O’Brien: Fredi Gonzalez is “a pretty good manager”

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In a scathing column directed at Braves bloggers, the AJC’s David O’Brien spent a great deal of time setting up and then knocking down a plethora of strawman arguments supposedly made by Braves bloggers and Tweeters. Gonzalez has been the target of criticism ever since he took over for Bobby Cox in 2011.

Look at the wording O’Brien uses in his column:

The most predictable tweets and blog comments today and — depending upon game results — later tonight will come from a segment of the audience that’s convinced itself that Fredi Gonzalez does nothing right (at least not on purpose).

“Will blame”. “Surely will complain”. “Watch the anti-Fredi contingent twist itself into pretzels arguing”.

O’Brien then defends Gonzalez because the Braves have a good record in an arbitrarily-selected period of time, because Gonzalez is bilingual, and because Cox was also the target of criticism during his tenure. It’s just a very curious column overall, one that is very unconvincing.

I cannot speak to the day-to-day strategical decisions made by the Braves’ skipper (Craig can do that), but I do notice a lot of parallels to the praise Phillies manager Charlie Manuel received from the Philadelphia media between the time the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 until they disappointed in the NLDS in 2011. In fact, almost the same exact arguments O’Brien uses in favor of Gonzalez were used by Stan Hochman to praise Manuel back in 2011, just to cite one example.

But Manuel’s flaws are plenty — he is easily one of the worst managers in terms of decision-making. He refuses to use closer Jonathan Papelbon in non-save situations on the road, he has a strong aversion to platoon match-ups (only exacerbated by the same aversion of GM Ruben Amaro), and he is unable to enforce scheduled off-days for oft-injured stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley despite insistence they would get more rest. The Phillies media, for the most part, either did not recognize these as flaws or ignored them due to the club’s success. Over the past year and a half, though, Manuel has been criticized quite a bit by the same Philly media that was quick to defend him. The Phillies teams circa  2008-11 were good enough to hide Manuel’s flaws; now that the team is weaker in almost every way, his shortcomings are much more apparent.

It seems like the media ebbs and flows between deifying and dethroning managers. It’s not the media’s job to do either. And there’s a difference between rebutting criticism and deifying. Citing team wins since last July 4 and praising bilingualism is about as close to deifying as you can get, at least as far as baseball managers go.

Manuel, by the way, can speak Japanese.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.