Gonzalez Managing for Future of Atlanta Braves and His Career


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Fresh off of a weekend sweep of the Miami Marlins, the Atlanta Braves have clawed their way back to just one game under .500 (18-19) and sit just four games out of the N.L. East division lead. With the season nearly a quarter of the way over, it is fair to say the Braves resiliency and performance has been pleasantly surprising.

Andrelton Simmons has found his stroke, Freddie Freeman is turning in another terrific season and the team finally has an ace in Shelby Miller, who came just one out shy of a no-hitter Sunday afternoon. While the team has maintained relevance the players deserve plenty of credit for performing, but Fredi Gonzalez might just be having his best managerial year to date.

When Gonzalez took over the Atlanta Braves after a brief stop as the Marlins skipper, he was filling in the large shoes of one of the greatest managers of all time in Bobby Cox. The beloved Atlanta manager remains active in the organization and sternly supports Gonzalez as the man for the job.

Since taking over in 2011, Gonzalez’s teams have been all over the map, including a team that crumbled down the stretch, a division winner and a team in 2014 that pretty much just stunk for the majority of the season. While the results were varied the message was clear for all of those teams: win. This season, the message seems anything but clear.

Before the season the Braves traded away several of their best players, including the infamous Craig Kimbrel trade on the eve of opening day, accruing a pantry stocked full of promising young players in return. Gonzalez now sits in the final year of his contract, being given a chance to show the new front office tandem of John Hart and John Coppolella (assistant under Frank Wren) what he can do with a vastly different roster.

The 2015 season is just 37 games old and the Braves have already had seven players make their major league debut and the team’s 40-man roster features over 20 players age 25 or younger.

On the one hand, a roster flooded with youth offers a chance to show off managerial chops. On the other hand, is it really fair to ask a manager to win with such little experience on his team? In short, the answer is no. It is not fair. But I also don’t think Fredi Gonzalez needs to win 95 games this year to keep his job.

Overall, Gonzalez has to this point earned mostly passing grades with fans. This is the season, for fans and front office officials alike, where he will earn the ultimate pass or fail grade and his future with the organization will be determined.

His major focus is simply to just show tangible results. Get the young players to show development in positive directions and manage the veterans in a positive fashion. Can he get the most out of the players he’s been given? That is the task assigned to every manager, after all.

Although it’s early, I think the answer is clearly yes. He has not been afraid to play the hot hand (A.J. Pierzynski) and has shown the ability to guide players through slumps early in the season (Jace Peterson and Cameron Maybin). Gonzalez has also shown patience where it was necessary with a young pitching staff, but has made moves when he has had to (Trevor Cahill and Eric Stults).

As a team, the Braves have indeed shown marked improvement offensively and may have a gem in new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer while featuring one of the best pitching coaches in the league in Roger McDowell. 

As a whole, Gonzalez’s team has shown some real improvement in key areas, offering all concerned some much needed hope. Most important of all, they have refused to believe that they cannot win.

The long term future of the Braves looks promising, and Fredi Gonzalez is doing his best to make sure he is a part of it.