Frank Wren to Fenway? Why this could actually work

OK, so this one didn't work. (AJC file photo)

OK, so this one didn’t work. (AJC file photo)

OK, so this one didn't work. (AJC file photo)

OK, so this one didn’t work. (AJC file photo)

Many baseball writers — from Bob Nightengale of USA Today to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston — are reporting that the leading candidate to become general manager of the Boston Red Sox is …

Frank Wren.

Of whom you’ve heard.

Here we note the obvious: Eleven months ago, the Atlanta Braves fired Wren as GM in as callous a manner as anyone could remember. They used the loaded word “terminated,” and at no time in the post-firing press conference did president John Schuerholz employ the boilerplate “we thank Frank for his service and wish the best for him and his family.”

Under new (general) management, the Braves have spent the intervening 11 months divesting themselves of almost everyone who worked with Wren — with the exception of John Coppolella, now the assistant GM and the deputy to newly installed president of baseball operations John Hart, and Fredi Gonzalez, whom Wren hired to succeed Bobby Cox. Of the 25 men on the roster for Wednesday’s game in San Diego, only four had played for the big-league Braves — Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons and Arodys Vizcaino — while Wren was in power, and Vizcaino bears an asterisk. Wren had traded him to the Cubs; the two Johns reacquired him last fall.

The new Braves clearly hated the way Wren did things, but here it must be said: Wren’s teams made the playoffs in 2010, 2012 and 2013; they won 94 games in 2012 and 96 games and the National League East in 2013. From Opening Day 2010 through Sept. 17, 2014 — five days before his “termination” — Wren’s Braves had won more games than any other NL team.

Wren wasn’t fired because of wins and losses. He was fired in part because he whiffed egregiously on Dan Uggla’s contract extension and especially on the free-agent signing of B.J. (now Melvin Jr.) Upton, but mostly he was fired because he ran the organization but made almost no allies. Nobody disputed that he was smart and hard-working. He just wasn’t very good with people.

In Boston, that could be less an issue. (Not that the Red Sox front office isn’t populated with actual people.) Difference is, Wren wouldn’t be the face of the franchise there. Dave Dombrowski, just hired as president of baseball operations, is and will be. This is in keeping with the new model of front offices: Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman and Brian Sabean aren’t the titular GMs with the Cubs, the Dodgers and the Giants, but everyone knows they’re in charge.

Wren and Dombrowski go way back. Wren was Dombrowski’s director of scouting when the latter was GM in Montreal. Wren was assistant GM (and later vice president) when Dombrowski was the Marlins’ general manager; the two were in place when Florida won the 1997 World Series. They’re of a similar age, and they’ve stayed close over the years.

The most striking aspect of a possible Dombrowski/Wren pairing in Boston would be stylistic: Neither is the biggest fan of advanced analytics, and the Red Sox were among the first organizations to embrace sabermetrics. Epstein and his successor Ben Cherington are true believers, and Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, remains on the Sox masthead as a senior adviser for baseball operations.

Wren once told me a story that involved Dombrowski. Early in the 2012 season, Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney was listed with a greater WAR value than Miguel Cabrera, who was the cornerstone of Dombrowski’s Tigers and would win the Triple Crown. Seeing this bit of data, Dombrowski summoned his numbers guy and said something to the effect than any valuation appraising Darwin Barney as superior to Miguel Cabrera wasn’t worth the paper on which it was printed out.

(I should also note that Gonzalez told me almost exactly the same story, although he attributed the incredulity to Jim Leyland, then the Tigers’ manager.)

Given the dispatch with which the Braves have moved to distance themselves from Wren and all his doings, you’d have thought it tough for him to get yet another GM job. (Remember, he’d been canned in 1999 after one season in Baltimore.) But Wren, who had few pals among Braves, has a pal in Dombrowski, who’d be his boss.

My biggest complaint about Wren wasn’t so much what he did but how fast he did it. He needed someone above him to say, “Slow down.” Schuerholz might have been that someone here, but he’d stepped away from most of the baseball stuff. Assuming Dombrowski is that someone in Boston, there’s no reason Frank Wren can’t do a good job — even for a franchise that’s scrutinized like no other.

Reader Comments 1

99 comments
reckingball
reckingball

Is MB on a 10 day drunk? Is he going for 2 weeks? Liver working overtime.

joedavis
joedavis

Dear Mark Bradley: when Wren was doing such awful things as Braves GM, did you or any of your colleagues do a story about that?  Didn't think so.  Where was your story on Wren's terrible management and the Braves crumbling farm system in August 2014, when they were a contender?

Did you report on how no one in the organization liked him?  I must have missed that too.

Hindsight reporting is pretty easy, isn't it?

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

@joedavis You know that John S blessed off on all the FW dealings, right? And is still occupying an office with a big salary. Are you guys this shallow to miss this minor point or is every too busy giving him undeserved credit for the coveted division title run?

Jpace
Jpace

I actually watched much of the game last night until the Braves donated the lead to the Rockies. With loss building on loss, this tem reminds me of an article written  by Furman Bisher 30+ years ago as the Braves were winding down another forgettable season. I can't quote him so I'll paraphrase. "Well the fans were treated to another throw away game last night at the Stadium. They seemed especially agitated in the 7th inning when the team ceded the lead to the visitors. But they held their boos and cat calls to a precious few, seeming to understand that they didn't want to make the players mad because the players outnumbered the fans".


So it goes with the Braves in 2015. Towel thrown in months ago...no visible support from absentee ownership...no thought that some teams find a way to rebuild and win simultaneously...a minor league system that's a wreck...etc. We seem to be a "can't miss" for 90 losses and, with any luck at all, might get to 100. What pigeons we are to pay anything for a ticket.

tennDAWG
tennDAWG

Who in the HELL screwed up the UGA board ???

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

Dr Truth spoke it very well -- at this point what Mr Hart has put together resembles that of an expansion team and don't expect Liberty to allow much more in 2017 then they are allowing now


It might go up incrementally but I see them in the 20's (bottom third) for as long as they own the team

DrTruth
DrTruth

@DrTruth Are you actually saying that those exorbitant contracts have no bearing on ticket prices?  Or food and beverage prices at the stadium? 


Good question.  How much have ticket prices dropped since all of those huge contracts have mostly disappeared?  How much have they dropped since the product on the field went from winning more total games from 2010-2014 than any other NL team to the current .429 team that's 15.5 GB and played before a gathering of 13k last night at the Ted?  The amount that single game ticket prices have dropped isn't a function of payroll as much as demand.  The Braves use dynamic ticket pricing (think Stub Hub) for some single game tickets (maybe all by now with this wretched team).  Here's an explanation of how it works:


http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20140302/BLOG003/140309989/dynamic-ticket-pricing-means-stadium-seat-prices-are-adjusted-up-or


Since the product being sold is now so poor, the Braves are competing directly with Stub Hub, etc to sell more of their ticket inventory versus tickets they've already sold that are being sold again on the secondary market much cheaper than what the Braves would have expected to sell their remaining inventory for in a year of 90+ wins compared to a year of 90+ losses.  Simple supply vs demand, Econ 101 stuff.


And if all of those huge contracts have a direct impact on current and future ticket prices, then why have the Braves already announced season ticket pricing for the new SunTrust Park when they don't even know what their 2017 payroll will look like?  If the current on-field product and corresponding payroll truly drove SEASON ticket prices, then the "same" prime field level seats from dugout to dugout behind home plate wouldn't be priced 3 TIMES as much as they are at the Ted.


Payroll is down, huge contracts gone, team competitiveness now merely a memory.....Yet those prime season ticket prices in Cobb will cost you TRIPLE what you're paying now at the Ted.  They would still be triple if BJ, Kimbrel, etc were still being paid.  That's just the way it works......


And that's why John Hart was business-foolish to gut an entire professional MLB team in return for a basket full of prospects less than 2 years before a new stadium needs to be largely sold out before opening day.  It's a gamble similar to putting your entire wad on 00 at the roulette wheel and suffering a mild heart attack while you wait for the ball to drop.


There's a chance it will work.....But if the 2016 and 2017 teams are similar in performance to the current team, then it will be up to the fans to pull Hart's arse out of the fire.

DrTruth
DrTruth

It's funny to watch all the complaining here about all of the "bad contracts" Wren signed like it's money coming out of your pockets.  It's not.  As a FAN, you are entitled to do one thing:  Buy a ticket at the ballpark to watch a game.  Sure, you can get on sports blogs and complain, like that's going to do any good.


Uggla's contract, BJ's contract, etc......Just how much did each of you fork over out of your own pockets to help pay those contracts?  Answer:  exactly ZERO.  When you bought your tickets to the Ted over the last FIVE Wren seasons, you saw a WINNER on the field....A competitive team.


What da ya have now?  John Hart came in and magically made all those evil contracts disappear.  And what did that get you for your Ted ticket the last time you went and saw this horrifically AWFUL professional baseball team play?  And I use the term "professional" very loosely with the current on-field product.


Of course, all of you know which players should be signed and which shouldn't (in hindsight), but YOU don't get to make those decisions do you?  And the upside of that is you also don't have to pay for the ones that go bad.  You still just buy your ticket and you watch whatever is on the field.


And THAT is where Frank Wren ran circles around this moron with a chainsaw John Hart.  There was at least one year from 2010-2014 that someone like Bochy, instead of Booby Cox or Fredi, could have won it all with the talent Wren put on the field.  Our family enjoyed watching Braves teams compete in the fall and actually make the postseason.  


Have you seen the Padres fans when Kimbrel comes out in the 9th?  The flames, Welcome to the Jungle, quite possibly the best closer ever to play the game....Certainly the fastest pitcher to ever record 400 strikeouts and fastest ever to record 200 career saves.  But you knowledgeable fans say, "Hey, he had to go to clear BJ's awful contract."


Have you seen Braves fans when any call is made to John Hart's bullpen?  It goes something like, "Oh SH&^!  Here we go again!"  Aren't you glad BJ's contract is gone?  By the way.....Where is all that money?    Oh that's right.  It doesn't really matter since none of us had to actually sign paychecks for BJ.  We just want to see a competitive team when we buy a ticket, remember?


Where's all the Braves talent now?  It's certainly not on display at the Ted.  Wren's Braves (who won more total games from 2010-2014 than any other NL team) have been sold off at the local pawn shop for questionable value in return.  The bullpen has gone from one of the game's best to the bottom of the barrel.  And as a fan, you still just buy a ticket and go to a game while watching unwatchable baseball and telling yourselves, "I'm sure glad that Frank Wren is gone!"


Hart says all his talent is in the farm system.  He must not think too much of it since he just traded away the #1 guy because, well, he just didn't look like the #1 guy anymore like he did last month.  It could be years before we find out how much of that farm talent actually makes it to the Ted or Cobb.....And John Hart will be on the back nine by then.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

@DrTruth Are you actually saying that those exorbitant contracts have no bearing on ticket prices?  Or food and beverage prices at the stadium? 

TNScott
TNScott

The only positive in Wren's corner was he was about to fire Fredi for yet another September collapse until Bobby rode in to the rescue. That should have been done on the tarmac in Atlanta the night he let Kimbrel watch the winning home run sale over his head from the bullpen mound in Dodger Stadium in the bottom of the 8th inning to close out the series because Carp pitches the 8th no matter what. 

freezboy
freezboy

Mark, you got 89 comments on this...I'm impressed...living in the past has its profit...more than the future many times...sadly 

  Anything FW should be the past.....

kenstallings
kenstallings

I would rather see Wren hired as GM for an NL team, preferably an NL East team.  That way. there would be one less rival to Braves' playoff chances.

odelljones
odelljones

shhh everybody. Wren's great! We wish him all the best, you will love him.....

1995oneyearwonder
1995oneyearwonder

I doubt Wren can figure out how to manage a budget anywhere.

if he is so smart, how do you explain his horrid signings ? there are so many.


noone has hire him in 11 mos. if his long time buddy didn't leave Detroit, he'd never get another job.

Wren may get lucky  and get a job based on friendshp/nepotism, not ability.


Hart is no great GM either, but that doesn't change Wren's legacy.


Dombrowski probably knows there are betetr candidates available so he hasn't actually hired Wren.


the Yanks won't have to worry about any rivalry with Boston if this transpires.


with a larger budget, imagine what mistakes Wen could make !  this will be amusing.

MoCoJacket
MoCoJacket

I wish him luck. The Braves should have taken the high road. Look at the team now? I would rather have them be a contender not a pretender. Baseball like other sports is all about who you know and worked with in the past. He will do fine where he goes and has allies to work with. He was left high and dry by the Braves and on the outside looking in and it just did not work out. I can't believe so many wish him or the sox ill will?

I think fans should miss winning and not the men behind the scenes.

..."lighten up Francis!"

58Supersports
58Supersports

Do you think Wren as GM in Boston will ever trade or deal with Braves?  He would probably tell JS where to go....

Heisenberg
Heisenberg

This is actually a great fit. Both Boston and Frank Wren have a history of giving out bloated contracts to under-performing mediocre players. The tradition can continue under this regime.

Kevin Sheets
Kevin Sheets

Wren just needs someone to oversee his signings/extensions. He did pretty well in the trade department.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

BTW as far as Kawakami goes he was not that bad a pitcher his first yr


He was about league average -- was better than the 7-12 W-L


Yes he did stink his second yr

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

Wren got extremely snake bit on some of his high profile moves


Lets start with the Mc Louth deal -- on paper at the time it looked like he pulled off a coup -- who knew Mc Louth would run into injuries and lose his athletic skill in a heartbeat?  He was a young 27 yr old guy coming off an All Star yr who had a loing term team friendly contract


Nearly everbody was excited about the Uggla dead -- we cried and cried about FW getting one big bat during that good 2010 season and he was able to get a guy who was a consistent 30 HR 90 to 100 RBI guy who was only getting into his age 31 yr at the time


Looked good at the time


Derek Lowe -- not bad his first 2 yrs -- yes it was an overpay but look at what the SP was in 2008.  Did you want a rotation of Jo Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton, Jorge Cappillo, etc


Lowe won 31 games in 2 yrs and pitched 195 IP a yr -- not bad in 09 and 10


BJ Upton -- who knew he would fall off the map.  Yes it was an overpay but who knew he would lose it at 28


As a GM he was a mixed bag -- some good decisions and some bad.  He was smart in not letting teams raid the system if the players who got developed


There was a record of player development when he was here


And he kept the big team relevant if not great -- is it not about the big team now? 


What do you want -- wins at the big league level of to win the race of baseball America prospect rating because there have been plently of prospects that have not panned out


I will take Wren over Hart anyday

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

By no stretch of the imagination....was Frank Wren a good GM.


I hope the Red Sox hire him so they can crash and burn also.

Kevin Sheets
Kevin Sheets

@UnbiasedObserver Umm... he made some great moves via trades. I think thats what he is good at. He needs someone else to handle signings/extensions.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Wren sucked, but cheapass Liberty made his mistakes magnified. If only we could terminate them.

58Supersports
58Supersports

How many games have Braves won since Swish & Bourn returned? Holy Cow what a mess...Don't worry about Wren better worry about Braves now.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

Hart has already made one disasterous deal -- the Gattis trade IS a bust


Folty stinks and Rio Ruiz is no real prospect take a look at his numbers in double A

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@TucoSalamanca1 


Glavine was quite good in his second season -- 1989


And in his first full yr -- he was 7-17 and a 4 and a half ERA with a bad 54 win team


You could see something there


As for Folty -- he is not getting any better and does not seem to get it -- look at the article today

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

I believe Wren was let go cause he was not going to try to sell this ruse of rebuilding when all Hart is doing is cutting costs to help Liberty pay for their share of the new stadium


And I do not think the payroll is going to go up when they move into the new palace that Cobb taxpayers pay for to help fatten Liberty's wallet


John Hart is selling this ruse so for the John Hart followers -- hey drink that kool aid

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

Frank Wren will be fine with the Sox -- because he will be working for owners who actually want to win and not be afraid to spend a buck

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Having no allies would be the understatement of...forever. Roy Clark left. Wren fired. Roy Clark returned.

Beau1500
Beau1500

I only hope to god they do hire him.  We won't see the sox in the playoffs for a decade.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Boston must be beyond desperate to consider hiring this loser. Of course, as is often the case with ATL exiles, he'd probably find great success by guiding the Red Sox to another championship in '16.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@DawgNole 


Wren did not have a bad record here -- 3 post season appearances and 4 yrs with 89 or more wins


How long is it going to take John Hart to put together a .500 team at the rate he is going -- the Braves are going to have losing records the rest of this decade


And one of Harts golden boys Foltynewaste might as well be called a bust at this point he is not getting any better

Born2Buzz
Born2Buzz

Are the Braves still playing?  I thought the season was over.

John Galt 47
John Galt 47

@Born2Buzz No, they still have a winning streak they'll pull off just so they can give the fans a little bit of hope before they squash it at the end of the season.

RonMexico
RonMexico

May the ghost of Kenshin Kawakami haunt him wherever he lands. 

Field_of_Dreams
Field_of_Dreams

I feel as if people forget of so many disaster Wren made... Melky, McLouth, Uggla, Kawakami, Derek Lowe, Upton, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Church, Casey Kotchman, Garret Anderson, Alex Gonzalez, Juan Fransisco, Mark Kotsay, and this one doesn't really count but remember the 3 starts we got out of Ben Sheets? Anyways the only guys that paid off were the ones he bought low such a Vasquez, Harang, David Ross, I mean hell I'd take Laird as a back up any day. But trading away Prado and Infante was dumb. I like JUP but much rather have some one as consistent as Prado! Idc if you can have a break out month that shoots your averages way high then have 3 slump months. As we seen you never know what you're going to get in the month of September.

Beau1500
Beau1500

@Field_of_Dreams Nobody else on earth would have been stupid enough to trade away Prado.  Just ask Chipper Jones or replay the clip when he stuck that up Wren's a$$ at his honor ceremony.

DrPhill
DrPhill

The Braves' front office has sucked for over 10 years and continues to suck, regardless of Wren's whereabouts.

Luciafurr
Luciafurr

Oh, God no! Please...for the love of all that is holy NOOO!

seminoleking
seminoleking

but why didnt schuerholz fire himself after trading away the entire braves farm system for texeiria??????

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

@reckingball @Hopeless in ATL @seminoleking Bottom line: JS is not responsible for the acts of FW.  Scheurholz left the day-to-day operations to his protege, Wren, and (practically) retired to the golf course.  He was a figure-head only, and returned to the office to help clean up the mess left behind.  

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  1. […] Mark Bradley said about the Braves’ ex-GM Wren in a piece ostensibly recommending the hire entitled “Frank Wren to Fenway? Why this could actually […]