Ray Perkins replaced the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant as the head coach at Alabama after the 1982 season. He had played for Bryant at Alabama in the mid-1960s. Perkins did well as a NFL head coach before taking over for the man who was seemingly irreplaceable. Then Perkins spent four years as Alabama’s head coach. He was 32-15-1, a good record, but not great.
Fredi Gonzalez is in his fourth year after replacing legendary Braves manager Bobby Cox. He had coached for Cox for three years in Atlanta before getting his first managerial job in Florida. Then, when Cox retired after the 2010 season, Gonzalez was the natural replacement after he had spent three-plus years getting his feet wet as a manager.
Gonzalez has been good, but not great. The Braves have won a lot of regular season games the last four years, but they have won only one playoff game. They choked in 2011 and lost the wildcard lead with a 9-18 record in September. Then in 2012, Atlanta made the play-in game but lost to the Cardinals in the infamous ‘outfield fly rule’ game.
Last season the Braves won their first division title since 2005, but they lost to the Dodgers in the first round. It’s been 13 years now since the Braves won a playoff series.
The 2014 season has been a disaster. Yes, a disaster. This team has too much talent to be wallowing around the .500 mark and on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention. The Braves won’t repeat as division champs, and if they make the play-in game it will be a miracle.
This is the most disappointing season in decades. Atlanta has talent, but it’s a horrible team. The individual players are good, but it’s just not been a good mix. There is a team concept at play here, and this group just does not click.
This team cannot hit. The offense is embarrassing. You don’t need a bunch of stats to know how bad it’s been. If you’ve watched the Braves at any point the last few weeks, you know.
There are no leaders on this team, and that’s when Gonzalez should have stepped up and been more of a leader. He should have recognized the void on this team when guys like Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Tim Hudson left. There was no one on the roster or in the dugout to provide leadership.
Go back to 1990. When John Schuerholz took over as Atlanta’s general manager, the Braves had a young core of players like Ron Gant, David Justice, Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke. But they needed veterans to surround them, to help them form a team that would play hard together.
Schuerholz brought in Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream and Mike Heath. Charlie Leibrandt was already around to help the young pitchers who would turn into Hall of Famers. That mix was perfect, and it started a historic run of success for the Atlanta franchise.
There are no players on this year’s team like those guys. Instead, you’ve got struggling hitters who are floundering, and this team is basically finished.
Everyone should be blamed. Frank Wren, the general manager, put together this dysfunctional roster. He added the bad contracts like Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. Wren has been in charge for seven seasons, and the Braves have won only two playoff games and no October postseason series.
Gonzalez is to blame, too. He kept Upton in the lineup and continues to play him, even though he’s truly awful.
Think about this. Monday night against Washington, B.J. Upton was at the plate with two outs in the 9th inning and the tying runners in scoring position. He hit a line drive to shortstop that was bobbled by Ian Desmond, who picked it up and threw Upton out by almost two steps.
On the TV postgame show, the commentators criticized Upton for not running hard. How can a player making $83,000 per game not hustle in a critical game if this team wants to make the playoffs?
And Tuesday, despite what had happened, Gonzalez had Upton back in the starting lineup.
That should be unacceptable.
Both Wren and Gonzalez should be fired. Why keep one over the other? If Wren stayed and Gonzalez was fired, why should Wren pick a new manager and make crucial decisions, when he might be a lame duck himself? Then, if Wren was fired and Gonzalez stayed around, why force a new general manager to inherit a beleaguered manager?
This franchise needs to start over. And, unfortunately, if Gonzalez is let go, he’ll be forever viewed as the Braves’ version of Ray Perkins – the man selected to replace a legend but unable to achieve the desired success.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Braves need to clean house and start over
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