New Marlins skipper soaking it all in
Gonzalez raring to go, already excited about Spring Training
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Place Fredi Gonzalez in a baseball environment, and the adrenaline begins to flow for the new Marlins manager.
Attending his first Winter Meetings as a big-league skipper, Gonzalez admits to having restless nights because baseball fever is in the air. Face-to-face, he has shaken hands and had at least brief conversations with every manager who is in attendance at the meetings.
In the hotel lobby, Gonzalez has talked to Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, and he's had several long talks with Jack McKeon, the former Marlins manager who now is a special adviser to team owner Jeffrey Loria.
McKeon has smoked a few cigars and talked baseball with Gonzalez.
The way Gonzalez sees it, dealing with people is an important part of managing.
"I think that's almost 80 percent of the game, managing people," said Gonzalez, who joined the Marlins in October after spending the past four years as the Braves' third-base coach. "Managing personalities in the clubhouse, it's probably almost as important as managing the game."
That's because the Xs and Os of the game take care of themselves. In time, Gonzalez's strategies will emerge, as he gets a feel of when to steal over hitting-and-running, and when to go to the bullpen for that situational reliever.
When it comes to getting a grip on what makes players tick, the 42-year-old Miami native sees that as a significant factor.
"I think handling the clubhouse, handling those personalities, is probably the biggest part of the whole thing," Gonzalez said of his job description.
The affable Gonzalez has received his share of attention at the Winter Meetings, receiving numerous congratulations for getting the Florida job. Before Gonzalez's media session started, he joked to his former boss, Braves manager Bobby Cox, that he didn't have a tie to wear.
Playing along, Cox offered the one he was wearing.
"Everything is new," Gonzalez said. "What should I wear? The game, that's going to be the easy thing."
Gonzalez talks regularly with Cox, and he plans to keep doing so, despite the two now being division rivals.
"I get up in the middle of the night and I am excited about starting Spring Training," Gonzalez said. "I really am. I think about baseball, the pitching staff, situations -- all kinds of stuff. I haven't slept really good the last couple of days. You get excited. Baseball people are all around. ... It gets the blood flowing a little bit."
The biggest advice Cox has offered has been echoed by the other managers at the meetings.
"Bobby said, 'Don't read what you guys write and don't listen to the talk shows,' " Gonzalez said with a laugh. "They all said that -- every single one of them. But that's part of the job."
In terms of his managing style, Gonzalez said he will draw from his past experiences from the managers he admires most. For instance, some of Cox's personality will show through, especially in how to manage a pitching staff.
"I love the way he handles the pitching staff," Gonzalez said. "I'm not going to put myself in his class or anybody else's class. But there is a way to do it, and I think I'm going to follow his way a little bit."
Gonzalez also remains close with former Marlins manager John Boles.
"I think you take from people that are successful, and take what they do and incorporate it into your own style," Gonzalez said.
The strength of the youthful Marlins is their young pitching staff. Assuming they don't trade any of their projected starters -- Dontrelle Willis, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen or Anibal Sanchez -- Gonzalez likely will be working with one of the top staffs in the National League.
He currently is reviewing video of his players, and when working with the pitchers, he plans on leaning heavily on pitching coach Rick Kranitz.
"It's going to be a learning experience," Gonzalez said. "We've got a great young pitching staff, and we've got a lot of great young pitchers. It's going to be fun."
While the Marlins are seeking to upgrade in center field, Gonzalez envisions the everyday lineup looking a lot like this past season. Hanley Ramirez is slotted to lead off, followed by Dan Uggla, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Willingham, Mike Jacobs and so on.
Gonzalez says patience will be key as these young players continue to develop.
"I think sometimes, instead of making knee-jerk reactions and switching the lineup because a guy is 0-for-12, you show patience and say, 'Hey, go get 'em, because you're going to go 0-for-50 before I take you out,'" Gonzalez said. "I think the players appreciate that, and I think they will play for you at the end."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.