|Posted by theprincipality on June 22, 2016 at 8:10 AM|
It has been a couple of months since my last blog, which is a long time in the baseball world. It has probably been an even longer time for Braves fans as we go through this self-titled rebuilding year. Since my last one, the Braves were bad, got worse, fired Fredi Gonzalez, promoted Brian Snitker and are now riding a season-high 6 game winning streak. Freddie Freeman has burst into life, becoming the first Brave to hit for the cycle in 8 years and just been crowned NL Player of the Week, with Julio Teheran throwing a one-hitter during that week as well.
So as I write this, things are looking up a little. Of course we must consider that half of this winning streak has been against the lowly Reds and the Marlins, whom we seem to beat regardless of how well or poorly either team is playing. The most satisfying part of the last week has been sweeping the Mets in New York though, given their relative domination of the Braves in the past two seasons. Life has been breathed into our stuttering ballclub as we try to claw our way back to respectability.
With July almost upon us, this means it is almost the All-Star break. Recently that has meant Fredi's teams had gone home to their families and not returned for the second half of the season. It is likely only one Brave will make it to the NL roster, as the token pick so every team is represented. That is likely to be Freddie Freeman, especially given his torrid hitting recently. There will now however be a decidedly more upbeat mood as the players take to the break, far more than there would have been even a month ago.
Getting rid of Fredi Gonzalez was a long overdue move. Critics have argued he was set up to fail this year and the team's failures were the result of the GM level and above. Whilst it is true Gonzalez had almost all his major assets stripped and replaced with kids and duds, he had dug his own grave years earlier. The team's collapse from a seemingly unassailable wild card lead over the Cardinals in 2012 was the most emotionally draining experience I have had as a Braves fan. That second-half collapse was typical of Gonzalez's tenure. Two years later, a further abject August and September prompted the board to embark on the rebuilding process. Fredi was spared at the time and Frank Wren was made scapegoat, but then last season's effort just served to reinforce that the Braves under Gonzalez were a first half team. From 42-42 they collapsed to 67-95, yet still Fredi survived.
Spring training followed as the Braves continued their miserable run. Then followed an eight game losing streak to start 2016, a record homerless streak and an eventual league-worst record of 9-28 when he was eventually let go. Had that record continued, the Braves would have been proud owners of the worst season in Major League history. Atlanta then finally fired the right man.
There was nothing wrong with Fredi as a person and I am sure all Braves fans wish him well, but he did not strike me as the motivational type and in the business of sport, results are all that matters.
Which leads us onto the appointment of Brian Snitker. Snitker has been in the Braves organisation for four decades in a multitude of roles, but never before as the Major League manager. He picked up his first win in his second game and while results have largely continued to be poor, they are a vast improvement on Fredi's with the aforementioned optimism taking us into the All-Star break. The question remains though whether Snitker (who is only in temporary charge until the end of the season), will be made the permanent boss, or whether the Braves go a different route. Much will depend on how the second half unfolds, but management have taken note of the resurgence of the Phillies this year, following the permanent appointment of last year's interim, Pete Mackanin.
If the Braves do go a different direction, the likely candidates are Mark deRosa, Eddie Perez and Terry Pendleton. Of those choices, I think Perez is the most appealing and probable favourite. DeRosa has no experience and though highly touted for a management role, could he handle the everyday rigours of Major League management? I don't want to find out. Pendleton is another Braves 'lifer' having coached hitting, various bases and the bench. I'm not sure about Pendleton either though. He lacks management experience and was a poor hitting coach. I could probably coach the bases, so that doesn't say much in his favour.
Perez though is an intriguing choice. He coached Winter ball in Venezuela and won a championship. He was Greg Maddux's personal catcher for years for a reason and seems a diligent student of the game, respected by all and ready to take charge of a team. I always think catchers make the best managers and so hopefully the Braves agree. Of course don't discount Snitker. If he turns the Braves around, continuity is important when nurturing this young team. It should be a very interesting second half - and infinitely more watchable than the first!
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