Let's not get ahead of ourselves in praising Fredi Gonzalez

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Let’s specify — because I think it’s beyond reasonable dispute — that Hanley Ramirez is in the wrong in all of this business down in Florida. Wrong for not running after that ball, and more wrong for unloading on his manager to the press yesterday morning.  He’s history’s greatest monster (this week), no question.

But I’m not joining in with the people who want to fall all over themselves to praise Fredi Gonzalez either. Sure, it’s nice that he stood up to his superstar and delivered for the 24 other guys in the clubhouse who, it seems clear now, desperately needed that to happen.

But it’s not like Gonzalez has handled this perfectly.  In fact, I think he made a big mistake. My beef: the public way in which Gonzalez suggests this spat should end:

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday that he will continue to
bench All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for not hustling in Monday’s
loss to the Diamondbacks until he apologizes to his teammates.

“He
needs to take care of the situation. When he handles that in the right
way, we’ll be fine,” Gonzalez said. “It could be good. He needs
to talk to his teammates a little bit. Whatever feelings he has with me
is fine and dandy. We don’t have to get along. I think he needs to get
along with 24 other guys on this team. When that happens, we’ll run him
back in there and when he sets his ego aside I think this will be
good.”

This isn’t terrible — Ramirez should apologize — but wouldn’t it be better to deal with this in-house?  As it is, Gonzalez has created a public showdown situation where one didn’t need to exist. Instead of demanding good behavior from his bad-behaving shortstop, he is demanding public contrition as well, which however satisfying that may be, is likely to draw this out even longer and prevent the wounds from healing as completely as they otherwise might.

Wouldn’t it have been better for Gonzalez to have (a) simply said that he would be meeting with Ramirez about Monday night’s events and yesterday’s comments; (b) given Ramirez his “apologize, shape up or else” speech behind closed doors; (c) watched the apology happen; and (d) made it clear after the fact that the controversy is in the past?

Such a thing wouldn’t be a cave-in to a petulant superstar. Gonzalez would still demand and get the apology he feels his players need and, because these things always get out, it would still be abundantly clear to everyone that Ramirez admitted he was wrong. The biggest difference — and I think it’s a critical one — is that rather than it being seen as Gonzalez forcing Ramirez to apologize,  this could be portrayed as Ramirez coming to the realization, following some heart to heart talk, that an apology was necessary.

Wouldn’t everyone look better at the end of that process?  Wouldn’t it make it less likely, not more, that Hanley Ramirez could maybe learn something out of it all?  As it is, even if Ramirez apologizes to his teammates before batting practice today, everyone — most especially Ramirez — will view it as coerced.  I can’t help but think that will lead to resentment, and that we’ll be back in this situation in the not too distant future.

Small stuff? Maybe. But managers are supposed to be good at the small stuff, and I think Gonzalez messed this up.  

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

atlanta braves
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.