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Braves failing to keep farm stocked


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Braves failing to keep farm stocked

By Furman Bisher | Friday, December 5, 2008, 02:35 PM

There comes a time in the life of any guy who owns a word processor that he is seized by this urge to take over the management of somebody’s baseball team. In this case: The Braves. While most everybody else is looking in the direction of some football conflict, perhaps I can reply to the seizure without hurting somebody’s feelings. In this case: Frank Wren’s.

Once upon a time the Braves usually dealt from within when talent was in need. To begin with, they didn’t have a lot of loose cash rolling around, so they had to deal parsimoniously. That meant having a lot of “bird dogs”- free agent scouts who got paid only when they produced.

Today, the Braves have 31 fulltime scouts, not counting all those “special assistants to” somebody, and 17 part-timers around the world. No rock shall go unturned, which accounts for all these guys from Australia to the Caribbean in the system.

When the Braves set off on their seasons of exceptional prosperity in the early 90’s, they did it, mainly, with farm-grown produce. The prospects their scouts turned up were planted on the farm, carefully cultivated and eventually the hotshots turned up in Atlanta.

And the Braves turned up in the playoffs, even won a World Series once. Along they came, Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant, Mark Wohlers, Chipper Jones, Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton, Javier Lopez, Kevin Millwood, and on and on.

Three seasons have passed now and the Braves haven’t had a whiff of playoff aroma. Most of those homebred stars have moved on, some to other teams, some into retirement, and some even trying to re-connect with their youth.

I cite, in particular, here, Smoltz and Glavine, neither of whom is registered on the 40-man off-season roster.

Last season was the Braves’ worst since 1990. just before John Schuerholz’s reign of prosperity began. The prospect of facing the next season with Jair Jurrjens as ace of the staff seems to have present management so perturbed that they went out and signed another pitcher with a losing record and an inflated ERA, Javier Vazquez.

Not to malign Senor Vazquez, but such signings as these have not worked out to the glory of the cause, and I cite here Russ Ortiz, Albie Lopez and the most costly of all, Mike Hampton, who took off for other parts after three seasons as a Braves’ dependent.

As if they didn’t learn a costly lesson from that, they are now leaving their calling card with A.J. Burnett’s agent, 31 years old and twice under the knife. (Burnett, not his agent.) Oh, but for the likes of the young and handsome Adam Wainwright, now the Cardinals’ ace, who was traded away for one season with the nomadic J.D. Drew.

In the past season the Braves have traded away a busload of prospects for, in one case, a mere flirtation with Mark Teixiera, who was merely passing through town. They did happen to pick up an inexpensive Casey Kotchman in the deal, but back to Vazquez again, they traded a hot number with power, Tyler Flowers, for him. And Tyler can play first base, and has power.

What should bother Frank Wren is what’s going on with all those 47 scouts and those special assistants who are supposed to be covering the world and feeding that fallow farm system. That’s all.

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