In short, they do nothing well, and this isn’t just a slow start. After opening 2015 – Gonzalez’s fifth season at the helm – 42-42 past the midway point, Atlanta finished 25-53. Yes, there were injuries involved. Still, since that point, they have played .296 baseball – a 114-loss pace over the course of an entire season.
Regardless of the point in a franchise’s development, that’s not tolerable. Gonzalez, a former Braves coach, was the handpicked choice to replace Hall of Famer Bobby Cox. But after a 96-win season and division title in 2013, the Braves hadn’t posted a winning season. Gonzalez took the fall.
The larger picture, though, is this: Where are the Braves in their development? The assumption around much of baseball when they traded almost their entire core – closer Craig Kimbrel and shortstop Andrelton Simmons and outfielder Justin Upton and right-hander Shelby Miller and more – was that they were targeting 2017 for a turnaround. That’s when they’ll open a new ballpark in the northern Atlanta suburbs. The bet, it seemed, was on the future.
But General Manager John Coppolella, who has taken over the day-to-day operations from veteran executive John Hart – who in turn took over for Frank Wren, fired after 2014 – said earlier this season he thought the Braves would improve on their 67-95 mark from last year.
“We know we got better as an organization,” Coppolella said in early April, when the Braves started 0-9. “But we also feel like we got better with the major league product, too. And it’s not showing right now.”
The major league product is dreadful right now. Gonzalez’s firing is one way to address it. What matters more, though, is what the young Braves show going forward, regardless of who leads them in the dugout.