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Is The Braves Front Office A Mess?


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http://www.talkingchop.com/2014/9/15/6153451/braves-offseason-frank-wren-fredi-gonzalez-rumors

The Braves' season is basically over, and considering the club is 58-67 since late April, I don't think anyone is holding their breath for some magical run. A four-game sweep of the Pirates next week would make it interesting, but that seems highly unlikely.

Mark Bowman's latest article examined where the season went wrong. My takeaway point: the front office is kind of a mess right now. Emphasis my own:

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.

Then of course, the Braves nearly made the mistake of allowing pitching coach Roger McDowell go to the Phillies. President John Schuerholz stepped in at the last minute to keep McDowell, whose value extends far beyond what he does for the pitching staff.

A few weeks later, when Schuerholz hired his good friend John Hart to serve as a senior advisor in the baseball operations department, there was obvious reason to wonder about Wren's job security. There is still reason to wonder a year later. But it does seem like Hart like his other ventures, especially as an MLB Network analyst, to assume the position on a full-time basis.

The more we hear of unrest in the front office -- I'm sure this isn't the only article we'll see on this in the coming months -- it probably makes sense to make large-scale changes.

That would include letting go of Wren and Fredi, as well as all the coaches besides McDowell. Who should be the new general manager and manager is a discussion for another day ... or today.

Granted it's purely my speculation that there are some issues among important front office members, but it's not hard to read between the lines here.

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http://markbowman.mlblogs.com/2014/09/15/a-years-worth-of-struggles-leads-reason-to-wonder-what-changes-are-in-store-for-the-braves/

A year’s worth of struggles leads reason to wonder what changes are in store for the Braves

As the Braves were getting destroyed and nearing the inevitability of being swept by the woeful Rangers on Sunday afternoon, it was hard not to think about all the negative developments that this organization has experienced since nearly forcing the Dodgers to a fifth game in last year’s National League Division Series.

Before getting into specifics, I think it’s safe to say that while this year’s Hall of Fame experience in Cooperstown was wonderful, the Braves did not want a celebration of the past to be this year’s most memorable occasion. Coming in a close second might be the three-week stretch this past winter when a flurry of long-term extensions gave hope for the future.

However you want to look at it, there hasn’t been much reason to be excited about the present for the Braves, who are expected to make significant changes once this season concludes. The only question is whether general manager Frank Wren and all of the members of the coaching staff will survive what has been the most disappointing season the Braves have experienced since the 1980s.

Coming off a 2-7 road trip that concluded in embarrassing fashion in Texas, the Braves now sit four games behind the Pirates and 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the battle for the National League’s second Wild Card spot. Needless to say, with 13 games remaining, the odds of passing both the Pirates and Brewers are slim.

But it would be easy to just continue harping on the negative. We’ve been doing that as the Braves have gone 58-67 going back to April 29. To put this in perspective, the Braves have matched the Mets during his span, played a half-game better than the Astros and one game better than the Cubs.

Sorry about that, I meant to get back into positive mode. If you want to hold out hope for a miraculous turnaround that would earn the Braves a playoff berth, you can look at the fact that the Pirates will play three games against the Brewers this weekend and then come to Turner Field for a four-game set that might have plenty of postseason intrigue.

Of course in order for their to be some drama surrounding next week’s Pirates series, the Braves will first have to take care of business against the Nationals and Mets. And since we are focusing on positives, it seems fitting to point out that Stephen Strasburg (0-4,4.98 ERA in past nine starts vs. Braves) and Gio Gonzalez (0-6, 5.53 ERA in his past seven starts vs. Braves) are both scheduled to pitch this week in Atlanta.

While the Braves long ago bid adieu to hope of defending their division crown, they now have to win two of these next three games against the Nationals to prevent a National League East title celebration from taking place on their home turf. The Nationals managed to avoid this embarrassment when the Braves put them in the same position last year.

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.

Then of course, the Braves nearly made the mistake of allowing pitching coach Roger McDowell go to the Phillies. President John Schuerholz stepped in at the last minute to keep McDowell, whose value extends far beyond what he does for the pitching staff.

A few weeks later, when Schuerholz hired his good friend John Hart to serve as a senior advisor in the baseball operations department,there was obvious reason to wonder about Wren’s job security. There is still reason to wonder a year later. But it does seem like Hart like his other ventures, especially as an MLB Network analyst, to assume the position on a full-time basis.

This past offseason’s most significant development centers around the departure of Tim Hudson. While for more than a year it had been assumed Brian McCann would depart after the 2013 season, there was at least some reason to think Hudson would remain close to his family by continuing to play in Atlanta as he faced the uncertainty surrounding his attempt to return from a fractured right ankle.

This mindset changed last September, when he said he had not had any conversations with the Braves about sticking around. Then of course came the early November revelation that the Braves had essentially offended him with an initial one-year, $2 million offer that included an option for the 2015 season.

Though the Braves’ offers improved, they would have never matched the two-year, $23 million offer Hudson received from the Giants. But as another disappointing September elapses, there is at least reason to wonder how beneficial Hudson’s clubhouse presence might have been this year had the Braves at least reached out last September and made him a respectable offer that he might have accepted.

As Hudson has spent the past few months experiencing an All-Star selection and aiding in the development of Madison Bumgarner, the Braves have lost three rotation members (Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Gavin Floyd) to elbow injuries. While it’s never easy to overcome this kind of damage to a rotation, the Braves can’t say pitching is the reason they are now on the brink of being eliminated from the postseason scene.

If the Braves end up going on an incredible run and making the postseason, some of the struggles experienced over the past year will be forgotten. But in the midst of extended disappointment, there is no choice but to wonder how things might have been different if so many of these things had not gone wrong.

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We need to bring in some players that want to lead. It's obvious and disappointing that Freeman and Heyward don't want any part of it.

Heyward and Freeman could take a page from Andrew McClutchen. That is a leader.

You guys don't know what goes on behind closed doors. How do you know Freeman and Heyward aren't leaders? How do you know they're not trying to rally the guys? Certainly can't go by their play on the field, especially Heyward. Just look at that catch he made the 9th inning the other night. He always plays all out. So at least on the field he's a leader. But we don't know what is said behind closed doors.

not everyone can be a leader. You have to be born with it imo

Exactly. You either have it or you don't. You can teach someone what leadership looks like but you can't force someone into being a leader, it's something that comes from within and you either have it or you don't.

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Braves lack offensive fundamentals & leadership

By David O'Brien

Many have asked how the Braves could have gone so far off the rails this season, just one year after winning the NL East with a 96-66 record. They fell to 75-76 with Tuesday night’s loss to Washington, then saw the Nationals celebrate at Turner Field, as that game clinched the division title for Atlanta’s chief rivals.

It was not surprising that Washington clinched at Turner Field, where visiting teams have celebrated after winning postseason series, wild-card games or playoff berths on a regular basis since the joint opened for baseball 1997. That’s one bit of history the Braves will be glad to leave behind when they move to their new ballpark in 2017.

But getting back to the ugly here and now, and the latest late-season collapse – yes, at this point it can be called that — of the Braves.

The Nationals celebrated winning the NL East title Tuesday night at Turner Field, the latest indignation for the skidding Braves.

The Nationals celebrated winning the NL East title Tuesday night at Turner Field, the latest indignation for the skidding Braves.

They are 3-11 in September, and in losing eight of their past nine games, the Braves have totaled three homers and 19 runs, with six of those runs coming in one game. They have just one homer and eight runs in their current five-game losing skid.

Right now, they are simply a terrible offensive team. And a team that for a while now has shown no signs of being particularly fired up or motivated to turn things around. Perception is important since it’s usually all fans have to go on, and the perception of this team is that it lacks leadership and frankly lacks desire, in addition to lacking fundamentals offensively.

I honestly can’t say that perception is entirely wrong. At least the leadership part. I won’t question the desire of players, because I find it hard to believe they don’t want to win at least as much as the fans pulling for them want them to win. But the manager and the coaches and players have a whole lot more riding on this stuff than you or I do, folks. Think about it.

However, I will say this team has had flaws that have proven fatal in terms of not just fundamentals but leadership, presence, swagger. Especially leadership.

It can come from the manager to a degree, from a guy like Jim Leyland, who would’ve lit up this team a half-dozen times this season for lack of effort or hustle or any number of other things. Or from a guy like Bobby Cox, who had such gravitas and respect among his players that they didn’t dare show up late or not bust it down the line or to a ball in the gap, etc., or else they knew they’d hear about it from him directly or through one of the players or coaches he’d have send the message clearly.

That was the thing that a lot of people also forget about Cox: He always had a clubhouse sprinkled with at least several strong veteran players who policed themselves and others, who set the tone in terms of work habits and discipline and hustling and playing the game right, and if someone slipped in those areas more than a time or two, that person was going to be told in no uncertain terms to get his act together or else. And if he didn’t, well, that person was almost always gone during or after the season.

I’m not throwing anyone under the bus by saying this team doesn’t have one or two of those type of veterans, much less several or more of them. And Fredi Gonzalez, whom I think gets far too much criticism directed at him for this team’s failings – funny how some think they won despite him, but lose because of him – is not the kind of fiery presence who has shown a desire or proclivity to fill that particular brand of leadership.

Nor have any members of his coaching staff shown a willingness to do it for him, although that gets into a complicated area where I’m not sure if any of them have ever been told or asked to, or even felt like he had the license to, rip into the team on occasion as a group, or whether any of them feel comfortable doing that with this group.

They have a couple of outspoken players, but not the kind who’ll call a team meeting and lay down the law, or take a player aside and get in his face and let him know that’s not how it’s done here or that he needs to clean up some part of his game and give more effort or focus to the team and the games for more than 4-5 hours per day.

While Justin Upton’s production has obviously been far greater than Martin Prado’s since the trade that brought Justin here and sent Prado to Arizona, the Braves have missed the presence of guys like Prado, and Brian McCann (particularly before his injuries and contract matters in the last two years he was here) and Tim Hudson and Eric Hinske. “Glue guys” or leaders, or in some cases both.

Obviously they’ve missed Chipper Jones, who became a big-time leader late in his career. But that was a given, that he’d be missed when he retired. The few guys they had who could step forward and help fill in that void, were eventually gone.

Those were all guys who oozed desire and a bitter taste for defeat, and didn’t respond to adversity by breaking something or getting tossed from a game, but rather by letting others know this (stuff) wasn’t good enough, and/or by setting an example playing through aches and pains and adversity.

It’s intangible stuff. The kind of stuff that’s hard to quantify. The kind of stuff that people who don’t spend any time in a clubhouse tend to downplay or dismiss altogether, but people who are around a team for 7 ½-9 months know to be crucial.

The kind of stuff this team lacks. In addition to those offensive fundamentals.

Oh, yes, make no mistake: The personnel that Gonzalez and Greg Walker have been given is certainly lacking. Have they made the most of what they’ve had to work with? No. But every flaw in the roster construction has also been exposed this year.

They haven’t fallen so badly because of B.J. Upton – he was bad last year, and he’s bad this year. As was Dan Uggla. They’ve slipped so much offensively in large part because some players – Chris Johnson, Andrelton Simmons, and even Freddie Freeman – have not duplicated their career-best numbers from a year ago, and no one has had a career-best season in 2014.

And because, with the exception of Freeman, none of their key lineup regulars has been good with runners in scoring position. And because they strike out way too much at the worst possible times. And because they don’t hit homers at anywhere near the rate they were expected to. And they don’t get on base nearly enough.

That about covers it offensively, right?

- See more at: http://atlantabraves.blog.ajc.com/2014/09/17/braves-lack-offensive-fundamentals-leadership/?__federated=1#sthash.VVuQR0MX.dpuf

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Everyone forgets about Perez but IMO he's a managerial candidate.

He was the guy I wanted as the manager after Bobby. Since it's clear that a person has to have some kind of ties to the Braves in order to get consideration for a job I would look at Dave Martinez. He played for the Braves and has been learning from one of the best for years down in Tampa in Joe Maddon. I think he's the next homerun manager and the team that hires him will benefit greatly.

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