I’ve been a pretty vociferous supporter of Fredi Gonzalez these past few years. This past week or so has been a realization that I was in a state of denial. I wanted to give Fredi the benefit of the doubt during the Wren administration and chances to prove me right.
I guess you could say that I have had my “come to Jesus moment”. Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny made that ostensibly clear and exposed the sad truth that I have been apparently blind to see. I have said on numerous occasions that Fredi can’t play the game for the players.
The players have to execute on the field. No, he can’t control the errors that Erik Aybar has made, or the swing and misses with runners on base, or the strike outs looking with the bases loaded to end innings.
What he can control is the players he puts in the lineup and in what situations to put them if. Execution of critical, circumstantial situations and decisions are shall I say, lacking.
I fear that the pulse of the team is dying and we’re about one rubbing of the paddles and a “CLEAR!” away from life support. Bobby Cox will never allow the plug to be pulled. We all know that Fredi Gonzalez is a great guy. But he’s Bobby’s guy. He’s not Hart’s guy nor Coppy’s guy. This team, though, needs a great baseball guy leading the charge into SunTrust Park and 2017.
Hart and Coppy need to override Bobby and find a diamond in the rough. Though they may not have to look too far. Some guy named Eddie something-or-other sits down in the bullpen every day. Eddie has been here since seemingly day one. And he put on one hell of an audition over the winter.
But this season’s early woes can’t be completely shouldered by Fredi. No, a lot of it has to be taken on by the players. This team could easily be 3-4 as opposed to 0-7. Granted, that’s still a losing record, but competitive is what we were told. Anyway …
In 2015, Atlanta began the year 5-0. In 2016, they have started 0-7. A lot has changed in terms of personnel since then. Aybar was billed as a better hitter than Simba, but the severe drop in defense has plagued the Braves early on. Ender Inciarte is head and shoulders above what we had in the leadoff spot last year and CF, but now he’s down and we have Drew Stubbs (Mallex Smith has since been called up). The 2015 team though, could at least field the baseball.
And now we’ve lost Hector Olivera for the foreseeable future … I’m not touching his situation with a 30 foot pole.
Our best hitters right now are Adonis Garcia and as of Sunday, Nick Markakis. Our bullpen was supposed to be stronger than last year. Even before the injuries began (and having to say that one week in is discouraging enough), the starters and the relievers have been morbidly ineffective.
Last nights pulling of Jhoulys Chacin was one step forward, two step back kind of move. Many of us understood the difficulty level involved with the decision. Pulling him when he did was, I feel, the right move (one step forward). However, who he sent to the plate was not (Jace Peterson and two steps back).
On another front, this team lacks leadership. Leadership can come in many different forms: The quiet leader, the vocal leader, the example setter. The closest thing we have to a leader right now is Nick Markakis. He isn’t a vocal leader; he doesn’t get in people’s faces. He does his leading quietly and by example. What’s even sadder, is we sometimes get more emotion and enthusiasm out of the players.
I believe that players are a reflection of their manager or coach. If you have a leader at the helm, then you’ll have players that want to emulate and take on the role themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t think Fredi possess the leadership qualities this club needs. I know with replay that the need to argue is all but a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean you become a mute on the bench.
When Bobby was in the dugout, you didn’t have to be at the game to hear him hootin’ and hollerin’ in support of his guys. You could hear him on TV. His players played the way they did for him, because they loved and respected him. He stood up for them. It wasn’t always about being right or wrong, it was about loyalty and leadership and fire. The 2016 Braves are devoid of that fire. Eddie Perez is the kind of guy that brings fire.
If you’re all in on a rebuild, then go all in, manager included. Weld the iron together, leave the duct tape in the drawer.