The Braves have had the same formula for the past 20 years. Scout well, acquire good starting pitchers, and have a manager who can get the most out of the 25-man roster. The decision to pick Fredi Gonzalez as the next manager is of no surprise, Gonzalez coached in Atlanta for years before his first managing gig with Florida, but is it the right decision?
Bobby Cox will go down as one of the top managers to ever live. It is true, he is one of the best ever. He was able to get almost every player behind him each and every season. He commanded the respect of the veteran players, who made sure the young rookies and new acquisitions respected him in the same manner. Gonzalez operates in a similar way, and as long as Chipper Jones is still around, the players will respect and listen to the coach.
The problem becomes after Chipper leaves. Gonzalez's most notable attribute is his command of a clubhouse, something he did extremely well in Florida aside from one incident from a star player. Cox had his problems, especially with shortstop Yunel Escobar, so no manager will be able to keep all of his players under control at all times. Will Gonzalez command the same level of respect as Bobby? No, because nobody to put on a manager's uniform will, at least none in the foreseeable future.
This is where one of the biggest problems arises. With that portion of the managerial job likely being at least a bit worse from Bobby to Fredi, it comes down to in-game decisions. Gonzalez is no wizard with in-game management decisions. He is not a great strategist. He does not handle starting staffs or relievers particularly well. What the Braves are getting is basically a poor man's Bobby Cox. On its face, that sounds terrific. But as we have seen over the past 20 years, simply getting to the playoffs is a task in itself, but winning in the playoffs is a whole different story.
Bobby Cox retired at just 20-31 in one run post-season games. There is a reason for this. His strategies have flaws, as do his decisions with the bullpen. For a majority of Bobby's tenure, the Braves struggled in the bullpen. That could be credited more towards the general managers, but it is not as if there weren't quality arms in the bullpen most of the years. We saw in this post-season alone a bullpen decision that may have cost the Braves a game and potentially the series.
Gonzalez's management decisions have been embedded by Cox. The very problem that the Braves have ran into over the past 20 seasons, the inability to win the big one -- aside from a terrific 1995 season -- will likely remain a problem under the new manager.
A general manager can only do so much. He can acquire the talent necessary to build a winning team, but the managers have to make correct and sound decisions in the playoffs for the season to end with a victory in October.
The manager has to be able to look ahead and view the numbers, finding out which matchup makes more sense based on facts and not on feelings. This is where Gonzalez will struggle, and it is the main reason that hiring him to maintain the status quo is a decision which may cost the Braves in the long run.