October 6, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) during practice before the Braves play against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Manager of Year? The Case for Fredi


On November 12, 6:00 PM EST, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America will present their annual major awards, and among several names we hoped to see as finalists from the Atlanta Braves’ Organization, only Fredi Gonzalez is among the finalists.  Braves’ fans hoped that Freddie Freeman would be a finalist for NL MVP, and it was hoped that Craig Kimbrel might be the first closer to win a Cy Young since Eric Gagne did so with the Dodgers in 2003.  Alas, for Freeman and Kimbrel, it wasn’t to be, but Fredi Gonzalez will be a finalist for NL Manager of the Year!

I support the Braves, and so I support and hope for the success of Fredi Gonzalez as manager of the Braves.  Having said that though, no one has been more critical of Fredi Gonzalez than myself.  All season long I was frustrated with some of the decisions that were made, but I realize that many of those decisions were made by higher powers than Fredi, and in the end, when you look at the amazing job Fredi did with this club in the midst of all their struggles, Fredi is certainly deserving of being a finalist for the coveted NL Manager of the Year Award.

In three seasons as the manager of the Atlanta Braves, the team has improved each season.  Fredi led the Braves to 89 wins in his first season with the club in 2011, improved that record in 2012 to 94 wins, and this past season – 96 wins and a divisional title!  What’s even more impressive was Fredi’s ability to lead the Braves to that sort of success in 2013 while juggling a myriad of injuries, some that were season-ending injuries to key players, and dealing with other key players’ continuous struggles.

The Braves’ paid dearly for B.J. Upton, and then paid dearly at times by continuing to play him when he couldn’t make contact with the broad side of a barn!  Playing B.J. Upton as often as they did  was one of those decisions I mentioned earlier, that game-in and game-out I took exception to.  Another was waiting almost all year to finally decide to sit Dan Uggla for the playoffs, when he’d struggled mightily all season long.  As bad as all that seemed though, Fredi juggled players, platooned like a season pro, and made difficult decisions when he needed to.  We can debate forever how far the Braves might have gone if some decisions had been made differently, or earlier, but it’s difficult to argue with the success of a division title, and 96 wins.

It wasn’t just the decisions that had to be made with struggling players though, as Fredi Gonzalez also had to be decidedly creative and strategic when losing, for the season, Tim Hudson, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and Ramiro Pena, as well as dealing with a literal ton of other injuries with other players.  It’s difficult to be too critical of Fredi for continuing to play the struggling Uggla in light of the loss of a solid second baseman like Pena.  The Braves also lost solid relief pitchers in Venters and O’Flaherty, but Fredi weathered those storms, filled their spots admirably, and the bullpen remained much stronger than anyone thought they would.  The loss of Tim Hudson to a fractured ankle was a huge blow, but again Fredi made good decisions, asked a number of young starters and veterans alike to step up in starter roles, and the Braves got the job done!

Despite the season long criticism of many of the moves the Braves made, you don’t win 96 games and win your first division title since 2005 unless you know how to manage a team.  Fredi’s stoic position at the helm of every game, his stalwart ability to stick to his guns amid all the criticism, and his continuing improvement each season amid epic struggles set him apart.  Fredi might not win the NL Manager of Year Award, but if not, it certainly won’t be because he doesn’t deserve it.

Tags: Atlanta Braves FanSided

  • Brandon_Woodworth

    I think I just vomited. No. I do not support Fredi as a manager. He has repeatedly shown things like poor bullpen management and being too slow to adapt and change(it took like 4 months of Simmons leading off for him to put Heyward there). Fredi G is a remnant of an era of baseball that doesn’t exist anymore(the Cox’s, the Leyland’s, the Davey’s, the Pinella’s, the Torre’s; all gone, probably for the better). He is trying to be Bobby Cox’s ghost, and nobody can be that way any more. If you pay attention to the some of the best managers in the game at the moment, I’m talking the Joe Maddon’s, the John Farrell’s, even the Mike Matheney’s, you can see how much they fine tune their teams on the fly, game by game.

    If baseball were played on paper, Fredi G would be the best of them. But it isn’t that way anymore. The game is much faster now. Mike Scioscia has been subject to this criticism for a long time, and the respect the organization has for him is likely the only reason he still holds his job.

    • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

      In the immortal words of Garth, “here, spew into this”.

  • aRunning_Maniac

    “Fredi led the Braves to 89 wins in his first season with the club in 2011, improved that record in 2012 to 94 wins, and this past season – 96 wins and a divisional title!”

    If we’re going to say Fredi led those teams to those records, then it’s fair to say that he also led that 89 win team to one of the worst September collapses ever. They also happened to stumble rather hard this past September, to the point where they lost HFA to the Cardinals with only two days remaining in the season. If I didn’t know any better, I would say Fredi’s lack of urgency has hurt his team multiple times.

    With that said, one cannot deny that Fredi has made some decent decisions throughout the regular seasons, but it seems like for every good decision he makes, he then turns around and makes two bad ones. As Brandon_Woodworth alluded to, Fredi’s bullpen management and lineup decisions are often head scratching, and even maddening at times. But what does that matter as long as they’re putting up 94 & 96 win seasons, right? One epic collapse and two quick postseason exits, but hey, those 90+ wins are nice.

    The point is, with the kind of talent this team has, are 90+ win seasons enough? It’s been three seasons, and the Braves have come out on top in ONE postseason game. One. Is that a reflection of the players or of the manager? Both?

    I look at Fredi Gonzalez and see a guy that is in over his head, someone that doesn’t possess the moxie to lead a team to a World Series title. He’s predictable, slow to react, and often seems perplexed in what to do next… he is… a NL Manager of the Year nominee? Oh.

    • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

      Look, it’s true that whether the boat sinks or not, the captain goes down with it, or is victorious in saving it. People can argue all day about management styles, outcomes, decisions, etc., but whether or not anyone personally likes Fredi, the fact remains that he is a finalist for MotY. Does he deserve it? Clearly some think not, and as I said in the article, no one has been anymore critical of Fredi than myself. I set that aside though when thinking about this particular award, because it’s not about the season outcome as much as it is about how well you managed and juggled in the midst of adversity, and so often being dangled like a puppet on a string by higher powers. I think Frank Wren micro manages much more than most GMs do, and many of Fredi’s seeming decisions were not actually made by him. I could poke holes in comments made here all day (some of it pure nonsense), but it’s pointless – because you either like Fredi or not, like his style of management or don’t. That’s probably why, appropriately, fans don’t get to vote on such things. It’s a touch too easy to throw out names like Matheney or Farrell, but you don’t win this award simply because you got to the series. Lastly, I cannot imagine anyone being critical of a Bobby Cox. That’s laughable. It’s as if some think that getting to the series is the only factor to apply when winning this award.

      Finally.. and I don’t really feel like arguing about this much as it’s not really worth much of my time – I have to say that no manager would have put in Jhey at leadoff any faster than Fredi did. He’s not a prototypical leadoff guy, and was used only when all other typical leadoff hitters failed. How well Jhey did at that spot in the lineup was a complete surprise to everyone.

      I don’t think Fredi wins this, but as I said, he’s a finalist whether anyone thinks he’s deserving or not.

  • fireboss

    “I’d rather be lucky than good” Lefty Gomez
    As a manager Fredi is a good third base coach. His inability to find a lineup and stay with it until halfway through the season is evidence that he’s guessing not planning. He doesn’t react quickly to situations that can change a game and often got out managed.The Braves played in a weak the division. The Mets and Marlins essentially fielded AAA teams, the Phillies aging lineup couldn’t score runs and the Nationals inexplicably collapsed like a wet napkin. Their record against those teams reflects a lot of wins against bullpens that were awful. The Mets and Phillies in particular could easily have been 500 records. That had nothing to do with Fredi.
    While Fredi got better in some ways this year – you almost have to improve some after being in the job for three years – he’s still inept under pressure; not Mattingly inept though separating the two would be like picking fly poop out of black pepper. One simply has to listen to him talk about the game to know he hasn’t figured it out and won’t; he’s the Peter Principle personified.

    Clint Hurdle is the manager of the year with Mike Matheny close behind. Fredi is a nice guy but not manager of the year.

    • Brandon_Woodworth

      Hurdle and Farrell are. I don’t see how either haven’t already been given the award.

    • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

      Fred, how you describe Fredi is the same way I’ve described him countless times, but I suppose I have a need to play the devil’s advocate at times, and I’m trying to do so here. It’s easy to be an armchair manager watching games from the home dugout, but none of us really know Fredi, know his acumen beyond what we see and interpret with our eyes, and judgments are easy to make. I agree Hurdle should win the award this year, hands down, but I love sparking debate.

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  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    You kinda feel like he has no shot at this, but you gotta tip you cap to the guy who does – he’s a special kind of manager out there.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    You kinda feel like he has no shot at this, but you gotta tip you cap to the guy who does – he’s a special kind of manager out there.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    You kinda feel like he has no shot at this, but you gotta tip you cap to the guy who does – he’s a special kind of manager out there.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    You kinda feel like he has no shot at this, but you gotta tip you cap to the guy who does – he’s a special kind of manager out there.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    You kinda feel like he has no shot at this, but you gotta tip you cap to the guy who does – he’s a special kind of manager out there.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    You kinda feel like he has no shot at this, but you gotta tip you cap to the guy who does – he’s a special kind of manager out there.