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Griff says...Cox's Replacement

As we ready ourselves for the upcoming Braves Spring Training ritual, I thought it would be fun to pause for a moment and look to the future. The future after the 2010season that is, which apparently will be the last for Bobby Cox.

Although many will be sad to see him go, I think a fresh face and style is in order. We have a somewhat young and anticipated to be even younger team in the near future. Let’s try to figure out who will be Cox’s replacement.

There are many ways to look at our voting. We could select by most likely based on Braves ties, trends and past experience. We could select by most available and likely to accept a contract. We could select based upon the best managers out there. Certainly the key factors are ties to the Braves organization and strong baseball knowledge and track record.

My ranking is based on a blend of known Braves tie-ins, potential availability, track record and my personal preference. I think it is likely that the Braves will not go the route of many teams and look for a fix for a couple years but rather select someone who has long-term viability. That may or may not be the best approach but it fits their makeup. So here are my choices in order

Fredi Gonzalez
No surprise here. He has established himself as a very good manager, particularly with young talent and Latin talent. He knows the National League well. He has proven he can weather slumps and overall yield winning results. He is good at working with a talented young pitching staff and making strategic pitching decisions. He was mentored by Bobby Cox for years so hopefully he can take the best tips and discard the rest. The question here is whether the Marlins can keep him. I know they would like to but they are always so caught up with money that I often wonder if they can keep any player or manager once they have proven themselves. I like this choice because he is still young enough to have a lot of good years left, he knows the Braves organization well, has patience and works well with younger talent, and has a certain knack for making good game tactical decisions from my own observance. That would be a welcome change. My odds – 60%.

Ned Yost
Ned is the sleeper choice in my opinion. He was a catcher with the Braves for a number of years and displayed excellent game knowledge and situational experience. Catchers are often the best managers as they have more intimate strategic and tactical knowledge and experience than any other position. He was totally ripped off at Milwaukee recently when he was fired late in the season in a play-off chase. He knows the National League and that is always an advantage. He obviously knows pitching and that will be critical ongoing for the Braves. I thought he did very well with the Brewers and did not deserve such a rude fate. He is currently a special advisor with Kansas City for this year so the timing may be perfect next year. The Braves always liked him so that has to weigh in his favor. He is young so he could be with the organization for another decade or more if it works out and he is successful. I truly believe the Braves like long-term choices. Recently Bowman said he thinks this is unlikely so I tend to favor it as a real possibility. My odds – 50%.

Jim Leyland
Actually I think Jim would be our best choice for short term results for a couple years. But as I said, I doubt the Braves will look at it that way. Leyland has been around baseball for 40 years and has incredible baseball knowledge. He has three manager of the year awards. He was actually schooled as a third base coach under LaRussa. But after a dismal season with the Tigers last year, Leyland was dropped from many manager top ten lists. But a guy doesn’t just become bad overnight. He is a great manager in my opinion. He was very tough when he was at Pittsburgh and managed a lot of young players with a small budget. Of course he was super taking a young team in the Marlins and winning the World Series in the late 90’s and also took the Tigers to the World Series. He is a motivator and driver, something our club is solely lacking and in great need of I believe. Cox says this is not needed. I say it is. He is good at managing younger players and getting the most out of them. He knows the National League style, although he has little familiarity recently. He is tough and can push his team through slumps. He may have run his course with the Tigers this year unless they have a big bounceback year. But their lineup is considerably depleted already without Granderson and Polanco at the top of the order, Cabrera dealing with alcohol issues, and they lost Edwin Jackson from the starting rotation. Leyland could be available by next year if things do not go better for them. Also, I don’t think he is ready to retire although he is getting up there in age. He was quoted once about retirement and said he couldn’t because his wife did not like him that much. He is a funny, witty guy and tells it like it is. He would be enjoyable for the fans. We will see how this year plays out. My odds – 40%.

Dusty Baker
Dusty obviously has ties to the Braves as a former player. He is a three-time Manager of the Year and a very accomplished communicator and speaker. He did not make a difference in Chicago and is rebuilding the team in Cincinnati. He may be committed to Cinci too long to be a reasonable alternative for the Braves and since his championships were won with Barry Bonds, I am skeptical that Dusty had a lot to do with their performance. He has been criticized frequently for player choices and pitching situation changes. My odds – 30%.

Felipe Alou
This is an interesting one. He certainly has many ties to the Braves organization from his years as a player. He did a great job managing in Montreal through many difficulties and challenges with player transactions and payroll. He managed a large number of young talents that were traded away and became stars as the Expos shed payroll yearly. Certainly he is excellent working with Latin players. He always commands respect from his players. He has one manager of the year award from 1994. He certainly has many decades of intimate baseball knowledge. He is very good working with Latin players of course and seems to have a positive demeanor and attitude at all times. He never struck me as having a lot of fire however. He is getting a bit old and may have retired. At least he has not managed for a couple years now. My odds – 20%.

Joe Torre
This would be truly ironic since he managed for the Braves at the beginning of his managerial career in the early 80’s. It was a great mistake to let him go and I never understood it at the time. Torre has the catching knowledge that has led to so many great managers. He has the Braves tie-ins as much as any person out there who is not currently part of the Braves organization. Obviously he has the championship resume with the World Series rings won in New York. In LA, although they have not performed well in the playoffs, I believe he has done a great job working with some young talent, the Ramirez controversy, inconsistent starting pitching and changing closers. The come from behind wins last year is perhaps a mark of the confidence and persistence he instills in his players. He would be a really nice choice but I’m sure he is committed contractually to LA and they have no intention of letting him go. My odds – 10%.

Cito Gaston
This is an interesting possibility. He is also a dark horse. He is another manager who not only has strengths working with Latin players but those of all nationalities. He has been with Toronto for ages but not many people remember he has two World Series Championships to his credit. He has done a fabulous job coaching younger players and working with new rosters on a yearly basis as Toronto sheds payroll. Along with Montreal, Toronto often boasts the best young talent that continually gets traded off once they have a couple good years. Not sure why Cito has such long-lasting ties to Toronto. Maybe he is ready for some warmer weather now. He has endured many challenges and might be tempted to work with a talented young team with play-off caliber talent, a somewhat better payroll situation, and a strong management organization to support him. I don’t know any of the personal details about his ties to Toronto or his contract but I like this possibility. He is stable, has a very nice winning record in a not so easy situation, and is still young enough to be around a long time. He does not have National League experience however. I did notice some surprising player criticism in the media late last year about him. They did fall off the second half of the year after a strong first half, so maybe the timing may be advantageous depending upon what happens this year. My odds – 10% plus darkhorse bonus factor.

Lesser Known Outsider
My odds - 5%.

Lesser Known Braves Minor League Manager
My odds - 2%

Terry Pendleton
You have to be kidding! My odds – 0%.

So, wrapping it all up I am going to go with Gonzalez, Yost, Leyland and Gaston as most likely successors.

Well, who have I missed? Let me know your thoughts and other suggestions.

My next blog will be on Sunday. The topic will be Terry Pendleton. Griff says…later.

12 comments:

  1. What about Brian Snitker? He's already in our system, has had some minor league coaching experience (unlike pendleton), and it seems that a lot of third base coaches move on to be managers.

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  2. What about Eddie Perez?

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  3. I thought about those two but ran out of time and had little thoughts about them. Snitker is too unknown and Perez doesn't have the right experience. But nothing the Braves do really surprises me anymore. Who would you prefer for Manager if you had your choice?

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  4. I think Fredi Gonzalez is a great call if we can get him. That being said, I'm fine with Bobby sticking around another year if he wants to.

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  5. Buck Showalter is one I didn't consider. Not a bad choice. My personal preference would be Fredi Gonzalez, then Cito Gaston.

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  6. Buck Showalter is an interesting idea. Fredi would be my first choice too. Wonder if they go off the reservation and pick someone that nobody's mentioned. You know, Bobby Valentine is back in the states...lol

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  7. What about Chris Chambliss? Two time minor league manager of the year, Chipper loves him, Cox loves him, a ton of series rings as a player and hitting coach, and a former Brave. He seems like he ought to be talked about, no?

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  8. Yost was great in Milwaukee - totally ripped off for sure!

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  9. I like the idea of Chambliss also. Hadn't thought about that one. Maybe we need him more as a hitting coach though.

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  10. You missed the Braves connection for Cito Gaston. He also played for the Braves and in fact lent Ted Turner his size 10 cleats to wear when Ted took his ill-advised (and later banned) two-day managerial stint with the Braves. At least you never suggested we give a greater than zero chance to Ted's return.

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