John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox have become sacred cows in the city of Atlanta, and fair or not, every person who takes over their former jobs will be compared to them for decades to come. Take a look at Denver and Miami. It's been nearly 15 years since their two hall of fame quarterbacks left the game, and yet we still hear that they are searching for the next Elway and Marino. It's time that Braves fans gave up the quest for the mythical "next", Legends like Schuerholz and Cox come along once in a lifetime..if you're lucky. The Braves were unbelievably lucky to have them both at the same time. Perhaps it's time to recognize how lucky, and give Wren and Gonzalez their fair shake.
Frank Wren took over as GM for the Braves in 2007, when John Schuerholz stepped up to the position of team president. Wren has taken a lot of criticism for some of his moves...and non-moves, but in truth he's operating in a different climate than his predecessor. Schuerholz took over as GM when the Braves were a dead to last place team, and the perennial whipping boys of the league. There was no place to go but up. The Braves meteoric rise from worst to first in 1991 put Schuerholz's mark indelibly on the franchise, and from then on it seemed that nearly every move he made was gold. Or..was it? When you win 14 straight division titles, and reach a handful of World Series (winning one), it's easier to overlook the bad moves. Truthfully, the only off-season or mid-season acquisition that put the Braves over the top was Fred McGriff in 1993. Beyond that, the Braves staying power really should be attributed to their strong farm system, and consistent pitching. But Braves fans became spoiled, almost complacent, and expected championships rather than appreciating them. Enter Frank Wren.
|Will there be a "next" Schuerholz and Cox?|
While Frank Wren was thrown to the proverbial lions when he took his job, I think it's safe to say that Fredi Gonzalez was dead and buried before he even put on his cap. How the hell do you follow Bobby Cox, the most beloved sports manager/coach in the history of Atlanta? In his first season as Braves manager, Gonzalez took a team that had gone 91-71 in 2010, and posted a 89-73 record in 2011. That's only a 2 game swing folks. But those 2 games were enough to keep the Braves out of the playoffs in 2011. When accentuated by the fact that the Braves were in the wild card lead, and culminated their season with a 5 game losing streak, it makes it look all the worse. But in fact, the 2011 September collapse had very little to do with Gonzalez and his work. The combination of injuries, and a worn out bullpen (not to mention untimely errors in the field) sealed the doom of the Braves post-season hopes. There was little Gonzalez could do at that point, but he accepted the criticism with humility, and gracefully deflected those pointing the finger of blame at him.
The truth of the matter is, Atlanta has the ideal men for these jobs. Both men were trained thoroughly by their predecessors, both men still have said predecessors around to give advice, and both men know this franchise well. It's time for Braves fans to give thanks for what they once had, and to be doubly thankful that they were blessed with two top baseball men to carry on the traditions of success. It could have been worse...much worse. The Red Sox had a parallel September swoon in 2011...and now they have Bobby Valentine as their manager. Yeah...bow your head in thanks for sure folks.