The Braves fire Fredi Gonzalez, and it had to happen

If the Atlanta Braves hadn’t admired Fredi Gonzalez the man, they’d have fired Fredi G. the manager a while ago. But they tried to be fair to him, which wasn’t easy: They knew they’d handed him a bad team. What made them finally decide to do the deed was that they believed this bad team was better than it had played.

We can argue the point. We can note that the Young Braves were largely made up of retreads and hadn’t-yet-beens. We can concede the Hector Olivera Experiment has been a raging success only if the idea was to embarrass the entire operation. And after we’ve done that, here would be the Braves’ rebuttal:

“If we were flat-out tanking, would we have signed so many 30-year-olds? Would we have bolstered the bullpen? Would we care about Clubhouse Presence and Playing The Game The Right Way? Would we be firing our manager if we weren’t at least trying to win a game every so often? Wouldn’t the easier course be simply to do nothing and wait until Albies/Swanson/Newcomb get here to bring Bud Black aboard?”

Again, we can quibble. Does re-hiring Jim Johnson and Eric O’Flaherty constitute a bolstering? Is there a difference between sort-of-tanking and flat-out-tanking? But here’s something you on the outside mightn’t know: It kills John Coppolella and John Hart to lose. (You should see their faces as the make their way to the press elevator after a narrow defeat. Their faces, to borrow an expression from the Brits, look like thunder.)

Yes, the Two Johns are the architects of a tear-down-to-build-up scheme that yielded tanking (or thereabouts) as collateral damage. But that doesn’t mean they want to lose 120 games. It’s mid-May, and the Braves remain on pace to break the modern record established by Marv Throneberry’s Mets of 120 losses in 162. We all knew this team would be bad. But historically horrendous?

Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella, left, sits with manager Fredi Gonzalez, before speaking with the media, before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Washington. Braves outfielder Hector Olivera was placed on paid administrative leave by Major League Baseball after he was arrested when a woman accused him of assault at a hotel outside Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

John Coppolella and his former manager. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Not all, and maybe not even most, had to do with managing. But the five narrow losses in the season’s first 10 days did nothing to make anyone believe Fredi G. was doing more with less, and then you cast your glance back to the post-July 7 Braves of last season, when 42-42 became 67-95. Yes, the Two Johns sold off Alex Wood and Luis Avilan and Juan Uribe and three guys named Johnson (Kelly, Jim and Chris). Still, a wipeout finish wasn’t out of character with Fredi G.’s teams.

His first bunch of Braves went 9-18 in September and lost a playoff berth in the 13th inning of the 162nd game. His 2014 team went 7-18 in September and blew any chance of claiming the second wild card so completely that, the day after the Braves were mathematically eliminated, general manager Frank Wren was “terminated.” Fredi G. got spared then, same as he’d been spared after the Epic Collapse. (Refresher course: On Sept. 2, 2011, the Braves led St. Louis by 8 ½ games for the then-only wild card; for a half-hour, they were the first team ever to miss the playoffs after leading by eight games in September.)

The point being: People like Fredi G. I’m among them. (Not many people liked Wren.) They tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, even when the doubt is considerable. He followed Bobby Cox and neither succeeded wildly nor flopped completely. He won one division title and took two teams to the playoffs. He’s not the world’s worst manager by any stretch. Neither is he the best.

Tony La Russa couldn’t turn these Braves into a winning team. But La Russa – or Cox, or Joe Maddon, or Buck Showalter – could have nudged these Braves a bit closer to .500. You might say that doesn’t matter, what with this second rebuilding year being another to file and forget. But the Braves are under new-ish management, and the Two Johns want to set a higher standard.

After the Braves lost 2-1 on April 21 to the Dodgers in a game started by Clayton Kershaw, Gonzalez said he was “proud of this team” for the way it “battled.” He said things like that a lot, and on that day it was semi-understandable. The beleaguered Braves managed 10 hits off the best in the business. Still, they lost.

Contrary to how it sometimes seems, the Braves are a major-league team. They’re on salary. They mightn’t have a gold-plated roster, but they’re expected to win a few games now and then. As much as we might admire Fredi G. the man for remaining upbeat, at least for public consumption, we ask: Was that the message — “I’m proud of you guys” — a 4-11 team needed to be hearing?

(That team is now 9-28 and hasn’t strung consecutive victories together in four weeks. It wasn’t getting better, folks.)

A manager can lose only so many games and tip his figurative cap to the opponent so many times before his players stop listening. A lesser man might have raged against his circumstances, but nobody had any problem with Fredi G. the man. He’s a fine fellow. But he’d become the manager of a team on pace to have a season of historic wretchedness. Change had to come. Change has.

Reader Comments 0

88 comments
neutral site
neutral site

Braves have more or less drifted downhill since John S left the GM role.


Also, folks forget the in 2006-2008, Braves sucked about like today, losing 90 games in 2008.


What the Braves are NOT is the Cards or Giants. What they are is a middling baseball operation that just can't seem to understand that what the Cards do can be emulated, the Giants not so much.

EyeRakeAdam
EyeRakeAdam

Freddi was not good. His constant meddling with the lineup and overuse of bullpen pitchers was absurd. The point of the article is that while Freddi inherited a bad team, he also has a history of being a poor manager. We need a clean start. Freddi seems like a good guy, and that is why he kept his job as long as he has. But I want our teams in Georgia to win. Why we keep accepting mediocrity with the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Bulldogs, and Yellow Jackets is beyond me. And when fans tire of it, ESPN labels us as "twitter haters" rather than "passionate fans" because we're not Boston or New York. I just want to win. Freddi was not a winner. I want a winner managing our up and coming talent.

EyeRakeAdam
EyeRakeAdam

The execs screwed up with Olivera, but most everything else has been good. Be patient.

RamonMendoza
RamonMendoza

Liberty needs to level with the fans and let them know that baseball will no longer be the company's priority going into Smyrna.

dwcunn
dwcunn

When is "teflon" John Shuerholtz going to get his share of the blame! He promoted Frank Wren to GM!

UGA75
UGA75

Okay we have gotten rid of a loser (as defined by Mark Badly) . Which begs the question, "When will the AJC fire Badly (name reflects quality of his columns)? Of all the losers in Atlanta History and we have had a bunch, I would make a case that Badly is the worst Loser in AJC history, again there are lots of candidates. Badly is wishy washy, writes columns repeating lots of comments from ESPN commentators or Fox Sports Commentators without giving them an acknowledgement. He hasn't had an original positive comment in the last 6 years, and loves to run down people better than himself (most of the human race and many pets). Ask yourself an honest question, will you miss Feddie more or would you miss Badly more if both were gone? No question most wouldn't miss either, but I'd suspect more would miss Freddie maybe 3% to 1% (vastly more fans than readership would suggest).

The 2 respective Johns did Freddie a favor, his career record was about to go in the tank. Freddie couldn't have won with the team he was given is the Angel's in the Outfield Angels showed up to help.

coachof3sports
coachof3sports

The Braves fired the Wrong two people, it should have been Johnny Hart and his son(the GM).

19palmer49
19palmer49

Schultz has it right. You should be neutered.

Joma Leonard
Joma Leonard

It didn't need to happen right now. The roster is the worst it's been since the early 90s. Can't put those failures on Fredi. That's on the inability of the players to execute at a winning level. Shameful move made today by management

Barry Pendry
Barry Pendry

No it should have happened at the end of last season.

EyeRakeAdam
EyeRakeAdam

I think the point is that it should have happened sooner. Better late than never.

Neal Mckeown
Neal Mckeown

Seriously he's probably glad it's over and not be stressed out anymore, He still gets paid what's owed to him this year on his contract which still could be a couple of million dollars

Michael Dillinger
Michael Dillinger

Yea, seriously, who in the hell would actually want this job.

Tim Chadd Sr.
Tim Chadd Sr.

How does Fredi get the boot and not the GM? He didn't trade away all the talent.

Eric C. Rodgers
Eric C. Rodgers

They need to fire Hart and Coppella as well for getting rid of the talent, claiming that the team can't afford them, and lying to the fan base that they will be with the team in 2017!!!

EyeRakeAdam
EyeRakeAdam

The talent is in the minors. Patience. You think Smoltz and Glavin and Avery just appeared out of thin air?

carpenter1944
carpenter1944

Bradly's analysis is not convincing. Freddie is no Joe Torre and quite frankly I am not convinced that he ever was a great manager. That being said, what was this guy supposed to do with the manure that he was given to manage.  He soldiered through and it was clear that he would never see the light of day in Cobb County.  Just call it what it is.  The Braves jettisoned an entire team of popular but not very good players and they will try to field something different when they open the new stadium.  Freddie did not fit into that new vision  just as Andrelton Simmons did not.  So he was a dead man walking this year no matter what.  Just don't try to convince me that this was some tough, heart rending decision by management because it was not.

ivang609
ivang609

@carpenter1944  I agree with you completely. There definitely seems to be a lot of praise for Fredi and how the Braves organization did him wrong by fielding such a poor team. But he was not a good manager. A completely different tune would be sung if he would have been fired after the 13' season when he really should have. The firing may have come late, but it was still well deserved.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Braves front office is a train wreck.  At least Fredi doesn't have to be a part of it anymore.

armchair
armchair

The Braves were a mediocre team BEFORE they traded away all their best players and brought in a bunch of nobodies. Even if one concedes that another manager might have won another, what, 3 or 4 games by now, who cares? Who wants to manage a terrible team--especially given how absurdly long the season is. That's got to prolonged torture for players, fans--and the coach. I'm sure Freddie G. is happy to be free from this mess. Wren was a disaster as GM--made a bunch of terrible deals--and the two Johns might be every bit as bad. 

DawgDean
DawgDean

Clueless John's needed a scapegoat. Everyone knows Freddy was dead before 2017 and the new digs...


AlMorris
AlMorris

This was a total classless act by the Braves and I would expect you to report it that way.  The very idea that a manager could do more with this bunch of cast-offs is ludicrous.  Your justification for the firing of Fredi plays right into the scapegoat antics of the Braves' GMs.  This is a really sad day.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I see the new manager is making quite a difference in his first inning. Should have ample opportunity to demonstrate how much better he can manage the bullpen - tonight.

Atlanta Craker
Atlanta Craker

Suck arse article Mark... Freddie is a good manager with a pile of manure for talent created by a bunch of Colorado dope smoking corporate types. F them and the Braves.



EyeRakeAdam
EyeRakeAdam

What did he ever do to prove he's a good manager?

cwoo
cwoo

Maybe you're right about Freddie, but S*itker, even in the interim?  He couldn't coach third base.

tp3125
tp3125

Fredi was not a good manger but nobody can win with this minor league team LM need to spent some money on this team and stop been cheap.

redweather
redweather

So what will Snitker have to do to vindicate this move?  Win 15 of the next 37? 

gama1mom3
gama1mom3

Fredi was the problem and he should have gotten whacked a long time ago.

Chris11165
Chris11165

Where is Skip Carey and the bad movie jokes during blow out losses when you need him....we're going to need a lot of those as this season continues to roll on - enjoy oblivion Braves Nation...you have a front office that has just gone insane....but whats worse is they lack the class to take responsibility for this awful team and made Fredi G a scapegoat today which is sad. He was probably gone anyway after this year and the right thing to have done is let him manage this team rest of 2016 and bid him adieu. I remember the Hawks have a similar year in the mid-1990s under then hall of fame coach Lennie WIlkens..they let him coach the whole year and then let him resign in dignity after the season....thats what should have been done here. Fredi G was not a HOF manager and never will be but as an organization who is supposed to act professional thats how you handle this Titantic that you yourself built.....Whiskey time...

James Bold
James Bold

Pork bellies are on the rise!!!!!

savannahgator5220
savannahgator5220

Paging all billionaires. One of your please make an offer that Liberty Media cannot refuse. In the meantime Braves fans stay away from Turner Field and SunTrust. LM only understands profits and if they start bleeding money it is the only way to get them to sell.

Don't blame Bradley or the rest of the media. If they criticize LM too much they may pull their credentials.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

The voice of God couldn't not raise this team from the dead.  This team was put together to lose and that what they are doing.

kennedys
kennedys

It's time for Ted Turner to buy the team from Liberty Media....value has to be extremely low.....or maybe Arthur Blank can buy the team !!

gheintzelman
gheintzelman

The Braves lost me when they traded Simmons.  Maybe he wasn't a great hitter, but he saved runs on the field.  A manager can only manage what is in front on him.  Fredi will have a job within the week.  Bet Bobbie Cox was not involved in this decision.  The Braves don't deserve Fredi.........he is too good for them.

slydawg
slydawg

When the team had a $100 mil plus payroll, he wasn't the manager for them then. He is not a leader of men at the professional level nor someone who inspires other players. What they should have done was fire Fredi at the end of last year or, since they waited, at the All Star break this year.

metitotktodd
metitotktodd

What is with the sports columnists in Atlanta that they refuse to criticize the entities they cover?  It's a joke.  Why no blame for Liberty Media, the owner of the Braves, that held a fire sale and traded away anyone who was any good and resorting to tanking while crying poverty.  The Braves are a laughingstock because of their OWNERS, not the coach, who couldn't do anything with the Little League team given to him.  Until we get some media in this town with some guts to criticize, the teams in this town will never be any good.

KeithBanks
KeithBanks

@khd713 @metitotktodd  Because we the fans and the ticket paying public do not want to go throw another 1970's and 1980's era where the Braves were hooooorible. I remember that. No one in their right mind wont to go through that crap ever again.

khd713
khd713

@KeithBanks @khd713 @metitotktodd Understandable – I grew up in that era. However, you should really look at what they have been doing. The arsenal of arms they have stockpiled is pretty amazing. In a few years this team is going to be really good. There are no guarantees, but I really don't think you have to worry about returning to the '70s-'80s era. 

khd713
khd713

@metitotktodd Because what the general management (not owners) of the team is doing is the right thing, and it's going to pay off big time in a few years. Fredi was expected to take a sub-standard lineup and at least tread water for a while, but he hasn't been able to do that. He wasn't expected to win the division with this "Little League" team, but he was expected to have them at least sniffing a .500 record, which was not an unreasonable expectation given that Fredi's own managing blunders have cost them somewhere between 5-10 wins. Why can't you understand that?

EyeRakeAdam
EyeRakeAdam

I agree completely. There have been great moves made (Olivera as a 30 year old rookie was a head scratcher with a young team). Is Fredi the reason this team is bad? No. But he should have been fired long ago. Better to start looking to the future now and get away from his lefty/righty obsession and need to throw six pitchers a night.