Atlanta Braves may fire Fredi Gonzalez, target Bud Black

John Buhler
Kate Upton is engaged to MLB star Justin Verlander
Kate Upton is engaged to MLB star Justin Verlander

The 2016 Atlanta Braves are the laughing-stock of Major League Baseball. They have seven wins on the year and have a pair of nine-game losing streaks not even the first week into May.

One anonymous executive within the organization told USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale that "the Atlanta Braves, embarrassed over their horrific start to their season, are internally discussing whether they should fire manager Fredi Gonzalez."

Atlanta nearly fired Gonzalez after the atrocious 95-loss campaign in 2015. While Gonzalez's club went 42-42 through their first 84 games, good enough to earn Gonzalez and his staff one-year extensions, Atlanta has since gone 31-72 since the middle of July 2015.

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While Gonzalez's stay in Atlanta cannot possibly extend beyond the end of a certain 100-loss 2016 MLB season, the biggest challenge for the Braves organization is to find a suitable long-term replacement at manager. One name to keep an eye on is former 15-year MLB veteran pitcher and nine-year manager of the San Diego Padres Bud Black.

Atlanta has a promising crop of pitchers and Black does have a previous working relationship with Braves president of baseball operations from their time together with the Cleveland Indians. For years, Atlanta has been shamelessly reluctant to hire important coaches/front office figures from outside of the organization.

The Braves Way isn't working like it did in the 1990s with a pitching staff that will never be replicated in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz, all first-ballot Hall of Famers. Atlanta needs to honestly evaluate and commit fully to the rebuild, rather than digging into the past or living off the branches of the Bobby Cox coaching tree.

In five years as managers, the Braves quit on Gonzalez three times in September (2011, 2014-15). He's not a great tactician nor is he a great player's manager like Cox once was. Braves Country is growing delirious with its first rebuilding process in close to 25 years.

It's a shame to see the Braves hit complete rock bottom this catastrophically in a matter or years. Whether or not the Braves front office does tab Black as its next skipper, the Gonzalez era in Atlanta needs to come to a close if the Braves want to get back on track in both the short and long terms.

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