Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fredi Gonzalez's Firing Should Turn Up the Heat on the Giants' Bruce Bochy

I can't say I'm surprised that Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria decided to fire manager Fredi Gonzalez. This is an owner who fired manager Joe Girardi, even though Girardi won Manager of the Year honors that same year. This is an owner who won two titles in Florida, only to dismantle the team completely the following year. This is an owner who campaigned for a new stadium when he was the owner of the Montreal Expos, didn't get what he wanted, and bailed on the Expos, hence killing baseball officially in Montreal.

Loria is a terrible owner. The only reason he isn't put up there with the Chris Cohans and Donald Sterlings (Sorry the NBA Draft is on my mind) of the world is because he actually got bailed out by two world championships. Sometimes even the bad get lucky, I guess.

That being said, Gonzalez's firing is a big deal and should be a big deal to Giants fans.

Gonzalez and Bochy both took over the Marlins and Giants, respectively, in the 2007 season. Both teams were under similar rebuilding circumstances. The Marlins were expected to compete in the NL East despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, while the Giants were looking to start afresh in the Post-Barry Bonds era.

Well, here is Gonzalez and Bochy's records as manager going into today:

Gonzalez: 276-279, .497 W-L % (in 555 games as manager of the Marlins).
Bochy: 270-287, .485 W-L % (in 557 games as manger of the Giants).

While neither Bochy nor Gonzalez went to playoffs the past three plus seasons as managers, Gonzalez did have a better record at the time of his firing and actually had two plus .500 seasons entering 2010 (unlike Bochy who had only one).

What has been Gonzalez's undoing? His clash with superstar Hanley Ramirez, in addition to his disagreements with owner Loria.

Gonzalez publicly chastised Ramirez after a booted ball, and promptly took him out after the inning was over. Ramirez lashed out, called out Gonzalez's Major League "experience" and before he knew it, Gonzalez was fighting a battle he couldn't possibly win. Even though the situation was apparently "mended" it was obvious that Gonzalez's time as manager was ticking in Florida.

To credit Bochy, he has a reputation of managing the clubhouse. After the days of Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou, where clubhouse tension was obvious and very public, Bochy has calmed all that down and has kept whatever issues they have in the clubhouse only.

Other than that though, Bochy's profile as Giants manager has paled in comparison to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez took the young players he was given by GM Larry Beinfest, and has given them every day playing opportunities. Chris Coghlan comes up? He gets everyday playing time. Mike Stanton comes up? He gets every day playing time. He has been pretty consistent playing young players in this Marlins organization, and the Marlins have competed, despite the lack of "experience" on their roster.

That is a far cry from Bochy's managing style. While GM Brian Sabean made the ill decision to re-sign Bengie Molina, Bochy has absolutely handled the Buster Posey situation poorly. Posey is prevented from playing catcher (which the Giants paid and drafted him to do, or else they wouldn't have given him a $6.25 million signing bonus, a Giants record) and now, it seems he may be doing platoon duty with Pablo Sandoval, who is having a down season himself. He has benched guys quickly either due to slow starts (John Bowker) or slumps (Nate Schierholtz), and has given countless opportunities to veterans (Molina, Aaron Rowand, etc.) who have not made the most of their chances.

The Giants and Marlins were supposed to be rebuilding. One manager did a good job of handling the rebuilding. The other has done a poor job, and the records prove the point further.

I don't think you have to guess very hard who I'm talking about.

Granted, I don't know who's really calling the shots. Is it Sabean telling Bochy to play the older, more paid vets? Or is it Bochy making the calls by himself? Either way, this is disappointing. After a second straight loss to Houston today, it is obvious this team is on shaky ground. Unfortunately, the Giants most likely are going to handle it the wrong way: by adding more veterans and dishing out more prospects by the trade deadline. By August, I wouldn't be surprised to see more veterans seeing the field, and more young, cheaper prospects either rotting on the bench or in Fresno.

I guarantee you Gonzalez would have handled this roster a lot differently than Bochy would, and I guarantee as well that the Giants would have been a whole lot more successful to boot. Sure, Gonzalez wouldn't have pleased Rowand or Molina as much as Bochy has, but the youngster would have played and got the opportunities they never would have had under the Giants' current manager.

It's too bad there's another year left on Bochy's contract. By 2012, it's almost certain that a manager like Gonzalez would be off the market.

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