In the end, even this Wren defender has no objection

Frank Wren: Gone as GM. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Frank Wren: Gone as GM. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Frank Wren: Gone as GM. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Frank Wren: Gone as GM. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

It wasn’t so long ago — on Monday, July 7, to be precise — that these fingers offered up a few hundred words in defense of Frank Wren. My reasoning, such as it was: Since 2010, the Atlanta Braves had won more regular-season games than any team in baseball, and I believed that Wren’s offseason push to re-up four key pieces of the team’s young core would secure the future of the franchise. (I should also note that, at that moment, the Braves led the National League East.)

Today the Braves fired Frank Wren, and this former defender cannot rise to object.

Back in July, I couldn’t have imagined that a team so talented could go a full season without hitting a lick. Back in July, I wouldn’t have dreamed that the long-term re-ups of Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons could ever be considered short-sighted, but here it is Sept. 22 and Freeman has only seven more home runs than B.J. Upton and Simmons’ on-base percentage is .004 better than Bossman Jr.’s, and when you’re being compared to the player who essentially brought down this general manager … well, you haven’t exactly branded yourself a windfall, either.

I credit Wren for inheriting (in October 2007) a franchise coming off two consecutive non-playoff seasons, the latter of which featured the decimate-the-farm-system trade for Mark Teixeira, and rebuilding it by 2010. The Braves won 91 games that season. They won 89 in 2011, the year of the Epic Collapse. Then 94. Then 96. They made the playoffs three times in four seasons. They won the National League East for the first time since 2005. But B.J. Upton changed everything.

Don’t make the mistake of lumping Dan Uggla with Bossman Jr. Uggla had stamped himself a consistent run-producer over five seasons as a Marlin. Trading for him and then re-signing him for $62 million over five years should have worked; it just didn’t. A proven hitter simply stopped hitting, and we’ll probably never know why. (Or even if there is a “why.”)

Signing B.J. Upton for $75 million was a huge bet on potential over production. The Braves had scouted him heavily — Jeff Wren, Frank’s brother, and the late Jim Fregosi were the point men — and believed him to be worth the massive contract. (That contract, it must be said, was in keeping with what sabermetric types believed Upton would indeed draw in free agency; Keith Law of ESPN ranked him the No. 1 position player available that winter.) There was always risk involved, but nobody would have dreamed that such a talent would, in new surroundings playing alongside his brother, become one of the five worst players in the major leagues.

And suddenly it wasn’t one big Wren acquisition that had gone bust. It was two everyday players, two to put on the same shelf as the pitchers Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. (Though I’d argue that Lowe wasn’t a total flop; the Braves wouldn’t have made the playoffs in 2010 without him.) When finally the Braves paid Uggla to go away, the clock started ticking on B.J. Upton. When this batting order failed to coalesce despite the lineup-card gyrations performed by Fredi Gonzalez, the attention turned to lineup composition — lots of big swingers who’d become bigger missers, meaning lots of rally-killers, meaning no rallies.

On paper, this lineup looked potent enough. On the ballfield, it looked awful. You wouldn’t have imagined a team with Freeman, Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton could be second-worst (to San Diego) in runs, but it has been virtually all season and is today. Not since 1989 has there been a Braves’ offense so puny, and that was when Russ Nixon was managing kids and retreads.

The redone contracts that seemed sagacious in the spring were rendered suspect, at least in the short term. Is Freeman worth $135 million over eight years? (In other words, is he a Franchise Player?) Is Simmons worth $58 million over seven? (He might be worth it on defense alone, but his hitting regressed in 2014.) There’s no quibbling with the re-ups of Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel, but Freeman and Simmons haven’t had the seasons anyone expected.

That’s the peril of being a GM: You rise or fall with your signings. You can oversee a good farm system, as Wren did, but it’s the big-money moves that are the makers/breakers. Wren was deft at smaller stuff — think Aaron Harang, Eric O’Flaherty, Jair Jurrjens, Jordan Walden; think also the reclamation projects Troy Glaus and Ben Sheets, who had one good month each — but he whiffed on Uggla and whiffed on Bossman Jr. and, largely because of those whiffs, built a lineup that will need rebuilding.

If Wren hadn’t been quite so abrupt — he’s always a man in a hurry — in his personal dealings, he might have engendered more in-house good will. But Wren was something of a micro-manager, which the revered John Schuerholz hadn’t been. Any move of Wren’s that didn’t work would be received with glee in some sectors of the organization, as if the know-it-all had just been handed another cup of comeuppance. It would be wrong to say that Wren was widely disliked; it would not be wrong to say that he’d made few allies.

His demeanor didn’t matter so long as the Braves were winning, and it’s not fair to suggest that his demeanor got him fired. B.J. Upton got him fired. Signing B.J. Upton was the biggest move of Wren’s seven years as GM, and it wrecked everything. In his first year on the job, the biggest free-agent signee in team history was reduced to pinch-hitting in the NLDS against the Dodgers. (He struck out three times.)

Upton was slightly better this year only because he couldn’t have been worse, and by then Wren’s legacy was rewritten. No longer the GM who’d led the Braves back to prominence, he was the guy who’d had to buy out Uggla. And now some other man will get to buy out Bossman.

AJC gallery: Frank Wren’s general-managerial moves.

 

Reader Comments 2

143 comments
Bob the Blogger
Bob the Blogger

I have no problem giving FG another year to see what he can do with a more complete team, and being able to pull the strings himself.  I have had to supervise people with my hands tied behind my back, and it's difficult and demoralizing.  We'll never know his capabilities until he is given an opportunity to actually do the managing himself.

Baghead
Baghead

I don't know why you think he led them back to prominence.  In the five seasons before Wren was promoted, the Braves won 450 regular season games.  So, I wouldn't necessarily say they were in the dumps.  The truth that you can't accept, or are just too lazy to research, is that Wren was promoted to GM at an organization that was stacked with talent, both at the MLB and minor leage level.  Look at it today Bradley.  It's half the man the Braves were 10 years ago.  Poor FA signings and terrible drafts have decimated this team.  Not only are we so strapped for cash, we can't bring anyone up to fill the holes left my Uggla, BJ, etc. because there's no real talent that's experienced enough.  


And by the way, once again I'll squash your exciting statement about the Braves making the playoffs three times! Weeeee!!!  Yay!! Guess what Bradley?. They won two games!  Two GAMES!!!  Wren has never, I mean never, built a team that can compete in the postseason.  Oh, but it's a crapshoot according to you.  I think your local Atlanta team has disproven that theory.  Disproved a lonnggggggggg time ago.  Go away.  We need non lazy writers.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

Bulldogs UNABLE TO PASS the football at a record pace

RTS123
RTS123

Plesse go ahead and FIRE Fredie. I believe a majority of the fanbase want him gone.

DawgNole
DawgNole

"Too many things going wrong in this organization.  NOBODY IS THIS UNLUCKY." -- crackbaby

______________________

Except the Falcons, Hawks, Thrashers, Flames, and Dream.

BravoDawg
BravoDawg

Really only have 5 core guys: Freeman, Simmons, Teheran, Wood, & Kimbrel, thats it. Justin is a hack in the field & doesnt hustle, Heyward is outta here after next year if he doesnt turn potential into production, Gattis needs to go to the AL & get us a CF in return, Johnson is back to normal just an average 3rd baseman, & whos gonna take BJ? rebuild while they build the new park, maybe in 2 years they both will come together! Fire Fredi!!!

jaxspp
jaxspp

When has an uninjured player ever hit less than .200 and had a decent  year the next season? And Atlanta had 2 of them! Time for a rebuild year, get some young blood and some speed.

TEB1
TEB1

Blah Blah Blah......The Braves have not quit on their Manager say Sheuerholz and Cox. Well, either they have quit, or this team is beyond incompetent. Either way it is bad and the Manager should have some responsibility in their play. Two September swoons do not look good on any Manager's resume.

lovesthegame
lovesthegame

Bobby Cox supports FG just like he always supported his players, but to a fault.  I hope they do not hamstring the new GM with Cox in an advisory role.  He had his 50 years in baseball and now it is time to let someone else to take the reins.  He got his feeling hurt by Wren and was not allowed to contribute for the past three years and he wants to get back on the horse.


FG needs to go.  So many bad decisions. Even after Wren is fired he runs BJ back out there again last night (2 Ks and the last swinging at a pitch in the dirt with a runner on in the 9th).  This .200 average, strikeout leader, poor attitude, poor defense player has cost the Braves many games.  He also kept running Uggla out there when it was evident he did not have a clue on how to hit a ball.  FG does not use his bench players and let them get enough regular season at bats so they can be sharp in the PH role.  He lets Freeman play everyday even when he has had slumps and needs a rest.  He plays Simmons when he is hurt.  He put him in a game to pinch run after he did not start him when we were down 6 runs in the 8th.  As noted earlier he never really gave Shafer a chance, only spot starts.  he never really tried an innovative approach like moving Heywad to center, Justin to RF and Gosselin or Gattis in LF even as we struggled for offense.  But hey, "you have to tip your hat to them" and "we played hard".  Lastly, he kept the best player in the bullpen in the playoffs last year and stubbornly said afterward he never thought of using Kimbrel, but this year he has used him in in 4-5 out situation several times.  I could go on and on.

TEB1
TEB1

McGuirk took the easy route and fired the obvious guy. He should have cleaned house starting with Schuerholz all the way to Gonzalez. Now watch what happens...the clowns will hire a new GM with the stipulation that Gonzalez should be given a chance. This is no way to run an organization. Period.

TEB1
TEB1

@ThomasBrownUGA Honestly why should anyone care about the Dawgs who lose to SC every year.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TEB1 @ThomasBrownUGA

Is 2013 part of "every year"?

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

I might be going out on the limb. However I think I speak for the fans.

We would like all Braves mgt to bend over and each fan kick them right in the backside. 

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Brad, who in the hell wants the guys with those long contracts.

He signs these guys to these long term contracts that were average players at best.

You are giving him more credit than he deserves.

We need to have a fire sale and start over. 

We need the cash. Wren put us in this mess.

inoto20
inoto20

How many times would they have made the playoffs without the extra wild card that was added. Lets compare apples to oranges if were gonna go back to prior years for comparison

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

@inoto20 Actually the Braves always won the division up until 2 years ago when they lost in the 1 game play-in.  That year they were first wild card and would have made the playoffs if not for the change.

BRAVES2143
BRAVES2143

@inoto20 I forgot about Cox's last year.   That too was also a wild card for them. 

FalconsDetective
FalconsDetective

Jeff Wren thought signing B.J. a good idea?

He should be fired too.

At an autograph signing session the Braves provided for season ticket holder, I asked Leo Mazzoni if the Braves needed a new hitting coach.

Ever the diplomat - especially in that format - he offered that the pitching in the big leagues had gotten better.

Well the National League sure learns Braves' hitter's weaknesses for sure.

But nothing can be done about that?

The whole group seems to have caught a disease.

Justin Upton seems to have fought the most against whatever ails the whole team.

Yes Fredi tried a lineup fix a number of times but did he call any team meetings?

Maybe this team needs an old school football coach who would get in player's faces.

The fan base wants that.

If they are going to get millions and not produce, the fans want someone to rile them up even if it gets him hated.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Braves shut-out again tonight.... Santana was right last night about this team and you had to pitch shutout to win.

Fire FRED>>>>>

Octgal26
Octgal26

The Braves have had three September collapses when you consider that they blew the top seed last year and had to play the Dodgers instead of the wildcard winner.  We all know about the September collapses in 2011 and this year.  They also had October collapses the past two years in which they totally failed to compete.  Fredi Gonzalez is the problem.  The Braves will not improve until they hire a new manager who can inspire the players.  It was obvious from today's press conference that Bobby Cox joined the transition team in order to protect Fredi, his hand picked successor.  I hope John Schuerholtz and John Hart have the courage to overrule Cox or the downward slide will continue.

CobbCountyBraves
CobbCountyBraves

Wren was the fall guy for a complete system failure.

First, Wren made no transactions without the input and blessing of Fredi Gonzalez, so Fredi, just as much as Wren, is at fault for Upton, Uggla, etc.  Wren simply negotiated the deals.  And to suggest Wren told Gonzalez who to play and when is utter nonsense.

Second, Shuerholz, as President, had to agree and sign off on every deal.  So, he is equally responsible as it is his job to make sure these contracts brought to him by Wren are the correct ones.

The right thing for McGuirk to do is clean house.  For sure, I'll not attend a single game while the buffoon, Gonzalez, is managing...he's the single dumbest manager in professional sports.  Nice guy, but his cognitive ceiling is a third base coach limiting him to waiving runners home...he should be able to handle this.

TEB1
TEB1

@CobbCountyBraves Honestly you have no idea how a baseball organization is run, do you? The GM runs the show, period. Shuerholz does not have to agree with a GM's decision; otherwise why hire a GM at all? I suggest you go watch the movie 'Moneyball" if you want to know how a real organization is run. I do agree with you though that McGuirk should have cleaned house.

joedavis
joedavis

So Mr. Wren had few allies, and some within the organization enjoyed his failures.  It's funny what the Atlanta media will finally cough up when someone is dismissed.  What are you holding back on Fredi, Schuerholz, etc?

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

"Can you imagine going from your home town team, parents school teachers right down the street into NY where they even booed Micky Mantle".

Too funny Peaches- only in mine and 99.99% of all folks dreams

-sting-
-sting-

hard to make a connection but they sure did slide when uggla got let loose. kinda strange.

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

There are plenty of applicants for the GM job now that the Braves are moving up to Cobb County.

Princess_Leia
Princess_Leia

A team full of inept millionaires. In other words, a joke. Have a nice life in Smyrna.

JohnnyVaught
JohnnyVaught

Homer, which ever way the wind is blowing -- you'll be headed that direction.  Read your column, what ever was politically correct to say at the time, you said it.  Have you ever had an independent thought of your own?  

Wilbo
Wilbo

@JohnnyVaught Never. Not a snowball's chance in the Hinges of Hades that this man will ever have an independent thought. This "journalist" (Hah!)  would say the ocean is purple and pine needles are yellow if he thought it would chum him up with this useless organization and/or ensure his position w this crummy newspaper.


Good grief I wish they would fire him and bring in a writer with some semblance of a brain, but they would never ever do that, because somebody w sense enough to pour peepee out of a boot might actually notice the pathetic performances of the Atlanta professional sports teams and say something about it. And no, no, no, no, no, NO we certainly couldn't have that. Just a player or 2 away. Just a player or 2 away. That is the fantasy mantra of the 1/2 witted sports writers in this town.

DirtyBird723
DirtyBird723

Tom Glavine should be the Brave's new GM.....

elizabethklord
elizabethklord

my best friend's mother-in-law makes $69 /hr on the laptop . She has been without work for nine months but last month her pay was $19180 just working on the laptop for a few hours.

browse around this website....... www.paygazette.com

LakeDawg
LakeDawg

Isn't John Schuerholz still the president of the Braves? He along with Gonzalez should go, also. A clean sweep. That would remove the last connections to the Cox era and give the Braves a chance at a new start without the legacy of underachieving. 

JohnnyVaught
JohnnyVaught

@LakeDawg My thoughts exactly -- except I can live with Fredi.  One would think Schuerholtz approved all of those stupid assed deals.  

Peachs
Peachs

You should have kept McCann at any price, this is the first year in 20, I can remember absolutely no veteran leadership in the eight starters.

You lost Chipper, and Mc, you bring in B.J. who does not bring the chemistry to the place we use to have.Huddy no longer in the bull pen didn’t help either.

Cox likes Fredi, I can’t see that either, but I am not sure the winning doesn’t began and end in the front office. I like the Lewis book Moneyball.Bean forced the manager to win despite himself. Few managers force the front office to win.

ms1964
ms1964

@jeffreyd @Peachs .237?  RESIGN THAT GUY IMMEDIATELY!!  Maybe he can play CF.

Peachs
Peachs

@jeffreyd @Peachs New York is not a good fit for him.  I dont think he would have been that bad here and he would have shown some leadership.  Can you imagine going from your home town team, parents school teachers right down the street into NY where they even booed Micky Mantle. 

-OBrien-
-OBrien-

@Peachs @jeffreyd 

Th problem with McCann is we do not have a DH in the NL, and he will not get so starts at 1B.  So for$17 mil, we need him to be an everyday catcher.  With his age, and recent health history, he was not worth the investment IMO.

SeaDog46
SeaDog46

@Peachs True letting Mac go worsened the leadership role vacuum after Chipper but the fact is he was fading fast as a hitter I only need oint to his FOUR strikeouts against L.A. in the deciding game of the 2013 playoffs and his performance this year in N.Y. Letting Hudson go didn't help either from a leadership perspective.

alpha001
alpha001

@Peachs  McCann wanted career money and he got it.  He also got the whole NYC circus but he's an adult and he knew what he was trading here for the $$ in NY.  I don't feel sorry for him.  And don't think we all would've been screaming for Wren's head if McCann was getting similar money here and barely producing. 

777-9311
777-9311

MB Im glad somebody called out Freeman. Don"t get me wrong, I like him but since the All Star break, he has only driven in 23 runs. Before the break, he had 52 rbi's. Here is a stat you should know.  Freeman has driven in himself 18 times, and he has driven in BJ 14 times the highest Braves player besides himself that he's brought home. You can check it out at baseball reference.

BKB
BKB

My question would be how many of the line-up decisions were made by Wren and how many by Gonzalez.  If Gonzalez was being micromanaged and told to play B.J. often, then Gonzalez gets another chance.  If Gonzalez was playing B.J. on his own, then his judgment must be questioned.

patriotdog
patriotdog

That's the same question I have. If Fredi was playing BJ on his own, he has to go.

DrPhill
DrPhill

All anyone ould have to do is watch the youtube videos on Bossman to realize that he was toxic. He might rework his swing, but he can't rework his attitude.

Peachs
Peachs

@DrPhill you are right, it is this toxic attitude that is getting Wren fired,haven't seen this kind of stuff in decades around here.  I like we have the guts to clean it up early.  No one wants t pay good money to look at this game played this way. 

Trackbacks

  1. […] Frank Wren lost “The Braves Way”- In a news article recently published by Mark Bradley of the AJC this little tidbit was most […]

  2. […] suffered major pitching injuries before the 2014 season began, but moves during Wren’s reign, including the signings of busts BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, backfired and made he and his team vulnerable. The Braves are on the verge of finishing with a […]