Firing Fredi Gonzalez

Yesterday, Fredi Gonzalez became the second third managerial casualty of the year, following Trey Hillman’s ouster in Kansas City (update: and Dave Trembley in Baltimore. Thanks, Rob Stratmeyer). But while the Hillman layoff was understandable — three days before he was axed, Joe Posnanski wrote, “I don’t think Hillman will survive. And, things being what they are, I’m certainly not saying Hillman should survive” — the Gonzalez firing was a bit more head-scratching. As Buster Olney wrote yesterday:

Gonzalez as manager of the Marlins has been a dead man walking since the end of last season, when folks in the team’s baseball operations had to talk owner Jeffrey Loria out of firing him, and then going into this season, Loria indicated he expected the low-budget Marlins to contend for a championship, a goal that was probably unrealistic given the lack of depth in the team’s roster at the major league level.

GM Larry Beinfest has assembled some strong teams for owner Jeffrey Loria, but though they’ve often contended for the Wild Card, they’ve never been viewed as serious playoff threats — and no wonder, because their payroll is so low that they were criticized by Major League Baseball at the beginning of the year for not using enough of the revenue sharing money they received to actually pay players. Considering all those constraints, it’s rather remarkable that Gonzalez managed a 276-279 record in three-plus years in his first managing job.

Of course, whenever you want to know why something happened in baseball, you should usually listen to the denials. Fredi Gonzalez attracted a great deal of attention earlier for the Hanley Ramirez incident, when Hanley dogged it after kicking a pop-up and Fredi pulled him from the game. And so, of course, in a statement after his firing, Fredi Gonzalez announced: “This is something that I want to make very clear: My exit from the Marlins had nothing to do with Hanley.” So it’s a fair bet that his exit from the Marlins had a lot do to with Hanley. Every baseball person, and every Marlin who spoke to the media, supported Fredi’s behavior during the run-in — but, as a number of wags have pointed out, it’s a lot easier for the Marlins to get themselves a new manager than a new Hanley Ramirez.

Ultimately, the Marlins didn’t do much harm to Fredi’s image. Right now, he’s perceived as a martyr who made the most of a bad situation with an unrealistic, penny-pinching owner, who doesn’t kowtow to superstars, and who is the likeliest successor to Bobby Cox in Atlanta, one of the most coveted manager’s seats in baseball since the last manager Jeffrey Loria fired, Joe Girardi, took over for Joe Torre in the Bronx. Being fired doesn’t hurt Fredi. And if Loria hires Bobby Valentine, as seems likely, the team probably won’t see much difference in the won-loss column: though Valentine’s style is very different from the methodical Gonzalez (Chris Jaffe has compared Valentine to Dodger overtinkerer Charlie Dressen), Bobby V is an above-average skipper.

But Valentine should take care to get an ironclad prenup. After all, his two predecessors were fired unfairly. If Bobby actually wants to manage in Miami, rather than just put himself in position for a future plum, he should make sure that Loria gives him a better guarantee of payroll than either Gonzalez or Girardi received.

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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

12 Responses to “Firing Fredi Gonzalez”

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  1. Rob Stratmeyer says:

    Dave Trembley was the 2nd managerial casualty of the year. Fredi was 3rd.

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  2. oompaloopma says:

    I think he was fired to get a head start on hiring a manager over other teams just imo, which is not much. This is why I think the cubs should fire Lou now because their payroll will attract a Valentine or Buck Showalter. Heck will take Gonzalez!

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  3. Will says:

    Can anyone offer some insight into Gonzalez’s coaching style? I’ve only seen him in a few games vs the Nationals the past couple year, but, honestly, paid little to no attention to how he managed the Fish.

    Considering Riggleman is arguably just a fill in until they can find a better candidate, the arrival of Gonzalez on the market is an interesting development. It seems like everyone’s hailing him as the next Braves manager, but the Nats could be an appealing alternative.

    How is he handling the bullpen? Does he often have his batters sacrifice bunt? What about baserunning- is he good at deciding when his players should run?

    He’s got a great reputation, but I’ve heard little to justify it besides his record with the team, which does little to convince me when guys like Dusty Baker can put together a winning record.

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  4. joser says:

    Over the century-plus of professional baseball, there have been a lot bad owners. Yet Loria has to rank among the very worst. He’s historically bad. (He’s also an evil genius businessman, in that he’s been able to turn a profit while fielding teams that can’t attract fans… in some cases by literally picking the pockets of his fellow owners through revenue sharing. Not to mention all the shenanigans involved with the Expos, the “forgiven” loans, the stadium…)

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  5. Cidron says:

    Baseballs Mr. Sterling, owner of the Clippers ?

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    • joser says:

      That’s a basketball team, right? That’s a sport I neither know nor care anything about, so I really have no idea. (If it wasn’t for late night comic monologues I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even be aware that LA has more than one team.)

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  6. Ryan Schmidt says:

    How is the Nationals a more appealing option than the Braves?

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  7. Cidron says:

    ok, in two years, who is the face of the Braves? Sure, the pitching will be above average, but… batting will be an issue (assuming chipper is retired).

    washington is heading up. Strasburg, and Bryce, and Zimmerman make a quality young core, along with a handful of vets (currently Dunn is the name there)..

    Right now, what is the Braves future? We know the Nats future as getting better/brighter. Front office etc favor Braves, but, talent (ok, prospective talent, star power) favor Nats. Heck, with their future, and Baltimores play, … They own the region now.

    It would be a tough call, but….I like Nats atm, and short term future..(as who can really predict longterm)

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  8. Captain Obvious says:

    Face of the Braves? THis guy named Jason Heyward. Of course, there is also Freddie Freeman, Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, ect.

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