A ‘battle for the Braves’ soul’? Sorry, but I’m not buying it

Who’s on first? I think I know. (Hyosub Shin/AJC photo)

Ken Rosenthal reports for The Athletic, the new home of Mr. Rosenthal’s writings, that there is, quoting an Atlanta Braves source, “a power struggle over who is running the club.” Rosenthal opines that six organizational moves – full credit to him for breaking the news – could be “the first step in a larger battle for the soul of the franchise, a highly sensitive dance between the Braves’ glorious past and promising future.”

We stipulate that Ken Rosenthal really, really knows baseball and has really, really good sources. But if you’ll pardon the immodesty, I like to think I know a bit about the Braves, too. And here’s what I’d say: If there’s a battle for the soul of the franchise, it was decided a while back.

According to Rosenthal’s unnamed “team official,” the issue is: “Is John Schuerholz running the club or are John Hart and John Coppolella running it?” As they say in courts of law, that would seem to have been asked and answered. Schuerholz is no longer the president of anything. He’s the vice chairman, doing whatever it is vice chairmen do, which is mostly christen stadiums and shake hands.

The recently minted Hall of Famer didn’t tell Frank Wren, his successor as general manager, what and what not to do. (That became a source of some Schuerholz regret, you should know.) Schuerholz was the driving force in Wren’s ouster, but he then co-opted Hart and promoted Coppolella to run baseball operations. He has endorsed their shared vision in every public utterance. He has not, so far as I know, vetoed any Coppolella-proposed trade. (I’m told Hart has nixed one or two.)

Is Schuerholz a respected – nay, venerated – presence in this front office? Absolutely. Is he working the phones between here and Anaheim to wangle a Mike Trout trade? Absolutely not. He’s 76. He has taken two franchise to World Series titles. He led the Braves to 14 consecutive first-place finishes. His record is secure. As considerable as his ego is, it isn’t out of proportion. Indeed, the secret to Schuerholz’s enduring success was that he hired good people and let them work. He has not taken to micromanaging at this late date.

As for the Rosenthal-reported changes: Dom Chiti, now director of minor-league pitching, will become the farm director; Dave Wallace, now Chiti’s deputy, will take Chiti’s job; Dave Trembley, now farm director and head of minor-league field operations, will keep the second part of his title. Special assistant Roy Clark will become a special assistant on scouting, which will leave him, Rosenthal writes, “perform(ing) essentially the same duties in his area of expertise.”

Are such moves – there are two other shuffles, neither involving anyone getting fired – the first fusillade in a battle for the organizational soul? I’m sorry, but I don’t see it that way. I see these as a way to play to individual strengths. To wit: The Braves were ecstatic at hiring Chiti and Wallace away from the Orioles last fall, and now they’ve placed a farm system built around young pitchers in the hands of two renowned teachers of pitching. Is that bad? Is letting Clark, one of the great scouts ever, continue to work in scouting in any way counterproductive?

This isn’t to suggest that everything in the Hart/Coppolella rebuild has gone to script: Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair aren’t very good; Dansby Swanson got demoted and Andrelton Simmons is having an almost-MVP year for the Angels. But this top-ranked farm system wasn’t conjured out of thin air, and that’s where the rebuild will rise or fall. And, if memory serves, there has never been a more ardent proponent of a thriving farm system than John Schuerholz.

I’m still not clear as to how Liberty Media thinks, if indeed it thinks at all, regarding the Braves. I’m reasonably certain that the Braves we see before us – and the Braves in Gwinnett and Mississippi and Rome, et alia – are the work of Hart and Coppolella and the people they’ve put in place. If some of those people are getting different titles, I don’t see that as palace intrigue; I see it as business as usual.

One name you didn’t see on Rosenthal’s list of job-changers was Brian Bridges, the Braves’ director of scouting. His promotion to that key position was among the first moves of the Hart/Coppolella reign. If nobody’s messing with Bridges, there’s a reason.

The Braves believe what they’re doing – and what he’s doing – is working. No, they aren’t thrilled at having gone 2-12 against the wretched Phillies; they are thrilled at how much has been accomplished in the span of 35 months. A house divided could not have done what these Braves are doing.

From earlier: Here’s what the Braves should do when Camargo and Garcia return.

Reader Comments 0

41 comments
Jpace
Jpace


Mr. Bradley - I buy your point about Mr. JS being the heart and soul of the Braves. But the "what have you done for me lately" part of me comes up short on answers. Mr. JS hired Frank Wren who bought into the value of some second rate players who failed to perform. He also hired Mr. JH and Mr. JC whose individual and collective baseball savvy I still question...and then there's the disinterested ownership. I agree that the Johns have assembled an impressive group of minor leaguers who appear to be ready to make the leap to the big league team. I'm especially impressed with Acuna. But it's not lost on me that we are nearing the end of another painful season which will produce their 4th consecutive losing season. During the last 100 years, the Cardinals have yet to experience 4 consecutive losing seasons. I enjoy reading your articles. My feedback to you (for what it's worth) is that you have way more patience and tolerance with the Braves futility since their domination of the National League ended about a decade ago. I'd also like to see you give John C. Malone and Liberty Media the recognition they deserve as the worst owners in baseball.  



DrTruth
DrTruth

@Jpace Just to clarify, based purely on W/L record, the Braves "dominated" the National League under Frank Wren (even with Fredi G managing from 2011-2014 during Wren's tenure).  

The Braves won more games than any other NL team from 2010-2014 and only the Cardinals won more games than the Braves during Wren's 7 years as GM.

To put that in perspective, during the first 2 complete seasons under the Johns, the Braves have LOST more games (188) than all but 2 NL teams:  the Phils (190) and the Reds (192).

Of course the Braves were dismal in Fall Ball under the management of Fredi and JS/BC wouldn't allow Wren to fire FG because he was Bobby's boy.  

Instead Wren was fired and we find the Braves where they are today:  Irrelevant

escapeplan
escapeplan

I've never had any problem with the Braves' scouting and minor leagues. But it seems like once these "can't-miss" prospects get close to the Bigs, they flounder.

How many Ace pitching prospects have flamed out in the last 10 years? You can't blame that all on injuries.

Bottom line is that, especially on the pitching side, the Atlanta Braves staff needs to be changed. They are where promising careers go to die.

Jayce Brittain Dickens
Jayce Brittain Dickens

Folty belongs in the pen. Just cause you can throw 100 pitches at 98mph doesnt mean you can throw 100 pitches at 98mph. You know what i mean?

E983
E983

I've seen this team through the years and I expected after last season's finish and their record at the Allstar break a .500 finish. It hasn't happened. They tanked. With what they have now the offseason will be interesting to say the least with the front office and players. If this team is going to compete sooner than later I'll believe it when I see it happen. Otherwise a winning team looks to happen several years from now.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Swanson, Albies, Camargo,Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Sims ,D.Santana, Acuna,  Fried, Gohara,J. Peterson, L.Adams, Alex Jackson, Winkler, Luke Jackson, A.J.Minter, Jose Ramirez , Sam Freeman and Dustin Petersen all have a good chance to make the 2018 roster, perfect for Liberty two thirds of your roster playing for the MLB minimum salary or not much above it. Leaving only Teheran, Kemp, Jim Johnson,Markakis,Matt Adams and Freddie Freeman under contract for 2018. Depending on whether Coppy can dump either Kemp or Marakakis before next season.

Re Al A T
Re Al A T

Perennial losers have no soul. Unless mgmt. decides to field a competitive team who plays together as the game should be played, has been and wannabes are not acceptable. Potential is worthless without skills and sound fundamentals. Don't settle for mediocre another season. Demand professional performance and expect nothing less. Otherwise boycott the bums!  

ChrisCross
ChrisCross

Overall though a good article - 76 year old men with Schuerholz' track record don't typically need to prove anything.

ChrisCross
ChrisCross

Uh ... what have the Braves actually accomplished over the past 35 months?  90+ losses in 2016, and now on pace for another sub-500 season.  


If MLB gave awards for "most promising farm system" maybe they'd have something to shout about,

Gwinforfun
Gwinforfun

Who the hell is Liberty Media? Do they even have a face/name we can identify with? Mr. Blank, please write Liberty Media a check that they can't refuse.

thebrandguytim
thebrandguytim

Bradley - I'd like for one article. Just one article that doesn't blow smoke up the Braves proverbial you know what. Become a reporter. Stop being the corporate shill for the Braves. You're better than that.

mgunter
mgunter

Was never a big Cox fan, with 3 HOF pitchers most anyone could have won a lot of ball games . He really struggled in th post season. I do think Coppy is on th right track but would prefer to see more of th veterans dumped and play th kids. Would like to see a young firery manager who has no ties to Cox, Schurholtz or Hart.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@mgunter  Amen! But the Braves need Snitker for at least one more season because he is the best with kids.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

What we don't understand is a team that ostensibly needed to be tanked to expansion depths and rebuilt while the top baseball man is being lauded into the hallowed halls of the Hall.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I understand a lot of the complaining. What I don't understand is anyone expecting a winner in the first year of a team rebuilt from the ground up. Bobby Cox is hailed a genius(he is in his own mind) but he could manage only 2 of 14 teams through the playoffs and into a World Series. With the teams he managed I would say he underachieved. After their baseball days Pendleton and Perez should write a book and tell the truth about Mr. Ego(Cox)

khd713
khd713

@TideDawg 2 of 14 teams? What the hell are you talking about?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TideDawg 1991, 1992, 1995,1996,1999 five trips to the World Series for cox and the Braves ,but only one Championship in 1995.

#41
#41

@TideDawg I beg to differ. Bobby Cox was a master at motivating players and managing games.  Fourteen straight titles speaks for itself - an amazing record in all of sports, not just MLB. 

Gsueagle86
Gsueagle86

Imagine if they would have just done nothing how good they Braves would be.. Wood, Simmons, all the young prospects they traded for BJ Upton? Great Job Mark calling this failed experiment of leadership for what it is. It's time to send the GM and the President packing. It's clear they do not know what they are doing. I love the new park but not time I will stay at the Battery and not even go in. It's like watching paint dry.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Gsueagle86 The Braves did not trade anyone for BJ (Melvin) Upton ,he was signed as a free agent. The Braves traded Martin Prado , Randall Delgado, Nate Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury to the D-Backs for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson.

DawgNole
DawgNole

MB: "He led the Braves to 14 consecutive first-place finishes." 

______________

It appears you've omitted a KEY word here: DIVISION--as in "14 consecutive DIVISION first-place finishes"!

C'mon, Mark, you're better than that.

A WORLD of difference in those two statements.

Petrel
Petrel

The "wretched""Phillies will be in the playoffs before the braves. Better everyday young players. Where are those special young players the braves talk about? Phillips, Markakis, Kemp, Adams, Flowers?

Spare me.

khd713
khd713

@Petrel Good lord. Do you have any idea what you are talking about? You probably couldn't name one player in the Braves farm system.

MiaBchBravesFan
MiaBchBravesFan

Frankly, next year could be more of the same - and I accept it.  If you are going to actually have a lineup that touts Albies, Swanson, Freeman, Acuña, Inciarte, Camargo/Ruiz, Flowers & Dustin Peterson (provided they can successfully jettison Kemp & Markakis), you are going to have some SERIOUS growing pains.  Add to that a pitching staff that is still in desperate need of seasoning, and I truly don't see how an Archer, a Fulmer or a Gray could've made the Braves contenders by next year.


I mean a LOT of growing up to do!


However, I remember the Marlins were a crapfest prior to their 2003 WS win, with a batch of babies that included one Miguel Cabrera.  I say, enjoy watching the kids grow up and make headlines and boo-boo's.  I feel in the strongest terms that this team can grow very quickly and win big.  If Folty, Newk and Sims continue their ascent, that one or two more can rise to be serviceable 4's and 5's, and squeeze one more year out of A.J., this team will be a LOT of fun to watch next year.


Memo to Coppy: you don't need Fulmer or Archer.  Keep the assets, stay the course, have faith, let the kids play, keep the 40 man a kids-only zone, don't add vets - you have enough, and let 2018 happen!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@MiaBchBravesFan: "I say, enjoy watching the kids grow up and make headlines and boo-boo's."

______________

When you've waited 22 seasons for a championship--and 30-plus seasons prior to that--"watching the kids make boo-boos" flat doesn't cut it!

MiaBchBravesFan
MiaBchBravesFan

@DawgNole @MiaBchBravesFan The day the Braves have a new TV contract - and not the garbage they currently have until 2025 - and better ownership, then you can gripe.  Until then, this is as good as it gets.  Try being a Padres, Astros, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Pirates, Reds or Indians fan!


Hint: they haven't won squat since '95 either - with little success compared to our great success since '91!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@MiaBchBravesFan Don't be fooled by Coppy's comments about acquiring a top of the rotation pitcher again this offseason . Last year it was Chris Sale, and Coppy signed Bartolo Colon. This year it is Fullmer or Archer ,Coppy will probably sign 39 year old John Lackey for $15 million.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@MiaBchBravesFan @DawgNole The Great Success has fizzled out for most of the last decade. Braves have not been in a World Series since 1999,and have not won a playoff series since the 2001 divisional series against the Astros.

KarlWelzein
KarlWelzein

"He led the Braves to 14 consecutive first-place finishes. His record is secure. As considerable as his ego is, it isn’t out of proportion. "    He's also led/overseen the organization for 16 consecutive seasons without winning A SINGLE PLAYOFF SERIES.  This getting back to the "Braves way" nonsense is a thing of the past. If they were being honest it would be the "Tampa Bay, Minn, KC way" Try to win on the cheap every few years and then rebuild when the players are close to FA. The Braves 90's payroll would be the equivalent of LA, NY, Bos today. They are lucky to spend half what those teams spend. 


As long as LIberty Media is the owner and could care less about the actually product on the field (11 seasons as owner, no playoff series win) McGuirk, Schuerholz, and the crew will continue to collect their checks and bonuses, and talk about what they did 20-25 years ago. 

thebrandguytim
thebrandguytim

@KarlWelzein Kansas City was in back to back World Series in 2014-2015 and were 2015 champs. Don't compare them to this joke of a ball club.

KarlWelzein
KarlWelzein

@thebrandguytim @KarlWelzein HUH? Let's see if you can keep up... That's the model the Braves are trying to be. The reason they don't say that is b/c KC had a losing record for the first 7 years of Dayton Moore being GM before the current 2-3 year window of winning. They are now going to lose several of the key players on the WS teams to free agency and start another rebuild.


#41
#41

Mark: I am okay with this article except the ending which implies things are going great and according to plan. The last two years, we have been told at the start of the season, that the Braves would be competitive (not saying I believed it) - they have been disasters. Also, if things are so great, where the heck is the pitching? I don't see it, so 2018 will be another disaster. 


All teams should work all the time on improving the farm system and developing talent. But that shouldn't be the overiding objective. The goal should be to put together teams that can get to the playoffs and compete for pennants and every so many years, a WS. 



DS
DS

"A house divided could not have done what these Braves are doing."

Wow. You make it sound like the Braves are doing well.

Let's see: they colluded with a corrupt, secretive Cobb County government to build a new stadium. They gutted the roster of most of their best talent. They're 15 games under .500 and 21.5 games out of first place in their division.

Liberty Media is soaking Cobb County and Braves fans for every dime they can get, and they don't seem very interesting in winning. That isn't what I call doing well.

RTPIV
RTPIV

What I see "...these Braves doing" is getting to 500 ball for a brief moment mid-season before flaming out. The only thing I really get excited about over there to this point is Antico Pizza.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

I'd argue that you are WAY to close to the people involved to be a trustworthy or objective source, Mark. For months upon months, you have been an unwavering mouthpiece for the Braves. You've been churning out dozens of columns that read less like "hot sports opinions" and more like organizational press releases. There might not be any discord in the Braves front office, but there also hasn't been any of the tangible progress at the Major League level that both you and the Johns have been crowing about. All of which leads me to believe that Rosenthal is right on the money, if for no other reason than you pointedly argue the exact opposite.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@FineousMcDirtyBird: "For months upon months, you have been an unwavering mouthpiece for the Braves."

______________

Purely in the interest of accuracy, mind you, you probably should modify your statement as follows: "For years upon years . . . ."

DrTruth
DrTruth

"A house divided could not have done what these Braves are doing."  

Well, here's what "these Braves" are doing nearly 3 full seasons into a "rebuild"...These Braves are playing .300 ball:

*  over the past 10 games.

*  over the past 20 games.

*  over the past 30 games.

Fredi G was doing better than that with "Wren's Braves" before the Johns replaced an MLB team with various iterations of minor league teams disguised and marketed as MLB teams.

Schuerholz is the guy who BEGGED John Hart to take over and run (RUIN) this franchise.  If he's starting to think things might be going sideways in a hurry, he only needs to look in the mirror to find who made it all possible.

Sooner, rather than later, some prospects other than Frank Wren signings (Lucas Sims, Johan Camargo, Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna) need to start having success at the MLB level or there will be even more reports of internal discontent within the hallowed halls of Braves World...