Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Which general manager should get credit for Braves’ success? Many


Should the Braves continue this improbable, illogical and somewhat mesmerizing run of .600-plus baseball well into the summer -- when attention generally turns to the oblong ball in our territory -- some will wonder who should get credit for all this.

You can be excused if you’ve lost track of the bosses since 2007. This is an organization that went from John Schuerholz to Frank Wren to John Hart to John Coppolella to Alex Anthopoulos holding the general manager’s position in a span of 11 years. As instability goes, it’s not quite parallel to the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback job, but it illustrates the lack of recent postseasons in Atlanta.

In hopes of adding some clarity to the situation, and possibly correcting a few misperceptions floating around fandom, I decided to take a look at the depth chart. This exercise isn’t about ranking regimes, it’s merely to assign responsibility for this year’s team, which was 26-16 and sat atop the National League going into Thursday’s series finale against Chicago.

So let’s start with a guy who was three firings ago ...

• Frank Wren: It was Wren who signed the dynamic duo of Ozzie Albies (21) and Ronald Acuna (20), as well as utility infielder Johan Camargo (24). That’s noteworthy because the front office made a point of ripping Wren for the decline of the player-development system after he was fired. That’s not to suggest team executives were incorrect about the slide, but Wren’s staff also hit on some gems.

As I’ve written many times, Wren did a lot of things right. He should get credit for rebuilding the Braves into a postseason team when he took over from Schuerholz in late 2007. But his mistakes were too big to overcome, especially the millions wasted on B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Kenshin Kawakami at a time when ownership was holding the line on player payroll.

But give Wren credit for the two players who are stirring all the interest now, Albies and Acuna.

• John Schuerholz: He’s a Hall of Famer, but he lost his fastball near the end of his tenure. The Braves famously got fleeced on the Mark Teixeira trade (Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia went to Texas) when Schuerholz was trying desperately to make one last attempt for another World Series. It backfired. But he gets credit for adding two current roster players, just before stepping out of the GM’s job: He drafted Freddie Freeman and signed Julio Teheran in the summer of 2007.

When it comes to Hart and Coppolella, it’s difficult to discern whose resume should include what players. Hart was the de-facto general manager for more than a year (2014-15) after Wren’s firing, then Coppolella for two seasons (2016-17). A case could be made that Coppolella did much of the legwork when Hart was technically running things, but I don’t feel comfortable making that call.

So I’m going to split the remaining players into two time periods: Hart/Coppolella and Coppolella/Hart.

• Hart/Coppolella: Hart signed Nick Markakis. The timing of that could be debated given it was the beginning of the roster strip-down, but Markakis has certainly lived up to the deal, hitting .333 with 30 RBIs in the first 42 games this season and batting .284 in his four seasons in Atlanta.

Hart also dealt Evan Gattis for Mike Foltynewicz. Gattis hit 59 homers with 160 RBIs in his first two seasons with the Astros and he had a solid postseason in 2017 when the Astros won the World Series. So that deal paid off for Houston.

Foltynewicz was pegged from the outset as a potential high-rotation guy for the Braves. He has struggled with consistency and control, but he’s coming off two strong starts against Miami and Chicago after he was banged around by San Francisco.

Also under Hart’s watch: Arodys Vizcaino, Dan Winkler, A.J. Minter.

• Coppolella/Hart: Easily Coppolella’s best trade was the Shelby Miller deal with Arizona that brought two starting position players, Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson. Aaron Blair, also in the deal, hasn’t panned out.

Coppolella also is responsible for two young starting pitchers, Sean Newcomb and Mike Soroka. Newcomb, however, came at the cost of Andrelton Simmons, a Gold Glove shortstop with salary control. It was a deal that is second-guessed to this day, but at least Newcomb has been impressive. Soroka was a 2015 draft pick who actually was a compensatory pick awarded to the Braves when they lost starter Ervin Santana to Minnesota in free agency.

Others on the roster acquired by Coppolella: catchers Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, and pitchers Sam Freeman, Luiz Gohara, Jose Ramirez, and Jesse Biddle.

• Alex Anthopoulos: As Anthopoulos has stated many times and reiterated on the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast this week, he is intentionally taking things slowly in his first season, not rushing into decisions when it comes to player and prospect evaluations.

His most significant move has been to send Matt Kemp to Los Angeles for Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Kazmir. Gonzalez and Kazmir were released, and the Braves actually took on extra payroll this season, but the trade enabled them to get Kemp off the books for the 2019 season.

As a bonus, McCarthy, who has had a blur of late-career injuries, has given the Braves some nice starts this season -- allowing Chicago only one run in six innings Wednesday -- and Culberson has filled a utility role.

Anthopoulos also brought in Preston Tucker (.282, seven doubles, 19 RBI), Ryan Flaherty (.279, five doubles), Jose Bautista (two home runs in 11 games but hitting only .156) and pitchers Shane Carle (0.72 ERA in 19 appearances), Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 1.29 but now injured) and veteran Peter Moylan (3.38, 19 appearances).

Anthopoulos hasn’t been here long, but his moves have paid off.

Podcast blog: Alex Anthopoulos opens up on father, the HVAC business, career climb, Braves and Snitker.

Listen to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast. Check out the podcast show page at AJC.com/sports-we-never-played-the-game. Subscribe on iTunes or, Google play, StitcherTuneIn, or listen from the AJC sports podcasts page or the WSB Radio on-demand page. 

 


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.