Gonzalez could be the next Atlanta manager

Fredi Gonzalez got fired Wednesday, but he might not be out of work for long.

With the news Wednesday that the Marlins have fired Fredi Gonzalez, it gives general manager Frank Wren a new candidate to consider when he replaces Bobby Cox at the end of the season.

In fact, Gonzalez arguably becomes the leading candidate.

There are a lot of ties that make Gonzalez a legitimate contender for the job. First, he still lives in the Atlanta area, having never moved to Miami despite managing the Marlins for the last three-plus seasons.

But it runs much deeper than that. Gonzalez originally worked for the Marlins from 1992 through 2001. He was a minor league manager for the first seven seasons, before taking over as the major league third base coach in the last three years.

Guess who the Vice President/Assistant General Manager of the Marlins was from 1991 through 1998?

Frank Wren, now the GM in Atlanta.

And Wren, who by then was the assistant GM with the Braves, had to be an influence when Gonzalez was hired to manage Richmond, Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate at the time, in 2002.

The next season Gonzalez took over as the third base coach in Atlanta, a position he held until he left to manage the Marlins in 2007.

Over the years he was on Cox's coaching staff, Gonzalez and Cox became very close. They still spend time together during the offseason, and you could only imagine Cox giving Gonzalez a ringing endorsement if Wren asks for one.

But Wren might already know Gonzalez is the man he wants for the job. In fact, a lot of people around the Braves have speculated Gonzalez was going to be the next manager no matter what.

Gonzalez signed a two-year contract extension in February 2009 that would have kept him in Florida up until their new stadium is to open in 2012. The Marlins almost fired Gonzalez at the end of last season, and there were rumors former Mets' manager Bobby Valentine was going to be the replacement.

But Gonzalez was retained, despite the rumors that circulated about Atlanta being a possible destination for him if the Marlins let him go. The Marlins have been up and down this season, and even though they had won two games in a row, Gonzalez was let go Wednesday morning.

The Marlins have a 34-36 record this season, and they are 7.5 games back of Atlanta in the National League East.

Gonzalez was involved in a controversy earlier this season when he benched star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for not hustling on a defensive play. At first Ramirez refused to apologize to the team and blasted Gonzalez saying, "He never played in the big leagues."

Ramirez wound up apologizing to every teammate two days later. But many wondered if Gonzalez could survive taking on the Marlins' star play, even though most believed Gonzalez did the right thing.

Carlos Tosca, Gonzalez's bench coach, was also let go. Gonzalez actually replaced Tosca as the Richmond manager nine years ago when Tosca left to manage the Toronto Blue Jays. Hitting coach Jim Presley, who played third base with the Braves in 1990, was also fired.

Wren has said he won't deal with finding the new manager until the end of the season, but his search might have gotten much easier with the Marlins' decision to fire Gonzalez, who was 276-279 in his three-plus seasons as Florida's manager.

Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Atlanta Baseball Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.

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