Peter Gammons: Drifting from the ‘The Braves Way’, Atlanta fires GM Frank Wren

frank wren

This wasn’t just about going 4-14 in September, or 59-72 since April 27, the B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla contracts, the strikeouts, the second fewest runs scored in the National League. Frank Wren is a good man, a smart man, very tough, often very opinionated, and there was an undeniable sense all the way back to spring training that he had drifted from what John Schuerholz referred to as “The Braves Way.”

This goes back to the first day of spring training a few years back when Bobby Cox got into his car in Lake Buena Vista and began driving home to Atlanta. Schuerholz got Cox on his cell after he crossed the Georgia line and talked him back into returning, but there was an edge. Scouting director Roy Clark left. Now, to be fair, Wren had budget restraints, and after making the wise Ervin Santana signing spent the season more than $10M over budget.

So this isn’t a black-and-white thing, there’s a lot of gray area, and it was complicated even more this spring by the death of Jim Fregosi, who was a ballast to the entire professional wing of the organization. John Hart, one of Schuerholz’s closest and most respected friends, will play a major role here. Maybe as interim general manager, maybe in the role of a Theo Epstein, but he will help decide Wren’s successor, and could well help develop that successor, especially if that person is assistant GM John Coppolella.

Understand Hart’s historic front office baseball tree. Mark Shapiro, Dan O’Dowd (who could end up with the Braves in some capacity), Josh Byrnes, Paul DePodesta, Chris Antonetti, Ben Cherington, Jon Daniels, A.J. Preller and Jerry DiPoto are all John Hart guys. And probably more.

Hart has looked at the farm system, and knows one of the few position player prospects is second baseman Jose Peraza. Some of that may be scouting, and the scouting budget, but Clark killed, especially in Georgia, and it may be that they turn things over, such as to Brian Bridges, to keep him away from Miami. They may well make changes in the Latin market. Bobby Cox, who got this Braves Way started as VP and GM in 1985, solidly backs Fredi Gonzalez, and there are a lot of voices who strongly defend hitting coach Greg Walker. They will have a new director of player development.

This was coming for a while, and one sensed than Wren knew it. Hopefully he can take a little time off, go to Arizona and watch his talented son Kyle play in the Arizona Fall League. He will resurface, and he will be relaxed, and he will not have players talking about an initial $2M offer to Tim Hudson and some of the harsh feelings with Jason Heyward; in fact, the best guess is that Heyward will now get signed to a long-term contract and avoid 2015 free agency.

Schuerholz minced few words at the press conference, stepping out to make it clear that the buck stops with him in the manner of someone bound for Cooperstown does. People in the organization like and respect Coppolella, and while there are experienced, talented men like Larry Beinfest and rising stars like Mike Hazen and Bobby Evans and others available, Coppolella and Bridges may be the next generation of bearers of the Braves Way Torch.

People often forget that Cox began the reconstruction of the Braves, and Schuerholz came on and took it to another level. They’re probably together this afternoon asking, “what would Paul Snyder think?” and that’s the way they’ll go.

Comments

  1. Does this mean that the Braves are starting over, I hope not they were a good franchise one time,

  2. The Braves refuse to have a honest review of Fredi Gonzalez’s record because he was stamped as Cox’s successor. It’s ok to make mistakes, but refusing to acknowledge them is what burys a franchise for years to come.

    In 2011, after two teams had major September collapses, Boston gave Terry Francona the door and slander about his personal life; Braves gave Gonzalez furthers chances, years beyond, to win less than was possible with the roster he had, along with persistent fumbling of in game decisions. Then they gave him an extension. How could he not be just as responsible as Frank Wren?

    • Gerry Keefe says:

      Agree, until they get rid of Fredi and Bobby’s long arm, they will never breakout. Bobby’s teams never could quite win like they should have with all that talent in the years he was at the helm, and he should have won more titles. Braves farm is weak, and you need cheap, good minor league talent to keep payroll down. Yankees found that out. Controlling young talent’s contracts and having tradable young players is gold today.

    • Joe Smith says:

      A) Since firing Terry Francona, the Red Sox have finished in last place in the AL East three times in the last four years (2012, 2014, 2015). Yes, they won the World Series in 2013, but Boston won two World Series with Francona. Evidently, you constitute the typical sports fan who is heartened by rash action and the targeting of scapegoats.

      B) I hope that you do not feel that the leaks about Francona’s personal struggles actually represented a respectable way to handle an organization’s business.

      C) Why is Fredi Gonzalez not as responsible as Frank Wren? Because Frank Wren is the one who gave Fredi Gonzalez a dysfunctional offensive roster.