The Braves’ CEO, a corporate lackey right out of central casting, is about to make the biggest decision of his tenure.
No question he should fire Frank Wren, the architect of this anemic offense who has drafted poorly, hired unwisely and spent foolishly. I know most would rather see Fredi go, but who’s more responsible for the Braves’ decline? Fredi didn’t sign B.J.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer a different manager (TP? Dave Martinez?) but it would be terribly unfair if Wren stays and Fredi goes. After all, who hired Fredi?
It wasn’t, as many people believe, Bobby’s call. No doubt he approved, but by then Bobby was largely out of the loop.
According to a major league source, the relationship between Cox and GM Frank Wren deteriorated during the spring to the point that Cox packed his bag and climbed into his car to drive home from spring training until dissuaded from doing so by one of his coaches.
Cox was unhappy at the way the John Smoltz issue had been handled, the source said, and because he had not been kept up to speed on other personnel decisions. The relationship appears to have been patched up, although the parting with Tom Glavine was another strained episode, and the expectation is that Cox will be back because he’s excited that the Braves have another core of young talent developing.
Wren has a history of alienating the wrong people, dating back to his days in Baltimore when he ordered the team’s charter jet to take off without Cal Ripken Jr., who was running a few minutes late. And while letting Huddy go may have been the right move, it was handled horribly. Offering him a $2 mil, 1 year contract was an insult that ruined any opportunity of bringing him back for a club-friendly deal.
And it doesn’t stop there. According to Bowman, JS had to step in to keep Roger McDowell — who deserves the credit Wren receives for resurrecting the likes of Aaron Harang and David Carpenter — from bolting for the Phils.
Obviously the offense has been the primary problem throughout this frustration-filled year for the Braves. But long before scoring became a nightly struggle, this organization started to experience some of instability that seemingly marked the start of the struggles that have followed.
Highly-regarded scout Dom Chiti and notable pitching guru Dave Wallace both left the Braves to join Buck Showalter’s coaching staff in Baltimore. While both benefited financially by going to a Major League coaching staff, Wallace had indicated in the past that he was not interested in going back to the big leagues. But his mindset changed as he butted heads with members of the front office.
Mark Bradley touched on the front office discord in a recent column: “Those on the inside decry Wren’s micromanaging and general bullheadedness.”
And he’s strayed far from the plan he laid out following the 2010 season.
“We’ve talked about it — and it’s a hard thing to do — as we transition to a more athletic team,” he said. “Where speed and defense and those areas are so valuable in the overall scheme of things the way the game’s played today, transitioning more to that type of team as we go forward, while also maintaining our strong pitching base. Not to say you can’t have a very successful team without that, but if there’s one attribute that plays so well in our game it’s speed. In the last five or six years, there’s been a re-emphasis on speed.
Reading between the lines, I suspect JS is no longer in Wren’s corner. He brought John Hart to the organization last year, which had to make FW a little nervous. But, according to Peter Gammons, McGuirk and Wren are close.
We’ll soon find out just how close. With big decisions to make on Jay and J-Up, next year’s GM will set the course for the franchise for years to come. Stay the course, and SunTrust Park will be as empty as the freeways around it are full.