Yesterday’s article entitled, “Braves Could Have Decisions to Make,” detailed the struggles of Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, and talked about options Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez may at some point consider.
The real question I’m going to talk about today, is when if it all would it be appropriate for Gonzalez to bench Uggla and/or B.J. Upton? Probably not what fans want to hear, but this is what Gonzalez had to say about Uggla’s and B.J. Upton’s struggles:
“They’re trying to tinker, they’re working at it,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why you’re in their corner when they struggle, or anybody struggles. If you’re working and putting the effort in, you’ve got to stay with your players, and both players are doing that.”
Gonzalez is a disciple of former Braves manager Bobby, Cox and has the same philosophy in staying with struggling players. Many fans would consider that a bad thing.
Cox would often frustrate fans during his tenure as Braves manager. He would keep running players out there who were in horrible slumps to the point that many wondered if he had lost his marbles. But sure enough, most times the players who were struggling would get it going at some point in the season, and justify Cox’s loyalty.
It was that loyalty that Cox displayed in his players that was one of the main reasons players loved playing for him. I don’t have any empirical evidence about how many free agents signed with the Braves ’cause they knew that Cox was a “player’s manager,” or how many performed better than they would have elsewhere, but we did often read quotes from players about how much they respected Cox, loved playing for him, and wanted to win for him.
It appears players think the same way about Fredi Gonzalez, as they did about Bobby Cox, and that is the reason he is the Braves manager, and will be for many years. He doesn’t panic, and like all great leaders he thinks long-term.
Perhaps Cox’s two best assets were the patience and loyalty he showed in is players. The disconnect between managers who show a lot of patience and loyalty to their players, particularly those who are struggling, and the fans, is that fans have little to no patience, and no loyalty in regards to players. Fans want to win today and the hell with tomorrow, let alone next month or the month after or the month after that or the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how long Gonzalez will stay with Uggla and B.J. Upton. At some point they have to justify Gonzalez’s patience and loyalty. As long as the Braves are leading the Eastern Division, the decision to stay with the two struggling players is a lot easier than if the Braves start losing and fall behind Washington.
The bottom line after all is winning. Players at some point have to justify the manager’s patience and loyalty.