Big shoes to fill in Atlanta

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Teams normally seek a new direction when they change managers. Not the Braves. When looking for the Bobby Cox successor, they sought consistency — somebody who would run a team, run a clubhouse, in much of the same way Bobby did. 
That’s why the choice to bring in Fredi Gonzalez was such an easy (and quick) one. 
Cox has been such an important and beloved figure in Atlanta that it was critical for the Braves to find somebody similar. And by all accounts, Fredi (pictured above by The Associated Press) hasn’t been much of a break from Bobby — because a lot of how he manages stems from his tutelage under Cox, not because he’s being anybody but himself. 
“Same old Fredi that I’ve seen him,” new Braves second baseman Dan Uggla told me on Sunday morning. Uggla, of course, also played for Gonzalez when the two were on the Marlins together. 
“Fredi’s Fredi. He’s not going to change who he is just because he’s in a different place. I think that’s a good thing, though.” 
I wrote recently about how the Marlins’ dismissal of Gonzalez in June seemed to be a win-win for both sides — the Marlins (now with Edwin Rodriguez) and Fredi himself. This clubhouse seems to play better to who Gonzalez is as a manager. Covering him with the Marlins, it didn’t seem like his strengths lied in getting on guys and being very demanding — they were in instilling confidence in players and getting the best out of them in that way. 
Problem is, with the Marlins, somebody needed to get on the guys at times. It wasn’t going to be Fredi, and it wasn’t going to be Josh Johnson or Hanley Ramirez; that’s just not who they are. And if it’s not the manager or the star players, it’s hard for anybody else to do it. In Atlanta, Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones are those guys. And by all accounts, they both have Fredi’s back. 
That’s huge for any first-year manager, especially one taking over a championship-contending team, and especially one filling such big shoes. 
One thing Fredi has said he wants to do is keep Bobby — now in an advisory role — as involved with the club as possible. 
“I want to try to get him in uniform before Spring Training, but I don’t know if that’s going to work,” Gonzalez said from Roger Dean Stadium on Monday. “He comes around as much as he wants to, and you want him to be around.”
As for what’s different between Marlins Fredi and Braves Fredi? 
“I think the experience,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you this is the one thing, but I think you’re always prepared after your first job — anywhere, I think — to handle things better. Because nothing prepares you to manage a club until you manage.” 
— Alden Gonzalez 

** What I wrote this week: Neftali Feliz should start for the Rangers; Brett Gardner a fit atop Yankees lineup; Mets well-versed in putting distractions in the back burner; Jason Bay and Justin Morneau fighting concussions together; stars bouncing back from 2010 injuries. 

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