While Dan Uggla’s fate will get the most attention, the biggest storyline this offseason has to do with extensions. The Braves need to decide which of the young core they’re going to try and lock up, and they have to do it now (though I fear it ain’t happening with Jay Hey, a free agent in 2016 who doesn’t have much incentive to trade two arbitration years for long-term security).
Fredi’s contract expires after 2014, and if he enters the season without an extension it’ll speak volumes about FW’s lack of confidence in his manager. Lame ducks are easily undermined, and teams generally try to avoid such uncertainty in the clubhouse.
I’d take my chances with instability, though I’ll admit this postseason has shown there aren’t a lot of geniuses manning major league dugouts. John Farrell should probably be grateful for the obstruction call, as it obscured his stupefying decision to let relief pitcher Brandon Workman bat in the 9th with Mike Napoli available on the bench. He later acknowledged the blunder, to his credit.
Still, Farrell got his team to the World Series and baseball, which typically operates with a pack mentality, seems ready to accept former pitchers as managers. That bodes well for the man I think should replace Fredi, widely regarded as a baseball genius.
But when Brad Penny and Maddux were teammates on the Dodgers, during the last two months of 2006, they had a conversation one day that led Penny to reach a stunning conclusion: This guy knows my stuff better than I do. It was eerie, really, how easily Maddux dissected Penny’s repertoire and suggested ways to maximize it. Penny, figuring he’d take advantage of the situation, asked Maddux to call a game for him against the Cubs. And so, on the night of Sept. 13, Penny glanced into the dugout before every delivery and found Maddux, who signaled the next pitch by looking toward different parts of the ballpark. Penny threw seven scoreless innings with no walks and beat the Cubs 6-0. “Maddux probably won’t tell you that story,” Penny says. He’s right.
Hiring Greg Maddux would be the smartest move FW could make. I doubt it’ll happen, but my confidence in the current regime would skyrocket if it does.