Braves make it official, hire Fredi Gonzalez through 2013

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox leaves the dugout for pre-game ceremonies before their MLB National League baseball game against the Washington Nationals in Washington September 26, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Jon Paul Morosi of is reporting that Fredi Gonzalez will receive a three-year contract to manage the Braves with an option for a fourth year.

This was absolutely the right decision for the Braves. They could go 10-152 next year and this would still have been the right decision for the Braves.

Look, nobody is going to replace Bobby Cox – he’s Bobby Cox. Usually when a manager leaves, it’s because everyone from the media to the fans wanted him gone (if not dead in some cities). But Cox has been one of the most well respected managers in the game of baseball for a very long time, so it’s hard to say that anyone can “replace” him.

But why not hire someone who has worked under Cox? Why not hire someone who is also well liked by the players, the media and the fans? Furthermore, why drag the process out if you know he’s going to be the one to win the position in the end?

I like what the Braves did here. They didn’t prolong the search process when they knew Gonzalez was going to be the choice and they moved quickly to secure his services. Too many teams drag the process out because they’re scared of making the wrong decision. But Atlanta knew whom it waned and went out and got him.

Good luck, Fredi. You have some big shoes to fill.

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Fredi Gonzalez to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta?

Atlanta Braves Bobby Cox is lifted up by his players while celebrating after clinching the National League wild card in Atlanta, Georgia, October 3, 2010. The Braves clinched after the San Diego Padres lost their game to the San Francisco Giants. At left is the Braves Matt Diaz. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Ken Rodriguez of FOX 5 in Atlanta is reporting that former Marlins’ manager Fredi Gonzalez will be named the Braves’ next manager.

Bobby Cox managed his last game in Atlanta on Monday as the Giants eliminated the Braves in Game 4 of the ALDS. He said before the season started that he would retire at the end of the year and it’s been long rumored that Gonzalez would eventually take his spot.

Gonzalez was Atlanta’s third base coach in 2007 before he was hired by the Marlins. He was let go not too long after he butted heads with star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who failed to hustle after a ball that he booted into the outfield during a regular season game. Even though the media lauded him for the way he handled the situation, Florida eventually decided to move in another direction and Gonzalez was replaced.

Despite his struggles in Florida this year, he’s a solid manager and is well respected in Atlanta. He’s the perfect candidate to take over a team that has some budding young stars, but who generally needs an overhaul at the position spots. Assuming he is named their next manager (Cox’s farewell press conference is held for Wednesday, so Atlanta may make an announcement soon thereafter), it would be a good move for the Braves.

Braves can’t send Bobby Cox out on top as Giants advance to NLCS

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox number is painted on the field during a tribute ceremony honoring the retiring manager prior to their National League MLB baseball game in Atlanta, Georgia, October 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Nobody can say that the Atlanta Braves didn’t try to send their beloved manager Bobby Cox (who decided before the year started that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2010 season) out on a high note. They played with enthusiasm, passion and urgency, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The Braves’ mantra at the start of the postseason was “11 for 6,” which is the number of wins they needed to win the World Series (11) for Cox, who wears No. 6. Unfortunately they came up 10 wins shy, as the Giants beat Atlanta 3-2 on Monday night to take the best-of-five series 3-1 and advance to the NLCS to face the Phillies.

Cox and the Braves couldn’t have asked for a better outing from Derek Lowe, who allowed three runs (two earned) over 6 1/3 innings in the loss. He didn’t allow a hit for the first 5 1/3 innings, but Cody Ross (who went 2-for-3 tonight and singled home the eventual game-winning run in the eighth inning) took him deep in the sixth to tie the game at 1-1. Lowe was pitching on only three days of rest, yet his sinker baffled San Francisco hitters for most of the night before he hung a pitch to Ross, who made him pay for the mistake.

While you can’t take anything away from the Giants (whose starting pitching was absolutely phenomenal throughout the entire series and they got another strong performance tonight from rookie Madison Bumgarner), they were the benefactors of close calls the entire series. Every time there was a close play at one of the bags, it went in San Francisco’s favor. Before Ross singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth, it appeared as though Pat Burrell was thrown out on a Juan Uribe hit to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who made a throwing error to second baseman Omar Infante. The throw took Infante off the bag, but replays showed that he might have kept his toe on the bag.

That said, all of those plays were bang-bang and umpires don’t have the luxury of watching instant replay in order to get the calls right. Unfortunately for the Braves, they were snake bitten by the human element of baseball in this series.

So was Cox, who received a standing ovation at the end of the game from both the fans and the Giants, who congratulated each other and then stayed on the field to celebrate the skipper’s historic career. It was a classy move and it was a well-deserved moment for the three-time NL Manger of the Year and the two-time World Series champion.

Thanks for all the memories, Bobby.

Mikey’s MLB power rankings

With football season upon us, that’s when baseball gets real interesting. To me, there is no better time of year than that first weekend in October when you have four MLB playoff series and a full slate of NFL games. As for the pennant races, they’re starting to shift and some teams are beginning to pull away while others lose hold on their position…

1. New York Yankees (75-47)—A one-game lead but the Mariners are in town this weekend, so it’s as good a time as any to start padding the margin over the Rays and Sox again.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (74-48)—Still hanging on, as the Yankees continue to look in their collective rear-view mirror.

3. San Diego Padres (73-48)—The Giants had their five-game winning streak, and the Padres answered with one of their own, widening their late August lead to 6 games over the G-men until losing last night. Is there any question about manager of the year here?

4. Atlanta Braves (72-50)—Bobby Cox hopes his team will feast on Cubs’ pitching at Wrigley while the Phils face the Nats at home.

5. Texas Rangers (68-53)—The Rangers lost four in a row this past week but still have a seven-game lead over the A’s and Angels. I’d say they have nothing to worry about.

6. Minnesota Twins (71-51)—As we suspected, the Twins keep adding to their lead, now 4.5 games over the White Sox.

7. Cincinnati Red (71-51)—Just when the Cardinals made a statement, the Reds have now won 7 in a row while St. Louis has lost 5 straight, giving Dusty Baker’s boys a 4.5 game lead and increasing the chances Brandon Phillips will start smack-talking again, if he hasn’t already.

8. Boston Red Sox (69-54)—Time is running out on the Sox, and also on Roger Clemens’ days as a free man.

9. Philadelphia Phillies (69-52)—They’ve stayed hot, but so have the Braves. Do you think the Phils wish they still had Cliff Lee?

10. San Francisco Giants (69-54)—Only trailing Philly in the wild card chase by one game, two in the loss column. But a recent slide took them out of that spot and their hopes of a division crown are fading away.

Mikey’s MLB power rankings

Pennant races are heating up, brawls are starting to happen, and the Padres still have the best record in the National League. Ah, the dog days of summer. However, not much has changed in the upper half of our power rankings, and hasn’t for well over a month now…..

1. New York Yankees (71-44)—I’ve been touting the Rays for a while now, and I won’t back down from that, but the Yankees sure aren’t letting go of the top spot.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (69-46)—All that talent, and yet they were almost no-hit for the third time last Sunday. Something’s not quite right with the Rays’ bats.

3. Texas Rangers (66-48)—They seem to be coasting now, and with an 8.5 game lead, they can afford to do that a bit. The Rangers still have the largest lead of any division front runner.

4. San Diego Padres (68-46)—A five-game win streak has the Giants gasping for air again. Raise your hand if you keep thinking the other shoe is going to drop. I thought so. But it still hasn’t.

5. Atlanta Braves (67-48)—Bobby Cox’ team had a huge blow with Chipper Jones out for the season, but this is a talented roster top to bottom, so they should hang in there against a charge from the Phillies.

6. Boston Red Sox (66-51)—It’s getting to the point that the Sox have to win every game to stay in contention. Or at least every series. .

7. St. Louis Cardinals (65-49)—They absolutely bitch slapped the Reds, sweeping them after Brandon Phillips ran his mouth. Now that’s the mark of a Tony LaRuss-run team.

8. Minnesota Twins (66-50)—They have a hold on first place now, and they aren’t going to let go. Do you hear that, White Sox fans?

9. San Francisco Giants (66-51)—Little losses here and there are keeping the Giants from catching San Diego. But they still lead the wild card chase.

10. Philadelphia Phillies (64-51)—They are getting healthy and hot, and that’s not a great sign for the Braves.

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