A day after the Braves were eliminated from the postseason, Braves executives were already sending signals that Fredi Gonzalez would be the next Atlanta Braves manager, replacing future Hall of Famer Bobby Cox.
On October 13th , a Wednesday afternoon press conference was held at Turner Field to make the announcement official.
During the summer, Gonzalez became the primary candidate to replace Cox immediately after being fired as Florida Marlins manager in June. He had a 276-279 record in 3 1/2 seasons with the Marlins, who were 35-36 when Gonzalez was dismissed.
The Havana, Cuba native was the Braves’ third-base coach from 2003-06, after coming to the Braves organization as Triple-A Richmond manager in 2002.
He has a long-term relationship with Braves general manager Frank Wren, Florida’s assistant GM back when Gonzalez was hired as a Marlins Class A manager in 1992 — a year before the Marlins’ inaugural season.
Braves batting coach Terry Pendleton had been viewed as a candidate to succeed Bobby Cox, but once Frank Wren-a former baseball executive with the Marlins-became Braves general manager in October 2007, the likelihood of Pendleton becoming manager became unlikely.
Most of Gonzalez’s baseball experience had come with the Florida Marlins, not the Atlanta Braves.
Gonzales wasn’t a part of the Braves’ ascension in the 1990’s, but came to Atlanta a few years prior to Braves’ run of division titles ended.
Pendleton had been the batting coach since 2001, and had patiently waited and gained coaching experience under Cox.
Pendleton was a part of the golden age of the Braves, and one of the reasons why the Braves went from worst to first and provided on-field leadership while the Braves began their playoff run in the 1990’s.
Pendleton had signed a four year, $10.2 million contract with the Atlanta Braves on December 3, 1990. With a new team and a new contract, Pendleton had a career year during and had finished with a .319 batting average and 187 hits, both of which led the National League. Plus, Pendleton was named the National League MVP, besting Barry Bonds.
Pendleton seemed like a natural fit as manager, but newspaper articles and talk on message boards and the fanbase had blamed Pendleton for the Braves occasional hitting problems and specifically for the failure of local fan favorite Jeff Franceour regressing and eventually being traded by the Braves in 2009 to the New York Mets.
Franceour had a lack of patience at the plate and trouble with pitch recognition, and it prompted Pendleton to say it’s up to individual to get better.
Francoeur chose to go to Texas during the 2008 offseason to work with Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
Pendleton was admittedly hurt by that.
Said Pendleton: “Honestly? My pride gets in the way. I asked Jeff, ‘Why didn’t you come to me?’ Obviously he felt the need to go elsewhere. It’s his winter. [But] it bugged me at first. Not hearing it from him, that got me more than anything. I told him, ‘I thought our relationship was better than that.’ “
Some local Braves fans had blamed Pendleton for Francoeur’s downward spiral and one has to wonder did affect his chances to become manager. Ultimately, Frank Wren and Braves president make the decisions-not Bobby Cox.
Franceour struggled in New York with the same self-inflicted problems he had in Atlanta, and was eventually traded in September by the already playoff-bound Texas Rangers.
Even though Franceour is long gone –along with other former fan favorites such as the underachieving Kelly Johnson– Pendleton gets the blame for the lack of progression with the Braves.
Ultimately, it is up to the player. However, it is ultimately up to Braves executives such as Frank Wren and John schuerholz to make better decisions about the players they bring to the organization.
If a player has a reputation of being impatient at the plate and not very good defensively such as Brooks Conrad, what can Pendleton do?
Conrad may not be on a Pendleton-managed team, and after his embarrassing defensive performance in the last week of the regular season and against the San Francisco Giants, one can see why.
Conrad was chosen in spring training over another player who batted over .300.
And once Gonzalez was chosen less than 24 hours after a season-ending playoff loss to the San Francisco Giants, it became clearer that Pendleton was never seriously considered by Wren and/or Schuerholz.
Did Pendleton get credit for the progression of Martin Prado, Omar Infante and Jason Heyward?
It didn’t appear that the Braves’ executives were very positive about Pendleton , even though some in the media such as Jeff Schultz from the Atlanta Journal Constitution who thought Pendelton should receive recognition.
Pendleton is not likely to be retained on Fredi Gonzalez’s staff. However, Pendleton is likely to have opportunities to become manager elsewhere.