It was clear to anybody who spoke to John Hart on the day the Braves fired general manager Frank Wren that he did not want the job. When a baseball executive gets to be of a certain age, they learn to embrace the schedule and minimal responsibility that accompanies the semi-retirement jobs of consultant and television analyst.
"The difference now is when you step off the (television) set, you can put the problems that you’ve been discussing aside,” Hart told me when asked about the possibility of becoming a general manager again. “That’s part of the fun of it. It also makes for a tougher decision (to leave).”
Braves president John Schuerholz pushed for Hart to become Wren's replacement. That won't happen. But he will get his second choice. The Braves announced Thursday that they've hired Hart, who had been interim general manager, for the newly created position of president of baseball operations (which I guess differentiates from Schuerholz, who's president of the entire Braves' empire).
This isn't a stunning move. The 66-year-old Hart first conceded last month to the AJC that he was open to the role of mentoring a young general manager (we'll get to that shortly). Only because of his friendship with Schuerholz was even considering it.
How should we feel about this? Excellent question.
The prevailing opinion now is that Hart will promote assistant general manager John Coppolella to replace Wren, although Hart didn't suggest last month that was a slam dunk. "Obviously, John Coppolella is a bright guy — young and inexperienced, but bright," he told me last month. "There are a number of young guys in the baseball universe I would entertain talking to. John fits into that category."
Maybe Hart works out in this role as short-term overseer. Maybe "Coppy" works out as GM. He appears to be highly regarded in baseball circles and the expectation is he's going to get a general manager's job somewhere at some point anyway.
My concern remains that this franchise is sticking with the "Braves Way."
I like the fact that Hart said the Braves too often looked "lethargic" this season and need change. But for the general manager's job, a case could be made that the Braves' need a fresh start with a fresh perspective, and that's more difficult to come by with internal promotions.
About the only certainty now is the Braves will not be hiring Kansas City's Dayton Moore , because I doubt they would be creating another layer in the front office for Hart if Moore was coming here. Any chance of Moore returning to Atlanta probably ended when the Royals went deep in the postseason.
The Braves strangely already have announced they're bringing back manager Fredi Gonzalez, a decision I believe should have been left up to the new general manager. That wasn't a good sign for those hoping for change.
We'll see how this plays out. If the general manager's job goes to Coppolella, he'll be judged like all GMs -- on the job he does. He certainly appears to be the favorite right now.