injuries this season, including to one of his best relief pitchers in Johnny Venders, and here the Braves are standing on top of the NL East.

    I mean, what are the complaints again? That the Braves lost three in a row once? Every team has done that.

    • djpostl - Jun 1, 2013 at 3:24 AM

      Look at how they mop up teams below .500 (20-6) and win about 40% of their games vs teams over .500 (12-16, with 6 of those wins vs teams at .500 or 1 game above it).

      Speaks volumes about the smoke and mirrors this team is comprised of.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jun 1, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        You are supposed to take care of teams that are under .500, and play .500 against the very good teams. Now, .400 is certainly not .500, but if you win a few more games here and there, that number can easily be reached. But you still have to win, period. No matter what team you are playing. You do realize before Bobby Cox became manager, the Braves had horrible teams in the 80’s, right? Would you rather have those teams, or teams that contend every year and have a chance at the World Series, NOW?

  11. Walk - Jun 1, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    Fredi helped his case tonight. He brought in bl upton and took gattis out of the game. Bj then forces Soriano to throw three pitches in the vicinity of home plate giving brian McCann a better chance with an obviously tiring Soriano. Copy and paste that for tomorrow’s headline in the ajc.

    • realgone2 - Jun 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      hahahahah the no spin zone.

  12. realgone2 - Jun 1, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    The AJC is like Pravda. The front office is never wrong. They never make a bad trade or signing. The manager at the time is always good and is the subject of unfair criticism. Dave O’Brien will stop at nothing to not offend anyone on the Braves or the office for fear of losing “his hook up”. He then calls anyone who questions their moves “doomsayer” and argumentative. He’s pathetic.

  13. Walk - Jun 1, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    If I remember correctly, in a rush to put out stories the ajc has printed stories before the signings were complete and cost the braves free agents. Ken Griffey jr was set to sign with the braves. When the story broke about his signing, before he actually signed, he changed his mind. That was my face palm moment for the ajc.

  14. resq1975 - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    My biggest gripe with Fredi is keeping Uggla in the line up. If he’s going to platoon players, I’m sure there is a second baseman some where who can hit .200 with a decent glove. Other than his 30+ game hitting streak a few years ago, he’s been a huge dissapointment. He’s got a good glove, but we were told to expect a hitter. I know we’re stuck with him because he came from Miami with Fredi.

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