The “real” problem for the Atlanta Braves


The Atlanta Braves have been a gold standard franchise in Major League Baseball for the better part of 25 years. With a few exceptions, if you are a member of the Atlanta Braves organization, you act the right way, you talk to the right way, and you conduct yourself on and off the field the right way. In fact, the right way of doing things has now been coined the “Braves way”, at least according to team President John Schuerholz during a press conference to announce the dismissal of Frank Wren:

"“It’s a special way of identifying young players who you want to become part of your organization with great comfort and expectation that when they put on a Braves uniform, they’ll be taught well, instructed well. Their makeup and their character will allow them to turn into winning championship-caliber players. They’ll fill the pipeline of this organization with highly capable, high-character, young, winning men who help you win many, many championships on a major league level, year after year after year.”"

I’m on the record as saying that I love the “Braves way”.  I believe having high standards for conduct and promoting a professional vibe in the clubhouse is the right way to go.  Not every clubhouse can pull this off and it usually starts from the top down.

For over 20 years, Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz led the charge for the “Braves way”. Players like Gary Sheffield, who were considered to be problems elsewhere, would come to Atlanta and straighten up.  If you didn’t straighten up and adhere to the “Braves way” (i.e. Robert Fick), you would be shown the door. The Braves constantly had a slew of veterans manning the clubhouse and making sure that the rules were followed.

It’s also important to mention that during this time period, the Braves were winning division after division title including the 1995 World Series Championship. Winning and the “Braves way’ went hand in hand.  If you act the right way, say the right things, and play the right way then you will win, right? I believe that is the opinion of John Schuerholz and that’s a problem.

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The “Braves way” and winning did go hand in hand, but lets not forget that there were multiple Hall of Fame players on these rosters. The “Braves way” is a terrific mantra to have and works great in the clubhouse, but if your roster is filled with black holes and guys with bricks for gloves, then it doesn’t matter how professional you are during a press conference.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Schuerholz or Bobby Cox. They are both baseball legends and put in a ton of work for the Braves in the 90’s but for the most part, those glory days ended almost a decade ago.  Saber-metrics and advanced stats have changed the way players are evaluated and how teams are put together. Many teams either have saber-minded general managers, or at the very least, have advisers in place who are friendly with advanced statistics.

Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz are not those people. They are “old school”. They make decisions based on years of experience (and that’s invaluable in many cases) and gut instinct. The problem is that those experiences and instincts are based in a different age of baseball. GM’s and Presidents have to adapt. It is naive to think that you can just keep doing what you’ve always done when there is new information available.

Schuerholz has already mentioned that whoever the new GM is will have a say in who the manager of the Braves will be as the organization moves forward. That being said, when a legend like Bobby Cox (and a member of the GM panel) talks about his love for Fredi Gonzalez, it’s hard to see how he (Gonzalez) could be dismissed. The fact that the panel did not hide how they felt about Fredi tells me a tremendous amount about how they plan to go forward.

Fredi Gonzalez goes way back with panel (Hart, Schuerholz, and Cox) and fits perfectly into the “Braves way”. John Schuerholz continues to look backwards at all the successes instead of looking forward and figuring out how we can once again be successful and merge winning with the “Braves way”.

It appears the Atlanta Braves are set on keeping the nostalgia alive and thinking the winning will return simply because they are the Braves.