Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers Manager Candidate Series: Fredi Gonzalez

JUPITER, FLORIDA - MARCH 04: NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells attends batting practice with Baltimore Orioles coach Fredi Gonzalez before the spring training game between the Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 04, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FLORIDA - MARCH 04: NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells attends batting practice with Baltimore Orioles coach Fredi Gonzalez before the spring training game between the Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 04, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Following Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire’s retirement, Fredi Gonzalez could be the choice to manage the club 2021 and beyond

The Detroit Tigers are tasked with the challenge of finding a new manager this offseason after manager Ron Gardenhire retired with just a handful of games to go in the 2020 season. According to a report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal ($), the Detroit Tigers would prefer someone with managing experience for their next skipper and he even went as far as to give two frontrunners for the job: AJ Hinch and Fredi Gonzalez.

Background

Co-site expert Rogelio Castillo astutely called his shot on Gonzalez before the report of the Tigers’ interest was even made public. Gonzalez’s playing career did not last long; reaching just Double-A as a catcher in his playing days before entering the managerial world in 2007 with the Florida Marlins. Gonzalez was let go in 2010 after a 34-36 start in a year deemed playoffs-or-bust by the front office. This was the quote given by President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest after Gonzalez’s dismissal in a story from ESPN:

"“This team seems to be stuck in neutral, and our competitors are on the accelerator. We were looking for a leadership change to hopefully get us on the accelerator. That’s a big part of what we did today.”"

Gonzalez would promptly find managing again and would lead the Atlanta Braves from 2011-2016; most notably winning 94 and 96 games in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Gonzalez was again fired mid-season in 2016 after a 9-28 start. He has bounced around back with the Marlins and is now a bench coach for the Baltimore Orioles.

Why It Would Work for the Detroit Tigers

As Rogelio pointed out in his piece, Gonzalez is bilingual and would serve as a relatable figure for their Latin players. It’s difficult to say if a skill like that would be attractive for free agents, but it certainly could not hurt. Likewise, understanding both cultures deeply may allow Gonzalez to relate and get through to both American and Latin players both in a way others may not be able.

Additionally and more importantly, as with Hinch, Gonzalez has experience–managing in parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues with experience now in other areas on a coaching staff as well. It is unclear if Hinch or Gonzalez is preferred at this point, but Rosenthal naming them as front-runners speak to the organization’s value they apply to experience.

Why It Would Not Work for the Detroit Tigers

As outlined in the background, Gonzalez was fired twice and both instances appear to be performance-related. The managing job is grueling and often results in a dismissal and this is not necessarily out of the norm for someone that has been managing for a decade, but it would be a red flag to someone that would be helping develop their young talent in the major leagues.

There is also an article from NBC Sports from 2011 which detailed an interview comparing Gonzalez’s Braves (he was managing the club at the time of the interview) and the rival Phillies. The article called his responses to questions ‘refreshingly candid,’ but Gonzalez went position-by-position and told reporters who he would rather have on his club.

It likely is not a deciding factor that would make or break a potential job, but it does feel like a questionable choice from a psychological perspective and something that may be a microcosm into his managing style. I cannot imagine his players being excited to read they would be passed over by their manager for another player on a different team, regardless if it was the truth.

Conclusion

Fredi Gonzalez would represent one of the safer choices for the Detroit Tigers manager when gazing through the field of candidates. AJ Hinch has the sign-stealing scandal in his past and others mentioned like Don Kelly and Marcus Thames both do not hold the managing experience that the Detroit front office is said to covet.

Like Gardenhire, Gonzalez is someone who, while being around the game for a long time, is trying to embrace and apply analytics to his managing style in a way that would put players in the best position to succeed. Given the Tigers’ very public emphasis on developing their analytics department, someone who would embrace such tools will likely be a pre-requisite for the job as well.

It is still early and Detroit figures to pause the search until after the season given some candidates will be entering the playoff bubble in October, but Gonzalez represents an early frontrunner and a name to watch as the Detroit Tigers and GM Al Avila make their decision.

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