Differing views on Fredi Gonzalez

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It’s hard to get excited about something as inevitable as the Braves hiring Fredi Gonzalez, but I’m more or less pleased with the choice. If he woofs it, fine, it means the team is losing and if the team is losing it’s going to have to start over anyway and then there are a whole other set of concerns. I don’t see him, however, as being a guy who will take a team of talent level X and turn them into a team that performs in an -X fashion.  They may not be transcendent under Gonzalez, but he’s not going to hamstring them I don’t believe.

Here’s what a couple of other people are saying:

Mark Bradley of the AJC:

Fredi Gonzalez is a solid hire made for logical reasons — the Braves
know him and like his way of doing business. But I was hoping for
someone who wasn’t a Cox acolyte. I was hoping for someone like
Jose Oquendo, who’s the third-base coach in St. Louis and who has
apprenticed under Tony La Russa. And, apart from their love of stray
animals, Cox and La Russa have as much in common as chalk and cheese.

Bradley doesn’t identify any problems with Gonzalez. I think he’s just bored with the choice because it doesn’t give him any new angles to write about. And hey, I love Jose Oquendo too, but I just don’t think this is a team with which you go in a different direction right now.

J.C. Bradbury:

I’m not too worried. I think the choice reflects the fact that it will
be hard to step into Bobby Cox’s shoes, and it’s clear that the front
office wants to replace Bobby with a manger familiar with Bobby’s style
and clubhouse culture. Gonzalez likely won’t have the autonomy and input
that Bobby had, but he won’t be rocking the boat of a team that played
well for the most part this year.

Bradbury also offers a couple of interesting anecdotes suggesting that Gonzalez may be a bit more sabermetrically-friendly than the current Braves regime is. Worth watching.

Finally, Peter Hjort of the Braves blog, Capital Avenue Club:

Quite simply I think this is a huge mistake. Fredi Gonzalez is not Bobby Cox.  Just because he has worked with
Bobby Cox does not mean he will be as effective as Bobby Cox.  He won’t . . . Expect less of the things that made us love Bobby and more of the things
that made us infuriated with him.  That’s essentially what they’ve
opted for, a version of Bobby with less of his good qualities and an
exaggerated propensity for over-management.

I suppose that’s possible. At this point, though, we could take the argument in circles. It’s a team that has had the same guy in charge for over 20 years. There’s really no intellectual or emotional baseline, I don’t think, that gives us any way with which to judge what a new manager will do for the team.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.