If the Atlanta Braves don't make the playoffs, many fans will call for Freddi Gonzalez's job.
I think that's a given considering the fact that the Braves had the second-worst September collapse in baseball history. Oddly enough, they're second to the Boston Red Sox, who only had a half-game more of a collapse than the Braves did.
Knowing that, it begs the question: Do the Braves make a change at manager if they don't make the playoffs this year?
Honestly, I think it would be a huge mistake if the Braves did that.
Although Bobby Cox is a Hall-of-Fame manager, Braves brass was very patient with him when they had a few years where they didn't make the playoffs. I think it was ironic they made the playoffs in his last season with the team, although I think there was a little more motivation to win in Bobby's final year.
When Gonzalez was hired days after Bobby's last game, many thought they had a manager that would be in Atlanta for the next decade or two.
It's amazing how one season changes all of that.
I'll go ahead and say that I do believe the Braves will make the playoffs this year. You can bet that as it reaches September, the Braves won't be taking any lead for granted, and will give their full effort for all 162 games.
However, should the Braves falter and not make the playoffs, I think firing Gonzalez would be the worst mistake the Braves could make—well, other than allowing Liberty Media to become their owners.
One thing that goes unnoticed by many people is how he relates to the players. Not to mention the fact that he's bilingual and can communicate more effectively with his players.
When you look at Gonzalez's managerial record, it looks unimpressive from the outside. But, considering the three-plus years he spent with the Florida, now Miami, Marlins, all you have to do is look at the payroll the Marlins had, and the fact that he was only three games under .500 during that entire time frame is just simply amazing.
From 2007-10, the team had team payrolls of $30.5 million (ranked 29th in MLB), $21.8 million (dead last), $36.8 million (dead last) and $55.6 million (26th). So, three games under .500 is not bad considering those numbers.
Now, with the Braves, Gonzalez deals with the 15th-highest payroll and eighth-highest in the National League.
Plus, throw in the fact that the Braves dealt with injuries to key players, especially in their pitching staff, and you can say that their collapse was expected—well, unless you're one of those who thinks that just because they're the Braves, they shouldn't have those.
Regardless of what the Braves do this year, Gonzalez shouldn't be put on the hot seat.
Just like any coach in any professional league, unless you are absolutely horrible and lose two-thirds more games than you win, then you should be given the benefit of the doubt in your first two seasons with the team.
Give Gonzalez this year and next, and if you're still not happy with the job he's doing, then start calling for his job.
But, two years is not exactly enough of a sample to decide if he deserves to keep his job or not.
If you think it is, take this stat into account. In his first stint with the Braves, Cox went 135-187. In his second stint (1990-91), Cox went 134-125.
So, give Gonzalez time and he'll have the Braves back in the playoffs for years to come.
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