Fredi Gonzalez has been a common punching bag for Atlanta Braves over the last handful of years but, until now, there has been little reason to suspect that the team's manager has been anything but supported by his players. That has, unfortunately for Gonzalez, come to an end according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Rosenthal weighed in on the Braves collapse, and while he absolved Gonzalez from full blame given the lack of talent on the roster, some of his report was scathing, including the fact that the manager "essentially has lost the clubhouse":
One theory on why the Braves extended manager Fredi Gonzalez through next season is that they wanted him to serve as a one-year bridge to the opening of their new ballpark in 2017. Once Gonzalez completed that task, the team could thank him for his services, then enter the new park with a more heralded manager.
Such an idea makes sense, considering that '16 probably is a lost cause for the Braves, anyway. But I've been hearing all season that players are frustrated with Gonzalez, that he essentially has lost the clubhouse. If that is the case, why should president of baseball operations John Hart wait to make a change? And why did he give Gonzalez an extension in the first place?
Given that his reputation as a "player's manager" is one of the bedrocks of his managerial profile, this is particularly damaging for Gonzalez. He has struggled with bullpen management and lineup construction throughout his tenure, and as a strategic manager, Gonzalez leaves a lot to be desired.
Still, the background of Atlanta's overall plan to compete in 2017 rather than pushing for a playoff run in 2016 runs perpendicular to the thought that the team should part ways with Gonzalez. On top of that, the money tied to the recently-signed extension would cast yet another barrier in the way of a managerial change.
Rosenthal ends his Braves snippet with this, however:
The Braves talk about becoming the next Royals, the next Pirates, the next Astros, the next Cubs. All of that is fine, but with their trades they essentially purchased one tech stock after another. Some will hit, some will not, but lots of luck if the plan is to compete by '17. And if the manager is doing more harm than good.
The front office must decide if Gonzalez is the right voice for 2016, and even if they aren't intent on competing next season, is it worth alienating the handful of players who will be factors in 2017? We will see.