OK. Serious time. I wanted to make sure I had enough time on my hands so that I can be as thorough as possible with this one, so here it goes.
I had to make a quick trip back up to Atlanta a week ago. I made a stop in Stockbridge before I headed back to school where I happened to run into one of the more prominent figures of Braves past. I made conversation with him for a while before inevitably bringing up his thoughts on the Braves. He told me this is one of the more talented teams he's seen, but then again he said the same could have been said regarding last year's squad. Seeing these guys up close himself, he said there was only one position he was truly worried about at SS, but also that he didn't know how much longer Chip would last. Things seemed like typical book answers about the organization until I asked about Fredi. He went on for a while so I'll just tell you the things that have been stuck inside my head for a week. He said that when Fredi first got the job, things weren't right. That he didn't get the job based on his record in Miami, but because he was Bobby Cox's best friend. He went on to say that there were times last year that stuck out to him before the collapse, even giving me the name of a player that had texted him something to the extent of: "He's not with us. It was hard to play for a guy that didn't invest as much into the Tomahawk as we did." I asked him is that the sentiment of the majority of the clubhouse in which he smiled and said exactly "I've given you enough for today, I don't want to get in trouble". He then exited the aisle.
Read into that what you may, but this is pretty clear cut. The talent the Braves had last year is what carried them most of the season. There weren't to many games I can recall where Fredi managed these guys to victory. What frustrates me most is all the potential going to waste. There should be absolutely no excuses for what's been going on.
Being that the team is full of "nice guys" I took it for granted that they would love the coaching of Fredi and seemingly fit right in with his style. What this guy told me is another problem in its own right in that guys aren't playing motivated. I've played sports at every level short of professional and you see it everywhere from little league to college. When a kid gets that sense that coach isn't in his corner, things can begin to veer. These guys are human. I believe in something called "motivational wins", which is games that you have no business winning, but you were inspired or had something told to you to make an extra push. Happens all the time in high school and at the collegiate level. Damn near happened with the Braves in 2010 against the Giants. That will almost certainly not happen with Fredi at the helm.
The red flags ran abound when the umpires were blatantly wrong about a call, yet Fredi sat still. As much grief as I gave Bobby, he could never be accused of this and was always held high in the eyes of the players league wide. The same cannot be said about Fredi. I guess this is why I've been bashing him all spring, because I knew how some of the guys felt and knew to expect much of the same from last season.
The only real change Fredi made all of last year was the lineup flips. He still committed to hit and runs with Martin Prado, effectively killing rallies. He still ran Derek Lowe out there during the stretch even when it was so obvious for a change that Joe Simpson called him out for it. To tell you how much out of the loop he is, he stated shortly after the season ended that without a doubt LP would still be hitting coach, only to see Wren fire him soon after. What coach do you know that make statements like that without referring to their bosses? It just doesn't make sense with this guy. I mean, he is probably one of the nicest guys in the southeast. Hell, I enjoy the commercial high fiving the kids at that store as much the next guy. However, nice guy does not translate into good coach. I didn't want to write this up until I saw how the first month went, but I wanted to make sure I said the exact things that the Braves great told me.
I know I'm damn near blacklisted on this site, but I wholeheartedly promise you this is what I was told. Call it into question if you must, but look back at what I've written and tell me what about it is opinionated and not factual about Fredi. Look back on last year and tell me how many innings we just threw away at the plate. I love these guys to the core of me, but it'll be hard supporting knowing some of the players have questions of their own as well. It's extremely hard to win at any professional level when the players aren't buying in.
A key line from there : "A poor start, though, could alter the equation. Rival executives believe that Gonzalez, entering the second year of a three-year contract, already is on probation."