Running around to Give you the Reacharound


Party like its 2002

If you pretend he came over with Kotchman, suddenly that trade doesn't seem as bad!

This whole offseason has been a surreal one for the Atlanta Braves, and a significant departure from how business has been done in the past within this organization. During his tenure as general manager, John Schurholtz was loathe to talk about any and all impending transactions. Big signings and trades just happened. I still remember a teacher from my high school assigning me to Work Detail (like a poor man's detention) for hearing me exclaim "what the fuck? really?" upon hearing from a friend of the Andres Galaragga signing. You never know what signing or big trade JS was going to swing next. Sure, it was frustrating trying to guess what was going to happen, but you always had trust that 9/10 times, the move was going to work out.

Unlike his predecessor, current GM Frank Wren has shown no such hesitation in explicitly stating his desired targets to the media. This offseason alone, Wren has publicly expressed interest in pitchers AJ Burnett and Jake Peavy as well as SS Rafael Furcal and OF Ken Griffey Jr. When none of these players were acquired, Wren was left with a whole 'lotta egg on his face.

Suddenly, Schurholtz code of omerta seems genius. He never put himself or his professional integrity "out there" at the whims of agents and millionaire athletes. He never had to give countless interviews after the fact as to why this or that signing/trade never worked out, because we were all kept in the dark about these deals.

On the other hand, not only was Wren exposing himself for being held to these mythical signings before pen was put to paper; but twice this winter, he has been submarined by media reports detailing a potential signees' future role with the Braves.

Case #1 happened when word got out that the Braves intended to move Furcal to second base, possibly against his wishes. Once the Dodgers ponied up similar cash, Furcal was back on a plane to LA. Case #2 occurred just last week, when media speculation pointed to Ken Griffey Jr. sharing left field duties with Matt Diaz in a platoon role.

In a press conference after Griffey decided to return to Seattle, Wren pointed to a premature AJC report on the Braves signing Griffey as a reason for the center fielder's change-of-heart. These are the facts:

1. Terrance Moore quoted a source, a close friend of Griffey's, as saying he was close to signing with the Braves.

2. The AJC took some headline liberties, all but inferring that Griffey was a done deal.

3. Griffey chose Seattle because they offered him a kush post-retirement deal, similar to what Hank Aaron has here, where his only job is to smile for the cameras and appear on-field for pregame ceremonies and the like. If any media report had ANYTHING to do with Griffey going to Seattle, it was the one indicating a possible platoon.

4. A laughable war-of-words breaks out between the team's two beat writers over this crap.

5. Tim Hudson, who probably won't even pitch in 2009, verbally confronts AJC beat writer Dave O'Brien, who never wrote a word about Griffey officially signing with the Braves. Cuz Hudson clearly would have benefited from Griffey's .268 average and 15 homers in 110 games this season.

Re-read that list, and ask yourself if anything resembling that above situation would have occurred under Schurholtz.

Luckily, Wren gets it right, well as right as you can get when going after possibly-washed-up left fielders, with the signing of Garret Anderson. Other than the not-to-be-discounted-but-probably-overrated marketing angle, Anderson is by all accounts a better fit for this ballclub. He's less injury prone than Griffey and can hit lefties at a rate nearly as well as he can hit righties. His batting average, as well as his low strikeout rate, dwarf Griffey's numbers over the last few years, and he comes in with a similar OPS to Griffey of late. He's also a defensive upgrade; and most importantly, this avoids the Braves heading into the season with an OF rotation that looks about as appealing as the fish sandwich platter at your local pool hall. While Matt Diaz will certainly get some run, we're probably not looking at a lock of a platoon situation.

(And yeah, I like Diaz and his '06 and '07 seasons were epic for a pinch hitter. Color me unconvinced as to him being an everyday player.)

So basically, it all worked out okay for the Braves. They got their bargain basement, former star OF. They got their sentimental 5th starter in Tom Glavine. They signed a couple of solid (fingers-crossed) middle of the rotation guys.

They also got Derek Lowe instead of Jake Peavy. Ok, I'll probably never get over that one. Ugh.

All in all, the Braves entered this offseason with a lot of holes and were able to fill most positions of need. It just took a whole lot of backroads and detours to get there. We'll see how this offseason works out in the long run, but there's definitely one man that's glad its over.

If only he could gaze as lovingly at his GM-ing methods...


Jesse said...

Meh, I'm not impressed with Wren thus far, but I'll give his dealing some time to pan out. I'm just hoping all hope that he soaked up some Shurzzie's magic and these deals go from "wtfmate?!" to "holy shizzle, man's a genius!"

All those years, the Falcons were horrible, the Hawks were miserable, the ATL Knights left and took that hot goalie with them, but we always had the Braves to look forward to. I miss it and I think it need to come back. Sure, the Falcons are looking to finally be annual contenders and the Hawks are slowly making their way back, but the A just doesn't seem right without the Braves winning.

Anonymous said...

I choose to look at it pragmatically. As you conclude, it all worked out in the end, right? And we ended up with Garrett Anderson who is an unquestionable upgrade over Griffey. This offseason Wren has turned the Braves into a playoff contender without breaking the bank. He should be commended for what he has done.

That said, I don't understand the public negotiations, either. It's a definite departure from the way Schuerholz did business, and one I don't much care for. But, hey, it all worked out. So, if that's Wren's style and he continues to get the job done, then I can't complain.