At the end of the disastrous 2015 season, members of the Atlanta Braves’ front office faced the media and fans and said the franchise had hit rock bottom. After starting the season with a 42-42 record, the team collapsed and went just 25-53 the rest of the way, and the suits promised it would never get that bad again.
Through Wednesday night, the Braves are 0-8, and despite the promises of last fall, it absolutely looks worse than the 2015 season. This roster, in its current form, is not capable of taking on major league opponents. They can’t hit, they can’t pitch and they can’t field.
These are all facts – glaring holes that would prevent any and every Major League Baseball franchise from winning. So it might come as a surprise to some that there’s already chatter in Atlanta about getting rid of manager Fredi Gonzalez.
If you were going to defend Gonzalez, you’d probably say something like, “What could this guy actually do to get this roster to play winning baseball?” You wouldn’t be wrong – there’s not much he can do. Most starters on this team would be utility guys or pinch hitters on mediocre teams, and they probably wouldn’t make a decent squad at all.
Conversely, if you were to turn on the manager and call for his firing, you’d argue that even though this team is a long way from being good, a strong manager would be capable of eking out a few more wins here or there to make a lost season more respectable. Gonzalez has already been criticized for several in-game decisions in the first eight games of the season, moves that, if corrected, may have given this team a slightly better record than the 0-8 mark they’ve surely earned.
But, as Deadspin said: “It’s hard to effectively manage a team this bad. Every night, Gonzalez is going to be faced with what are essentially lose-lose decisions. Do I bring my bad hitter off the bench, or let my worse hitter swing away? Which of my not-very-good relievers should I use in this situation?”
If you’re going to fire the leader of that team, he just might thank you for it.
Personally, I think the Braves need to find a manager who’s a proven winner, someone that can lead the youngsters and ensure they come into the bigs the right way when that time comes. They should do what the Chicago Cubs did when they hired Joe Maddon or what the Detroit Tigers did when they brought in Jim Leyland several years ago.
But here’s the problem: you’re not going to get someone like that to start in the middle of the season. Those guys don’t want to take over someone else’s team. If you want to make sure you get the right manager for what will be an attractive job – and it will be a very attractive job – it would be better to make a move in the offseason.
If the Braves don’t start winning games soon, I believe there’s a decent chance Gonzalez will lose his job. Remember – the guys in charge promised fans the 2015 season was the low-water mark, and if the 2016 campaign ends up being worse, someone has to fall on the sword. Trust me, they’ll look to the manager first.
An interim manager for the rest of this season would be an option at that point, but by all means, the Braves’ front office needs to take the time to find the next leader of this team – someone capable of bringing a championship to Atlanta once all the pieces are finally in place. Winning is hard, and they can’t afford to mess up the next few years.
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