UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR A LINK to the fully updated column with quotes on MyAJC.com
Frank Wren is out as the Braves general manager, not because he failed to make some shrewd trades or sign some good players or even oversaw a minor league system that failed to produce talent.
Wren is out because he simply wasn’t good enough.
In his seven seasons, the Braves failed to reach the postseason four times and failed to win a playoff round even once (losing seven of their nine postseason games). Even with the difficulties that go with inheriting a bloated and aging roster that required significant rebuilding in the winter of 2007, that’s not an acceptable standard.
The Braves’ job is not an easy one. There are limits on the annual budget, which seemingly isn’t the case in Los Angeles, New York or Boston. But that doesn’t mean a franchise can’t succeed, it just means it can’t afford to make expensive mistakes.
Wren did just that. B.J. Upton has been a disaster and still has three years left on a $75 million contract. Dan Uggla gave the team a good year or so but this season they decided to pay him a year and a half to go away. Kenshin Kawakami was dreadful for two years and also paid to leave with a year left on his contract. Derek Lowe: strong at times, particularly down the stretch in 2010, but well overpaid for his contributions and the market value at the time of free agency. He also was dismissed with time and money left.
“You can make a mistake,” Braves CEO Terry McGuirk told me last month. “You just can’t make a lot of mistakes. Small-market teams can make very few mistakes. The big guys like the Red Sox, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Yankees, they can afford to make big mistakes. We don’t have that luxury. Uggla was one of my favorite guys on the team. It just killed me that whatever happened, but it just didn’t work anymore. We took that hit.”
Even if you’re on the “Fire Fredi Gonzalez” bandwagon, well, it was Wren who hired him.
In the end, Wren proved to be a very good assistant general manager but not a very good GM. He excelled at the mid-level and low-level decisions but failed at the big ones. The Braves had poor chemistry and the lineup was heavy on all-or-nothing hitters but short on high-percentage hitters.
There are number of issues that must be dealt with now. It made no sense to allow Wren to make those decisions. Here’s a few:
• Manager Fredi Gonzalez: There is an on-going debate as to how much blame he should get for the last four years. My view: The problems on this team go far deeper than the manager but that doesn’t absolve Gonzalez of responsibility. I believe the new general manager should make that call. I also think it’s possible Gonzalez will be kept and judged for one season by the new general manager.
• Personnel: Something has to be done with B.J. Upton. There also could be potential trades with some combination of Evan Gattis (who’s catching spot likely will be taken by Christian Bethancourt), and Justin Upton and Jason Heyward (who will be entering the final year of their respective contracts).
• Coaching: Pitching coach Roger McDowell is the only coach who has earned his keep this season. It would be surprising to see any of the others retained.
That’s what I’ve got for now. I’ll check back with updates later.
EARLIER: Terry McGuirk is on the clock
A LOOK BACK: Terry McGuirk says everybody is accountable
A LOOK BACK: Full Q&A with Terry McGuirk
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