Gonzalez rewarded after winning season
JUPITER, Fla. -- Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez resisted any temptation to play hardball when owner Jeffrey Loria offered him a contract extension.
Shortly before the first full-squad workout of spring training Tuesday, the Marlins announced an extension for Gonzalez through the 2011 season. The agreement was reached Saturday.
"It was a really, really tough negotiation," Gonzalez said. "Jeffrey came in and wanted to talk to me, and he offered me the extension, and I don't think I let him finish the sentence. I said yes."
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Gonzalez was entering the final year of a three-year deal. The Marlins went 71-91 in his first season and improved to 84-77 last year, when he became the third manager to lead them to a winning record.
Now he's likely to be the Marlins' manager longer than any of his eight predecessors. Rene Lachemann, Florida's first manager, holds the team record of 3½ seasons.
"It's a great way to kick off spring training, and well deserved by Fredi," general manager Larry Beinfest said. "He's in sync with our development people, with the front office, with ownership, and we see great things in the future."
Shortly before Tuesday's workout, team president David Samson informed the players of Gonzalez's extension. They responded with applause.
"He has done a great job with the club," second baseman Dan Uggla said. "He's very laid back, but when you need a kick in the butt, he's there to do that, too. Anyone can go to him at any time. His door is always open. We can call him at any hour of the day or night if we need to. We're lucky to have him."
Gonzalez, 45, grew up in Miami and started with the Marlins organization in 1992, the year before their first game. He was their first minor league manager, and after five years with the Atlanta Braves, he was hired as the Marlins' manager when they fired Joe Girardi following the 2006 season.
Gonzalez was the Braves' third-base coach under Bobby Cox. There had been speculation he might eventually succeed Cox as manager, but the extension solidifies his future with in Miami.
"As long as they want, I'd love to stay here," Gonzalez said. "It's a good organization. You see all the young talent coming up every year."
Gonzalez phoned Cox to share the news about the extension.
"I'm proud of Fredi," Cox said at the Braves' training site in Kissimmee, Fla. "There was no doubt in my mind he would not be a good manager, but an excellent manager. ...
"He has so many pluses. He's a good communicator. He can get his word across to people. He's not afraid to discipline people. He manages a great game, strategy-wise."
As usual, Gonzalez will be working this year with a modest payroll but plenty of highly touted youngsters. He has said the goal is a playoff berth, even though the Marlins are competing against the World Series champion Phillies, Mets and Braves in the rugged NL East.
With a 155-168 career record, Gonzalez needs 86 wins this season to match Jack McKeon's franchise record of 241. He hopes to do more than that.
"I want to be here for a long time and bring a championship," he said.
Gonzalez is loath to fault his players publicly and has few rules -- one of his few prohibits boomboxes in the clubhouse. Infielder Wes Helms, who played in Atlanta, said Gonzalez goes about his job much like Cox.
"If you go out there and do your job, he's not going to jump your tail," Helms said. "He understands you're human and you're going to make mistakes, but he wants you to learn from your mistakes. That's all Bobby asked from us in Atlanta. Fredi was with Bobby and learned from him."
Gonzalez's demeanor is a big change from predecessor Girardi, who clashed with Loria and Beinfest and lasted only one season.
"We're extremely pleased to have Fredi continue his great work with our organization," Loria said in a statement.
The extension gives the Marlins added stability at the top. Beinfest is beginning his ninth season as general manager and is under contract through 2015.
"We feel like everything is heading in the right direction," Beinfest said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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