Fredi Gonzalez is a dead man walking

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Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is in a bad position. His team is terrible. It was designed to be terrible and there is no hope that it won’t be terrible for the rest of the year. He’s likewise a lame duck and the organization has made no secret of the fact that next year, with the new stadium, will come a new beginning of some kind. The odds of him managing the Braves on Opening Day 2017 are zero and have been for a while.

The question, then, was always going to be how long he lasts. Given the Braves’ awful start it seems pretty clear that “until the end of the season” is not a reasonable guess either. Now it’s just a matter of when. Here’s a pretty good sign that “when” will be “in the next week and maybe even before the weekend”

You can click through to the column and get the straightforward and reasonable answer about it being time to make a change and how this isn’t Fredi’s fault but, hey, teams that go through this fire managers and thus Fredi will be fired and should be.

But the key thing here is that the column was written at all. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution folks have a pretty good relationship with the Braves’ front office. They’re not house organs or anything, but they’re plugged in and, when something is suggested to them from the front office, they tend to run with it in less critical ways than their counterparts in some other cities might. Based on my reading of AJC coverage of this team for the past 20 years or so, that Bradley is writing this column strongly suggests to me that someone with the Braves said to him “you know, it wouldn’t make you look dumb to write a fire Fredi column,” or something to that effect.

As for firing Gonzalez, yeah, he’d be a scapegoat. But it’s not like he’d be some uniquely wronged scapegoat. Like I said, managers in his position are almost always fired, even if the roster was dead on arrival and even if the record is not his fault. And to be sure, it’s not like Gonzalez was some amazing manager to begin with. Back when the team had an actually good roster he didn’t cover himself in glory managing it. Notably, he had the confidence of the front office then. Notably, no one who writes for the AJC was calling for his firing when he was squandering the Braves’ assets.

Regardless, I take this as a strong sign that Fredi is gone, maybe as soon as today, but if I was putting money on it I’d say no later than a week from today, when they have an off day just before beginning a homestand.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round playoff series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason.

Blue Jays players embraced on the diamond at their temporary home of Sahlen Field in Buffalo after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it.

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh, pitching around Clint Frazier‘s leadoff single by setting down the next three, including pinch-hitter Aaron Judge. The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second, his eighth.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Judge is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, manager Aaron Boone said.

BIG HIT

New York infielder D.J. LeMaheiu went 1 for 5, dropping his MLB-best average to .355. A former NL batting champ seeing his first AL title, LeMahieu is well ahead of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. The Chicago star went 0 for 4 in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, dropping his average to .338.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.