Posted: 9:23 am Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Do the Braves really win in spite of Frank Wren? 

By Mark Bradley

The future's so bright, he's gotta wear shades. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The future’s so bright, he’s gotta wear shades. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Today’s AJC contains 800 words in defense of Frank Wren, the general manager seen by some folks as the reason the Atlanta Braves aren’t better than they are. The crux of my defense — and it’s a considerable crux, you’ll have to admit — is one basic fact: Over the past 4 1/2 seasons, the Braves have won more regular-season games than any team in baseball.

That can’t, I submit, have happened by accident. Somebody in charge has to be doing something right. If the four massive contractual errors — Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton — can’t be erased, neither can we judge Wren only by his failures. (Well, we could, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it?)

As much as a we agonize over the Braves’ annual undulations, the overarching reality is that they’ve been a very good team since 2010, and the team of Opening Day 2010 — Bobby Cox’s final season — bears almost no resemblance to the one we see today. Only Jason Heyward is a carry-over from that Opening Day roster. (Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Mike Minor would arrive later that season.)

The Braves won 91 games in 2010, 89 in 2011, 94 in 2012 and 96 last year. They’re on pace to win 89 this season, and that’s having lost three starting pitchers. (They’re also the second-youngest team in the majors, FYI.) They’ve established a strong baseline, and with the extensions of Freeman, Kimbrel, Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons — the first three of whom were just named to the National League’s All-Star roster — they should stay good for a while longer.

That wouldn’t seem the stamp of a bad general manager. On the contrary, it would seem the product of one who has overridden mistakes — and the GM who hasn’t made a mistake doesn’t exist — and still put a playoff-caliber product on the field. That would, at least in my mind, make Frank Wren a pretty fair GM.

From myajc.com: A few hundred words in defense of Frank Wren.

135 comments
BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

GM's around MLB have been and are being fired for stupid and/or just poor decision making.  Only the Atlanta Braves keep a GM who has made four massive $$$ signings that have been total busts.  Which actual free agent signing has he made that has really made a big plus for the Braves?  The Jason Upton trade cost the Braves a solid player and they get an average 3Bman that had a career year and will never match it.  His career numbers do not support him doing it again.  Jason Upton is nearing his free agent year.  The Braves will trade him or lose him.  Then the result is Johnson is what they have left and Upton walks away for big $$$.  I don't see him taking less just to play with his brother.


Wren is a below average GM.  Just cut your losses and fire his sorry butt and bring in Bobby Cox as GM.  He was a GM before and he certainly cannot possibly do any worse than this bum.  I have been a Braves fan since 1966.  I have never seen a Braves GM this bad.  This team may win one of the two wild cards, but that is the end.  They do not have the pitching or hitting to take them far into the playoffs.  I have been watching, playing, coaching, umpiring, baseball for over 60-plus years.  From small kids to college, I have never seen a GM this sorry in Atlanta.  In any other city, he would have been fired.  Here, he gets a contract extension.

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Good luck, they may be built to beat lousy teams during the regular season, but come playoffs, they look out classed. 


Where is the lead off batter, where is the bench, and where is the defense besides Heyward in the outfield ?

Where is the situational hitting ?


This last series with the Mets told us allot about this Braves team.


Good luck defending Wren, this team is handcuffed for years with his signings, and good luck IF they make the playoffs.

farberboy
farberboy

I don't think he has had a lick of college other than one year at a JC.

MattBerliner
MattBerliner

Plain and simple the Braves don't play small ball.  They've started too a little bit last week but then stopped again.  I blame the manager in this case and I'd promote Eddie Perez to replace Gonzalez. It seems like they play just good enough to where they don't fire anyone, and win enough to keep us at the bottom of the waiver order so we cant grab a decent pick up there.  Were clearly not playoff winning team when they all wait for the 3-run HR instead of being instructed to play small ball the way baseball was meant to be played.

Joemac48
Joemac48

Is it really surprising that they have won the most REGULAR  season games (416)? I mean, when you consider the Braves play in the East, yearly the weakest division in the NL, and are playing 18-19 games against each of the other division teams, you do not have to be a really good team to win lots of games. If they were in the Central, for example, and played Cardinals, Reds, Brewers, and Pirates, their w-l record would not be quite as good. To me, you measure how good a team is by the playoffs.

Bobby Cox has been hailed as one of the greatest managers of all time, and 14 straight division titles looks great on his resume, but.....  the Marlins have no division titles and have won more WS titles. The Braves are usually good during the regular season, but when game 163 rolls around, the Braves take a hike.

Frank Wren has assembled a group of players that have no leader on or off the field. I do not think that Fredi is a good manager, mainly because he does not show any leadership from the dugout. The players, for the most part, appear to be more concerned about their own stats than they are about winning games. It does not appear that they want to give up at bats and play team baseball. The Upton brothers are probably the worst of the lot, and it is a joke to think about the possibility of Justin being voted into the ASG.

The Braves have been hampered by the loss of several good starters, and are having to depend on a couple of guys who have seen better days (Harang and Santana).  BJ and Uggla were terribly overrated and overpaid. Gattis can swing the bat, but he is one of the worst catchers in NL (check MLB stats). Heyward should be playing CF where his glove would be better utilized.

All in all, the Braves are lucky to be in the East, and would probably finish in a solid 3rd in the Central, or West. Wren should be removed from his position for putting this bunch together. Do the Braves have talent? Yes. Do the Braves have enough talent to win the weak East? Possibly, although the Nationals are the better 25 man TEAM. Are the Braves good enough to win a playoff series for only the second time this century? Nope, they just cannot compete with Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, Reds, Brewers. That is where Wren has been a substandard GM. He continues to try to put a square peg into a round hole, and it will not work.






The Hammer
The Hammer

Free Agency is a tough game to play because you're more often than not, paying for past performance and get stiffed as the deal goes forward. Fans complain when teams don't play that game, and complain when the players bust. Personally, I'd like to see a greater investment in foreign talent than the Braves have been involved in lately.

Matt_Talbert
Matt_Talbert

Uggla released, Upton traded in a salary dump (I think he can still be moved), but Uggla can't be and its time to at least cut bait with him.  

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

I voted a generous "average". Fran Wren's FA signings have been woeful. I never understood the B.J. Upton signing (largest FA contract in franchise history) and rightly so.

DrPhill
DrPhill

The fact that the Braves have won the most regular-season games in the past 41/2 years and either failed to make the playoffs or choked early in the playoffs pretty much speaks for itself. This season the collapse will come early.

inoto20
inoto20

Vintage braves. Win 9 in a row. Sweep a team last week, then next week get swept by them and lose 5-6 in a row. Yes that's really exciting.

They've done well b/c of a crappy division and owning the nats. That's it. Being the best team among 5 isn't saying that much. You don't see some world cup teams saying hey were the best after winning their group do you mb?

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

I think its a mixed bag on Wren.  His trades are usually good.  He absolutely fleeced Houston and got Michael Bourn for literally nothing (3 minor league filler pitchers and a below average 4th OF).  How he did that, we'll never know.

But his FA signings haven't been very good and his draft evaluations of position players have been atrocious.  You don't have to look any further than his own son Kyle, who profiles as Jordan Schafer lite which is nothing to be proud of, to see how that aspect speaks for itself.

58Supersports
58Supersports

The Braves have been in Atlanta since1966 =49 years.  In that time they have won 5 Pennants 1991-92-95-96-99. None under Wren.  Braves have played in 5 World Series in 49 years and won 1. None under Wren. 14 Division  Championships in worse division in ML Baseball.

Wren was GM in 1999 for Baltimore but was fired..as the team was a major disappointment. The team finished  6 games under  500 despite one of the highest payrolls in the game and Wren signing free agent Albert  Belle to the most lucrative contract in  baseball at the time. ( sounds like Wren) During the season, Wren and the team was criticized publicly by the owner Peter Angelos, and after just one season, the owner replaced Wren with Sid Thrift.  Then Big John Schuerholz  flies  in to save the Clown making him assistant GM for almost 8 years till 2007.  The rest of the story is "ONE AND DONE"...Dull baseball.

TruthSpeaketh
TruthSpeaketh

What do you think of this clown GM now Mark? So mediocre it's a joke! win 9 lose 4. win 2 lose 6. Never going anywhere with Frank at the helm.

83heel
83heel

Ultimately, it seems to me that MB is wondering if the players who actually excel in Atlanta do so despite the one hand Wren ties behind their back (or the albatrosses he ties around the franchise's neck) with his failures. I would liken it to my life growing up when my father earned a fairly nice living as a stock broker, yet he and my mother fought like cats and dogs over the hair-brained fliers and failed investments he made. Over time -- and to me, that's the only fair metric -- Wren (and my father) can boast about a higher that average batting average. There are very few Triple Crown Winners and zero Cy Young winners without a loss. Even Don Trump has spent time in bankruptcy court. It's all about perspective.


Overall grade for Wren: B to B- . 

rogerpellerin
rogerpellerin

Team will not get far if the makeup remains the same. Wren can go from buffoon to genius if he can pull off

getting David Price for Uggla & B. J. Upton.

connollyjt
connollyjt

Post Season results are horrible... All that matters

iamvlad
iamvlad

HOW ABOUT HIS DRAFT PICKS?  HOW ABOUT HIS TRADES?

HIS PREDECESSOR LIVED OFF THE GLORY OF EARLY SUCCESSES. WREN CANNOT EVEN CLAIM ANY SUCH.

DforDawgs
DforDawgs

Read his bio on Wiki or elsewhere. He is hit or miss he has had greatness and failure. Unfortunately the BJ and Uggla story will haunt him here for the rest of his life. Is he the best? NO Is he the worst? NO... Everyone wants a change the minute things go sour but considering our record the last four years it is pretty darn good - give him some slack let him make a few mistakes as long as we are on top. I just want to win a playoff and move forward I hate the one and done scenario post season. I blame Liberty Media (Denver CO) I wish they would sell off to a private local owner.

Intruder
Intruder

Most of the producers on this team came from the farm system, which was built long before Wren came here. And he got lucky on Gattis and Johnson. As for the Braves, they haven't done Jack Squat in the post season so let's don't crow too loud. If Wren thinks giving 20 million to a guy who hits 30 homers a year, bats .240 and strikes out 150 times is wise, he should think again. If he gets fired for this kind of stuff, it won't be his first time. 

FIREfrediG
FIREfrediG

The worst thing he has done is allowed Fredi G be our manager for this long. What a joke

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

He's certainly one of the most schizophrenic (results-wise) GMs around. There is probably no better a GM (or whoever handles this sort of thing for him) at picking up low cost cast-offs, rehab projects, position conversion types and plugging them into the Braves bullpen or bench and getting good play out of them. But big money, big name free agents signings (and trades of a similar magnitude)? He's one of the worst in the game at that (we'll have to see how his long term extensions for the current Braves young core work out, but at least those contracts went to players the team knows and has a long track record with). If the Braves had more active ownership of some sort, I could easily see them making him come to them for final okay on any deal he wanted to cut with a free agent that was more than about 1 year/$1 million. It's really hard to call a guy who is responsible for the contracts of BJ Upton, Dan Uggla, Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami a "good" GM, though. With that much money, a team like the A's could make payroll for the entire team for a couple of years.


And he could sure use an attitude change in his draft strategy.

jackbmatt
jackbmatt

It just depends on your definition of "success".  By the low level Atlanta sports team standards, probably average success.  By real sports city standards, a joke.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Lowe. Kawakami. McLouth. Uggla. B.J. - all expensive, colossal busts !

Got nothing in return for Mark Teixeira or Rafael Soriano, not even top prospects.

If this were a serious sports town with a critical sports media, Frank Wren would have been fired a long time ago. Playing in the weak NL East make Frank & Fredi look like geniuses. Perhaps another "division championship" will quench the thirst of the average Braves' fan.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Joemac48 How does one show leadership from the dugout, and how does a player show a concern, or lack thereof, for their personal stats?

Justin has arguably the best offensive stats of any LFer in the NL.  No question in my mind he should be an All Star this year.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@ChopChamps95 Kyle Wren was drafted lower than projected by BaseballAmerica.  8th round picks don't usually produce stars.  He's a likely future fourth outfielder, but has done pretty well so far in the minors.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DforDawgs

But we're NOT "on top." Far from it. In fact, it's happened ONLY ONCE since the team moved to ATL in 1966.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Intruder Wren was the assistant GM for almost 8 years before becoming GM.  He certainly was involved in the drafting and development of all the current players that came through their system.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Imagine what Billy Beane w/Oakland could do if he had the payroll Frank Wren gets to play with every year. Not exactly bang for the buch with B.J. & Uggla pulling down nearly 30 million of the Braves' entire payroll, with Uggla on the books another season and BJ three more !

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

You aren't impressed by all those divisional championship banners on display @ Turner Field?

I don't recall seeing those in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. 

Baghead
Baghead

@58Supersports @DrPhill Good post.  I called Bradley on this yesterday.  Last time I checked, Selig wasn't handing out awards for most wins by an MLB team over some finite time period.  Who cares.  As Tom Berenger said, "Let's win the whole f*#&^ing thing."

Birdhair
Birdhair

BJ has fourth outfielder numbers past year and half now. Rick C, do you spend your entire day attempting to counter every negative comment made on the blog about wren ?

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Jeff Francouer and Jason Heyward, two local high school heroes, both touted as "5-tool" players with All Star futures. Frenchie is in the minors, and Heyward, besides a gold glove, is hardly a 5-tool player. When I'm thinking 5-tool player, I'm thinking Dave Parker back in the 70s or Kirby Puckett of the 90s. I predict Heyward will not be in a Braves uniform after his contract is up.

Somebody is overrating these can't miss phenoms.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@Rick_C @Intruder The GM makes the calls, Rick C. There are 28 year olds sitting as assistant GM's today.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@SaveAmericaFromItself I imagine Billy Beane as Atlanta's GM quite often, actually. It's a recurring fantasy of mine. :-) But then I remember that Beane is too smart to take the job even if the Braves were smart enough to dump Wren and offer it to him.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair I enjoy baseball and the Braves, and enjoy discussing them.  Do you spend your entire day b1tching and moaning about Wren and BJ?

Rick_C
Rick_C

@SaveAmericaFromItself Drafting isn't an exact science.  Francouer is too far back for me to easily check, but Heyward was pretty widely seen as one of the best players in his draft.  It's not like the Braves just thought something was there and everyone else didn't.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair Of course, the GM is the final decision maker.  But if you think the assistant GM isn't involved in player drafting and development, you're either misinformed or delusional.

What does age have anything to do with it?

Birdhair
Birdhair

It's certainly ironic that wren's strategy is a total 180 from the way that schuerholz operated. Roy Clark, JS former draft director, is responsible for many of our current players. Demacio, hired by clown, is mediocre at best.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair In what way is it a complete 180?

As usual your facts are off.  DeMacio was re-hired in 2006, before Wren was made GM.  Also he first worked with the Braves starting back in the early '80s, with two of his best signings being Glavine and Chipper.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@Rick_C @Birdhair Did Schuerholz spend big and poorly in the FA marketplace? No. Did schuerholz trade players at their peak value in most cases? Yes. Did Schuerholz win a world series and build teams who were able to advance in the playoffs? Yes. Did Schuerholz have a better draft director? Yes. Did Schuerholz value OBP more than clown? Yes. These two are stark contrasts of one another.

patriotdog
patriotdog

did Schuerholz give away the farm for a year rental of Texeira? Yes. Did he have, for most of his tenure, one of the larger payrolls in baseball? Yes. Has Wren ever had a year where he wasn't robbing Peter to pay Paul? I.e. moving an All Star 2b to left field ( Prado) to bring in a big bat at second, which Uggs had been every year while in Miami, because big bat LFers were too expensive in the marketplace of that offseason.

Cut him a break, he's had as many successes as failures. He had no way of predicting Uggla's utter collapse after arriving here from Miami. Lowe was more than serviceable. Kawakami and BJ, well......no excuses there.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair Schuerholz made a number of big free agent signings.  Far more than Wren in fact.  The Braves had a relatively bigger payroll at the time too.

Wren has done well on the trade market.  How many times has he fleeced the other team now?  Bourn and Upton being the two most prominent examples.

The next two points are not strategies.  The first is a result, the second is an opinion.

Actually they were usually middle of the pack in OBP.  When they won the WS, they were actually below average.