The Braves didn't even wait 48 hours to introduce Bobby Cox's replacement.
No need. Fredi Gonzalez was Atlanta’s manager-in-waiting almost as soon as Cox announced that 2010 would be his final season.
In what was nothing more than a formality, Gonzalez took over Wednesday as the team’s new manager, succeeding the fourth-winningest skipper in baseball history.
Gonzalez said he’s not worried about following in Cox’s large footsteps. The Braves’ manager since 1990, he led the team to an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles and the 1995 World Series championship. After missing the playoffs four straight years, Atlanta returned as a wild card this season.
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Cox’s managing career ended Monday night when the Braves, devastated by injuries, lost to San Francisco in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
“Our goal is simple: We want to keep putting flags on that faade up there,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think there’s a person alive that’s going to replace Bobby Cox. We just want to continue the winning tradition and go from there.”
Gonzalez’s return to the Atlanta, where he served as Cox’s third-base coach from 2003-06, has been widely expected ever since he was fired in June by the Florida Marlins.
“This is perfect for us on so many levels,” said general manager Frank Wren, who didn’t even bother interviewing another candidate.
When Cox decided late last season to retire in 2010, the Braves came up with a list of about 15 possible candidates and had Gonzalez, 46, at the top right from the start – even though he was managing the Marlins.
“He was on our radar before he was available,” Wren said. “We thought there may come a time when we were going to have to ask the Florida Marlins for permission to talk to their manager. We really thought Fredi was the best candidate for us.”
Gonzalez apprenticed under Cox before leaving to take over as Florida’s manager, a post he held for 31/2 years. He had a record of 276-279 with the Marlins, one of baseball’s lowest-spending teams.
Florida fired Gonzalez on June 23, a month after he benched star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for a lack of hustle – a move that many thought angered owner Jeffrey Loria.
Top overall draft pick Bryce Harper is heading to the Arizona Fall League, where the Washington Nationals plan to tweak his batting stroke. Nielsen said the 15 division series games on TBS averaged a 2.8 rating – down 10 percent from a 3.1 for 13 games last year when more large-market teams made the playoffs.