Freeman voices support for skipper Gonzalez

May 4th, 2016

NEW YORK -- After the Braves dropped their 20th game following Wednesday afternoon's 8-0 loss to the Mets at Citi Field, Freddie Freeman supported his manager, Fredi Gonzalez, by stressing that the accountability needs to be placed on him and his teammates.

"I think everything is getting magnified since we're off to this start," Freeman said. "I don't know if it's fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he's not a player. We're the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We're obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that's Fredi's fault is unfair in my opinion."

The Braves entered this second season of their rebuilding process optimistic that they could at least flirt with a .500 record by the end of the year. But as they have already endured two losing streaks of at least eight games, they have been burdened by Ender Inciarte's long absence (sidelined since April 8 with strained left hamstring), Freeman's agonizing slump that covered nearly three weeks and the reality that Erick Aybar has provided regular reminders that Andrelton Simmons is no longer in Atlanta.

Gonzalez has not benefited from the enhanced bullpen depth the Braves tried to create this offseason, and only recently has the rotation started to take shape as Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair have provided hope every time they step on the mound. As for the lineup's power potential, it has not extended any further beyond Freeman, who, despite his frustrating start, stands as the only Braves player with a slugging percentage of at least .400.

But even though there is reason to question whether any manager could prove successful while dealing with these circumstances and roster weaknesses, Braves officials have been forced to at least discuss whether it makes sense to make a managerial change.

If the Braves opt to dismiss Gonzalez, bullpen coach Eddie Perez would likely be given the job and the opportunity to prove whether he's the man the club wants as it moves toward a future that will steadily become brighter over the next few months, when prospects like Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies could reach the Majors.

All current indications are that Gonzalez will be in the dugout for this weekend's series against the D-backs. His job stability was at least strengthened as the Braves won three of their past six games while matching up against the Red Sox, Cubs and Mets.

If the team continues to play well this weekend (when Inciarte is expected to return) and beyond, Gonzalez could still have a chance to reap the benefits of this rebuilding process, which has created a lot of immediate frustration over the past two seasons.

"[Gonzalez] is out there doing his best every single day, just like we are ours," Freeman said. "He's not the one hitting the balls, pitching the balls or catching the balls.

"Obviously, fans don't want to hear, 'Oh, we've been in a lot of games,' because ultimately, we're not winning. But when you win three games on a road trip against the teams we've played, against the pitchers we've faced, that's a big deal for us."