Frank Wren Fired: Surpising Front Office Turnover In Atlanta
With the Atlanta Braves on the verge of their first losing season in the last six years and just the third since 1990, word of a front office shake up leaked over the weekend. On Monday morning, rumors became reality with the announcement General Manager Frank Wren was let go, marking the first time in almost a quarter century one of MLB’s most stable organizations has fired a GM or manager. How did it come to this?
While stories circulate pointing to free agent signings gone bad and the second late-season collapse in the past four years, neither of those fall solely on the shoulders of Frank Wren. For one, Wren has been a long-time lieutenant of team president John Schuerholz, spending eight years as his assistant before ascending to the GM seat only after Schuerholz moved up into the president’s chair. It would be surprising if major player decisions were made by Wren without Schuerholz being on board and supportive to some degree. There must be more to the story.
For one thing, Frank Wren is a rather matter-of-fact, no-nonsense guy. His abrupt demeanor has a tendency to rub people the wrong way at times. Late in 1999, Wren’s lone season as Baltimore Orioles GM, he famously ordered the team plane to takeoff without Cal Ripken, who had phoned the traveling secretary to say he was stuck in traffic and would be ten minutes late. When Wren was fired after the season, part of the statement released by the Orioles read as follows:
“In the opinion of management, there was no need for such an arbitrary and inflexible decision… Wren defiantly dismissed our concerns, characterized them as ‘silly’ and insisted he would invoke the same takeoff order no matter what the extenuating circumstances. The Orioles management cannot and will not abide having a GM operate in such an unreasonable, authoritarian manner and treat anyone this way, especially someone such as Cal who has done so much for the Orioles and for baseball.”
In addition, an Orioles official cited. “a season-long series of incidents involving a variety of personnel matters, both with front office staff and players.” Though Wren certainly may have learned from any missteps during his initial GM shot, this provides valuable insight into his personality and managerial style. Needless to say, it is not the sort of atmosphere which fosters warm fuzzies and a legion of allies throughout the organization.
Numerous long-time baseball operations personnel had left the Braves for other organizations in recent years–concerning for an organization which prides itself on continuity. After respected former general manager John Hart was brought in by Schuerholz as an advisor last off-season, reportedly to help evaluate the situation, only another successful season was enough to keep Wren on the job. When the Braves were officially eliminated from the post-season Sunday, Wren’s job security went with it.
The Braves Front Office After Frank Wren
So, what is next for the Braves? Hart has been named interim general manager and, along with former manager Bobby Cox, is joining Schuerholz in the search for a permanent successor. It does not sound like the 66-year old Hart is a candidate, though some kind of arrangement with Hart taking a more active role and some young assistants handling much of the detail-oriented legwork would not be a total surprise. In fact, reports Tuesday began to spread that Hart, indeed, had been offered the job full-time and was mulling it over.
In the short-term from an interim GM perspective, there is not much to be done with no post-season looming. Decisions on the 40-man roster, as well as potential free agent targets if the search drags in to the post-season will probably be a joint effort between Hart and Schuerholz with Cox involved, as well, with valuable input from other baseball operations personnel. The club has already stated that the fate of manager Fredi Gonzalez will be decided by the new general manager. Any organizational meetings or anything having to do with the direction of the organization going forward will most certainly be placed on hold until a new GM is in place.
The important thing to know is that the remaining baseball ops personnel will continue to advise Hart on any pertinent moves heading into the off-season. For current employees who may be sweating out their futures, the stability of the Braves organization with Schuerholz still in charge, works in their favor. In addition, because Hart has been around for the past year, he has probably familiarized himself with most of the baseball ops personnel to some degree, making him less likely to have an inclination to blindly “clean house” of Frank Wren’s “guys”. In all, I would expect a smooth transition to a new general manager with an organizational tone continue to be heavily influenced by the presence of John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox.
25 Sep 2014 / Brad Kullman /
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