Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez continues to shake up lineup: A fan’s take

For years, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox often stuck with the same lineup, night after night, whether successful or a dismal failure.

One of the biggest differences between Cox and new manager Fredi Gonzalez is the new skipper's willingness to change his lineup frequently, something he has done so much this year that some have accused him of simply pulling the players' names out of a hat to determine their order.

In the Braves' series-opening 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on June 27, Gonzalez actually used slugger Jason Heyward(notes) as the leadoff man, a change no one saw coming. He also inserted newly called-up veteran Julio Lugo(notes) in the second slot, a place Lugo has likely not had on a major league team in literally a decade.

The scatter-shot lineup worked, although probably not because of Gonzalez's creative order. All-Star catcher Brian McCann(notes) and Rookie of the Year-candidate first basemen Freddie Freeman(notes) both hit home runs, which is pretty much how the Braves have to win games this year with their combination of poor hitting, lack of team speed, and some of the league's best pitching.

A lot of fans have already taken to the message boards and blogs to complain about Gonzalez's frequent and sometimes bizarre lineup changes. It is kind of ironic, since a lot of those same fans jeered often and loudly year after year about Bobby Cox's inflexibility. There seems to be a percentage of Braves fans that watch the team simply to complain.

But other fans, including me, are delighted with the change that Gonzalez has made in regards to the everyday lineup. The Braves haven't hit at all this year, but that is not Gonzalez's fault nor does it have anything to with where the players are batting in the order. At least you can honestly say that the manager is trying everything he can to jump-start the offense.

I think the lineup changes have actually helped the Braves by keeping the other teams off balance as to what and who they'll actually be facing. But even if that is not the case, they certainly have not hurt and they make things a lot more interesting for fans than Cox's tendency to stick with the same order day after day.

It is great to see guys moved around in the order. Sometime this year the Braves will hopefully bust out and start hitting enough to really complement their terrific pitching. When that happens, you get the idea that Gonzalez may stay with the same lineup more often. Until then, however, his lineup shuffle is not what is wrong with Atlanta, and I admire him for trying to actually manage the game and force some energy into the Braves' bats.

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Updated Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011