Frank Wren bore the brunt of the blame for the disappointing performance of the 2014 Braves, and the Braves canned him today. I’m not surprised, and I’m not mad, but I will miss him. Here’s why:
• Signed Aaron Harang for $1 million
• Traded Omar Infante and Mike Dunn for Dan Uggla, who set a career high in homers in his first year as a Brave
• Signed undrafted free agent Brandon Beachy
• Selected Eric O’Flaherty off waivers
• Paid David Ross approximately $6.5 million for four years in which he was the best backup catcher in baseball
• Drafted Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis, and Alex Wood
• Traded Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden
• Traded Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer, Juan Abreu, and Jordan Schafer for Michael Bourn
• Traded Edgar Renteria for Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez
• Traded Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson
• Traded Jose Ascanio for Omar Infante and Will Ohman
• Traded Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan
And on and on. He did a lot of really, really good things.
In the weeks to come, we’ll find out who the new person is. My preference would be for them to conduct a serious search and pick someone from outside the organization — i.e., not Coppolella — which is something that the team declined to do in their most recent searches for manager and GM. I’d love Kim Ng, who’s really smart, but who doesn’t have any of the baggage of “the Braves way” or “how we do things around here” that appear to have hamstrung the decision process in the waning days of Wren’s tenure.
Thus far, reporters have suggested that the Braves organization is interested in keeping on Fredi Gonzalez for another year or two. But I think this should be a decision made by the new GM. In the end, no one will be well served by letting Fredi be a lame duck — he won’t have any real authority within the organization and he won’t have any real influence with the new management. If the new GM wants Fredi to stay, then Fredi should stay. Otherwise, Fredi should be shown the door.
The 2014 Braves have already won more games than the dire 2008 squad that went 72-90. I remember that year quite well: I basically checked out and stopped watching the games some time over the summer. This year was harder because the race was so close: every team in the league was flawed, and the playoffs were within easy reach almost the whole year, but the team was unable to capitalize on opportunity because it was so manifestly unable to hit. In the end, it was Frank Wren’s roster, and it was Frank Wren’s failure. But Wren was a very successful general manager overall, and accomplished more than many of his 29 competitors. The Braves will have to look very hard to find someone who can exceed his record, and there are a lot more ways to get it wrong than to get it right.
The 2015 season begins now.