October 2007

Wren begins, A-Rod strikes sour note…

The Wren Era is now officially underway. Forget the pomp andcircumstance of a press conference to announce that a legendary front
office figure will step aside, I want to see some trades! Who’s with me?

Well,
Tuesday October the 29th gave us just that opportunity. Wren and the
club announced that All-star Edgar Renteria had been dealt to the
Detroit Tigers for a duo of uber-talented youngsters, Gorkys Hernandez
and Jair Jurrjens. So maybe it’s not Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller,
but these two certainly have some promise.

Renteria has
performed admirably for Atlanta, battling a couple stints on the DL but
more often than not he could be found batting second and quietly going
about the business of being a professional hitter. But, the reality is
that Renteria was heading into his free-agent year and was unlikely to
return. His trade value was highest this winter.

Of course, we
were all looking for something that was perhaps a little more immediate
in terms of the names involved but let’s not get too greedy. Renteria’s
departure also opens up some spending room and according to Wren is
just a precursor of moves on the horizon.

Kudos to Wren for
pulling off his first deal at the helm as GM. Time will tell the full
story of this one. Atlanta will allow Hernandez to continue his
maturation in the minor leagues, while Jurrjens will compete with Jo-Jo
Reyes for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Around MLB:
Well
there was the small matter of the Boston Red Sox wrapping up the Fall
Classic, having blown through the over-rested Rockies in the first
three games. Sunday saw the Red Sox capture their second title in four
years, with a decidedly different team that the one that did the trick
in 2004. Boston is as real as it gets, top to bottom. This could be
happening again a couple more times before this bunch is broken up. The
balance of youth and experience is a beautiful combination.

So………… what could possibly be more important that the deciding game of the World Series?

A-Rod’s contract decision of course.

I
know that if you are anything like me, you were clinging to the edge of
your seat to see how this A-Rod contract melodrama would play out. How
can you not feel for a guy who has to decide where to get his $25
million per year? Do I go with the team that is preparing to make a
5-year extension in the neighborhood of $27-30 million a year, or do I
simply perpetuate the lukewarm decision making skills that have landed
me in this "terrible situation" to begin with? What’s a guy to do?

Scott
Boras and his client made the more-than-questionable decision to go
public during the fourth and final game of the World Series with their
intent to opt the slugging third baseman out of the final three years
of his record 10-year $252 million deal. Thank goodness they exercised
tact and timing in making the decision.

To bring those of you
who may be wondering up to speed on why this announcement in and of
itself was any bigger than what it states, the problem is the timing.
Major League Baseball likes the World Series to be the focus when, in
fact, it is being played. Therefore, all transaction and other assorted
personel moves are done internally by each club or the player in
question and announced at the conclusion of the series.

So,
while the Red Sox wrapped up their second title in four years,
Rodriguez added an unneeded distraction following his fourth
consecutive year in New York – and in none of those years has Rodriguez
been a part of the World Series. That will look good on his resume
right? He can put it next to "Plays well with others" and right before
he lists Derek Jeter as a reference.

Did anything ever make you miss the reserve clause so much?

Till Next time,
G-Mc

So many stories, so little time…

Time’s been at a premium lately, despite the lack of baseball here
in Atlanta, but it has been a busy Post-season already. We’ve seen what
a hot streak at the right time can do for a club, as the Rockies are
barreling towards a potential World Series title. Witnessing a team
pull out victories in 21-of-22 games to make a grand entrance to the
Fall Classic is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Let’s
see how far this ‘Rocktober’ thing goes.

 

For the Braves, unable to tap into the Colorado-style magic, the
off-season began on October 1st. The organizational shift began with
the somewhat unorthodox announcement that Atlanta would not seek to
resign Andruw Jones, effectively cutting ties with their center fielder
of 11 seasons. I use the term unorthodox because generally, whether
they plan to bring a player back or not usually plays out on its on
during the winter.

 

That wasn’t the only announcement that was out of left field so to
speak. John Schuerholz received a well-earned promotion to team
president and will leave his duties as general manager in the capable
hands of understudy Frank Wren. The transition will likely be seamless,
with Schuerholz serving in an advisory role for player transactions. It
was a move designed to keep the most successful executive in baseball
history with the organization beyond his term and capacity, but
surprised more than a few in its initial leaked form, "Schuerholz to
step down."

 

You can read more of the Schuerholz coverage over on the Braves
Insider Pages at the Radio Network homes by clicking here, but I
thought time would be well spent looking into the Andruw Jones
situation.


What does this mean for the Braves?

 

More or less it means that for the first time since roughly 1994,
the Braves aren’t exactly sure who will be patrolling center field.
Marquis Grissom filled the role, was dealt for Kenny Lofton, who gave
way to Andruw Jones in 1998. The rest as they say, is history.

 

Andruw enjoyed some tremendous success in Atlanta, but last season’s
mega-slump certainly hurt his off-season marketability. The Braves will
look to fill that void this off-season, where a class that is headlined
by the Twins Torii Hunter and the Padres Mike Cameron among others.
Boston will likely part ways with Coco Crisp, a outfielder who was
linked to Atlanta in trade talks prior to the 2006 season (though as a
left fielder at that time). Aaron Rowand is another name that jumps
out, but his asking price is rumored to be north of $70 million.
Baltimore’s Corey Patterson will also be on the market.

 

However the Braves decide to go, it will be a change from one of the
game’s all-time best glovemen. It will also bring a marked difference
in power potential as well. There aren’t many bats on the free agent
market in general that could match a potential 40-homer 130-RBI year.
That is the kind of production Andruw had given Atlanta in 2005 and
2006. Hunter and Cameron both have the potential to crack the 30-homer
plateau, but neither can approach the RBI numbers of Andruw.

 

A trade could be in the works as well. With several
middle-infielders piled up, Atlanta could look to deal for a center
fielder. Only time will tell.


What does this mean for Andruw?

 

Well, Andruw certainly brings and impressive resume that includes a
likely 10th gold glove and nearly 400 homers. He trails only Chipper
Jones on the Atlanta all-time homer list and has also eclipsed the
1,000 RBI mark – all of this by the age of 30.

 

There is no doubt that Andruw may have registered the worst
free-agent walk season of any superstar who would be looking to gain
employment in a new venue. The Braves know what Andruw is capable of,
but it certainly says alot about the asking price for Atlanta to say
"thanks, but no thanks" before Andruw even officially filed for free
agency. I suppose there is the possibility that the Braves will offer
Andruw arbitration, and face the same scenario they did when Greg
Maddux was unable to pull big money elsewhere. Andruw for one more year
under those circumstances would certainly make for an awkward scenario.

 

Plenty of teams will likely express varying degrees of interest in
Andruw. The Nationals are moving into a new park and have money to
spend. Philadelphia could lose Rowand to free agency and might
entertain the idea of Andruw in center. The Padres have already
expressed interest in a 1-year make good year that could next Andruw
somewhere in the $16 million range. Then there are the Boston’s and New
York’s and Los Angeles’ of the world that could offer multiple year
deals. Word out of Dodger camp already has Juan Pierre moving to left
field in favor of a stronger armed center fielder. Could that be Andruw?

 

Only time will tell where Andruw lands, but we certainly wish him the best in all his future endeavors.

 

Till Next time,
G-Mc

End of an era: Schuerholz steps down as GM

Here’s the article I posted earlier today. The news speaks for itself, while the change comes completely by surprise. I’ll be working on a podcast and discussing the transition to go up tomorrow with former Braves second baseman and Braves Radio Network analyst Mark Lemke.

Till then, enjoy the article and throw some comments in.

Grant-Mc

Here you go……………………………………………………..

Schuerholz becomes Braves team president, Wren to GM
ATLANTA — After spending the last 17 years building baseball’s winningest club, reports indicate that general manager John Schuerholz will in fact step down as GM and become the club’s president. The Braves are expected to announce assistant GM Frank Wren as Schuerholz’ successor.

While the official announcement is expected to be made at a press conference from Turner Field at 3:30 PM, various sources have indicated that the move has been made. An announcement is also expected regarding current team president Terry McGuirk at that time.

Schuerholz, 67, previously served as GM of the Kansas City Royals and came to Atlanta following the 1990 season. Re-vamped with a mix of veterans and homegrown talent, the Braves enjoyed instant success in 1991 and went on a run of 14-consecutive Divisional titles, capped by a World Series Championship in 1995.

The Braves have failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, but own a record of  1,594-1,092 under the guidance of Schuerholz. It was announced last week that manager Bobby Cox would return for the 2008 season.

Atlanta is expeceted to name Wren, 49, as the team’s general manager on Thursday afternoon. Wren was previously the GM for the Baltimore Orioles in 1999 and has served for seven seasons with the Braves as a top assistant to Schuerholz.

Season Review: What went wrong

When things are going right, everyone is happy. But when things start to go wrong, everyone has a theory as to what exactly the problem is for their team. This season was an improvement for the Atlanta Braves, at 84-78, but not what one has come to expect from the team that won a record 14-consecutive division crowns. So, as we delve into the season that was, let’s stat with the bad news.

What went wrong:

It began early, when Mike Hampton was shut down with more elbow problems. Having not thrown a pitch in a Major League game since 2005, Hampton first injured his oblique while taking BP at mid-March at Lakeland. From there, it would only get worse. The veteran lefty was diagnosed with a torn tendon in his already surgically repaired pitching elbow. Just like that, Hampton was put on the shelf for another season.

We can go no further than the man who was supposed to replace Hampton and provide the Braves with some much needed innings toward the end of the rotation. Mark Redman was nothing short of a disaster area in five starts with Atlanta. His 10.64 ERA was an obvious bi-product of the 38 hits and 11 walks issued in just 21.2 innings of work. By late May, Redman found himself looking for work and the Braves odyssey of finding fourth and fifth starters continued.

Injuries and inconsistency continued to plague the Braves throughout the summer, as they called on pitcher after pitcher to fill the final two rotation spots. Righty Kyle Davies continued to be enigmatic, following each strong start with two poor ones before finding himself shipped to Kansas City.

Lance Cormier showed signs that he could bolster the rotation during a strong Grape Fruit League campaign, but spent considerable time on the DL before under-whelming the Braves with his performances (2-6, 7.09 ERA in nine starts). Anthony Lerew was not the answer, nor was lefty prospect Jo-Jo Reyes – who, to his credit, seemed to turn the corner in his final two starts of the season.

When you boil down this season to one problem area and wonder what one thing could have made a big difference for the Atlanta Braves, there is no doubt that the combined struggles of Redman, Davies, Cormier, Lerew and Reyes will be the most obvious. Combined, these starters went 8-22 with a 6.84 ERA in 44 starts. Looking even closer, in 215.2 IP these hurlers allowed 164 earned runs on 255 hits while issuing 114 free passes. That simply will not get the job done.

Andruw Jones. No where, were the Braves struggles and ineptitudes felt as mightily as in their stalwart center-fielder of 12 seasons. Combining to hit 92 homers and drive home 257 runs over the prior two seasons, which lead everyone to expect the same kind of big numbers as Jones headed into his free-agent season. Who could have predicted this monstrous slump.

Over the course of seemingly every season, there was always a point when Jones would catch fire and the homers, RBI’s and big hits would come in bunches. That never materialized in 2007. Jones limped into the last series of the season (where he sat out all three games) with a .222 average, 26 homers and 94 RBI. Even the defense, which shined at times, seems to have lost a little luster and a couple steps here and there.

Make no mistake, Andruw (who will be the subject of his own blog entry one of these days) will probably find a team that will want to make him very rich this off-season. But having the worst contract season in memory probably doesn’t make it easy for even Scott Boras to drum up the astronomical figures.

Then there was first base, which eventually became home to slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira. Craig Wilson earned his release in May, following a horrid run (.172, 1 HR, 2 RBI in 24 games) as the righty part of a platoon with lefty-swinging Scott Thorman. Everyday play seemed to be more than Thorman could handle, leading the Braves turn to the familiar face of 49-year old Mets cast-off Julio Franco in July. Franco started for the week prior to Teixeira’s arrival and may have provided the most stability Atlanta had seen to that point.

While the bullpen certainly enjoyed a much-improved season in 2007, there still problems late in the game for Atlanta. Lefty set-up man Mike Gonzalez went down with Tommy John prior to the All-star break. Closer Bob Wickman turned into a pumpkin in his first full season with Atlanta. The often surly reliever alienated teammates and management, leading to his release in late August.

Inter-league play was also not particularly kind to the Braves this season. Rated by the Elias Sports Bureau as having the toughest Inter-league match-ups this season in all of Major League Baseball, the Braves took it on the chin in Boston, Cleveland and Minnesota and getting Detroit and second dose of the Red Sox at Turner Field. The 4-11 record against American League squads certainly did not help the cause.

We’ll take a look at what went right for the Braves in the next entry. Bring the comments and keep them coming.

Till Next time,

G-Mc

What to look forward to…

Well the 2007 season is in the book as the playoffs begin in earnest today. I’ve been racking my brain and thinking of new blog topics (there are many) and all the year-end, review and – actually – preview-type entries to make.

It was a year full of big stories for the Atlanta Braves and all of Major League Baseball. I’ll be working on an Andruw Jones blog due out later tonight, and then a seasonal review for the Braves.

A few other fun topics will include post-season match-ups and award winner predictions. Hang in there. I’ll be back soon.

Till Next time,

G-Mc