GM rankings: Is Braves’ Wren or Falcons’ Dimitroff on top?

falcons.0507+CC14

Dimitroff hired Mike Smith and rebuilt team.

Wren got Braves back to playoffs.

Wren got Braves back to playoffs.

Only two weeks after Braves general manager Frank Wren received a contract extension, the Falcons have signed GM Thomas Dimtroff to a new deal.

This suggests a level of stability in sports franchises that we’re genuinely not used to in Atlanta. It also got me thinking: Who’s the best GM in Atlanta pro sports?

The candidates are: Wren, whose moves helped get the Braves back to the playoffs last season; Dimitroff, who rebuilt the franchise into one that has had three straight winning seasons and two playoff berths; the Thrashers’ Rick Dudley, who’s done a solid job with no budget to work with; the Hawks’ Rick Sund, who presides over the only team that has made the playoffs three straight years.

Here is my ranking. Take a look. Then feel free to agree, mock and/or ridicule. I know you’re not shy.

♦ 1.) DIMITROFF: After the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino infernos, nobody inherited a worse situation than the new Falcons’ general manager. Dimitroff completely rebuilt the front office, coaching staff and roster. He hired coach Mike Smith (obscure to most of the populace). The Falcons, who never had consecutive winning seasons before Dimitroff arrrived, are 33-15 during his tenure. They’re 0-2 in the playoffs, but there’s something to be said for losing two Arizona (which nearly won the Super Bowl) and Green Bay (which just won it).  The jury remains out on some of Dimitroff’s moves. Dunta Robinson was unimpressive last season. Early draft picks Sam Baker, Peria Jerry and Sean Weatherspoon are among those who still have a lot to prove. But it’s hard to question his success.

♦ 2.) WREN: His series of moves got the Braves back into the playoffs last year, and if not for an inordinate number of injuries, they might have been a World Series team.  This winter Wren added something in short supply — a valuable right-handed bat in second baseman Dan Uggla. He moved quick to hire Fredi Gonzalez to replace the retired Bobby Cox. The Braves are looking so solid right now that they’re even becoming a fashionable pick to beat out Philadelphia in the National League East. He also has had to deal with budget constraints, thanks to owners Liberty Media. The biggest difference between Dimitroff and Wren: Wren had some significant miscues early in his tenure, including — but not limited to — overspending for pitcher Derek Lowe, overrating center fielder Nate McLouth and, yes, those two words that can still be found on the list of Braves’ non-roster invitees: Kenshin Kawakami.

♦ 3.) DUDLEY: He didn’t inherit the high-profile disasters that Dimitroff did — just a general disaster. Dudley doesn’t come off as the business/executive type (nor does he want to) but he has long been respected in the NHL as a personnel evaluator. The trades he spun with Chicago before this season, getting Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, among others, were as good as any trades the Thrashers have seen. It would have been nice to see the team make a more significant move at the deadline for a goal scorer, but we’ll never know to what extent the handcuffs were on Dudley ownership is not interested in spending money. If the Thrashers miss the playoffs, it won’t be because of Dudley. It will be because there has been so much damage to undo and the team ranks 29th out of 30th in total payroll.

♦ 4.) SUND: The Hawks will make the playoffs for the fourth straight season, but they’re not feeling the love. Joe Johnson was given a ridiculous contract because the Hawks thought they couldn’t afford to let him go. Now they’re painted into a corner because nobody would touch that deal. Sund, like Dudley, works for the same owners. So he might not have had complete freedom when it came to the Johnson deal or keeping Josh Smith (so far). But it certainly was Sund’s call to give contract extensions to Mike Bibby (who has since been dumped), Marvin Williams (no need to detail that draft miscalculation by Billy Knight) and Zaza Pachulia. Sund has made nice trades to pick up Kirk Hinrich and Jamal Crawford. But last year’s draft pick, Jeff Teague, has been dreadful and this year’s rookie, Jordan Crawford, went to Washington in the Hinrich deal. Any plan for the future has only one absolute: Keeping Al Horford.

OK, there’s my list. Now it’s your turn.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

108 comments Add your comment

JSS

March 9th, 2011
5:04 pm

MaryNell Meadors!
1) She actually wins Playoff games and series!
2) She gets rid of over hyped local heroes (see Holdsclaw)
3) Her team does not get embarrassed on their floor or the opponents on National TV by 20 point + losses or having the other teams fans being the only ones left after the 3rd quarter!

Take that suckers!

Riley Dog

March 9th, 2011
5:06 pm

Wren would take my vote.

Darren

March 9th, 2011
5:11 pm

No mention of trading 15-game winner, 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeout Javy Vasquez for Melky Cabrera and his three chins?

Jeff Schultz

March 9th, 2011
5:13 pm

JSS — You selling Atlanta Dream season tickets again?

Tale of Woe

March 9th, 2011
5:14 pm

How can you say Sund didn’t have full control over the Johnson deal, but he did for the Bibby deal. Both are/were bad. Other than that, I think this is the ranking that I would give also. The Thrashers look to have some good talent that might be decent next year with another goal scorer (and new owners). The Hawks are going to have to go through some rebuilding again (Trade Josh Smith NOW). The prize of the city are the Braves and Falcons. The Braves are going to have some money to spend over the next couple of years and they have a lot of good young talent that Wren has held onto. The Falcons might take a step back in terms of W’s next year, but they are built for the long haul and TD has done a great job assembling talent that can be competitive every year. This draft will be crucial to replacing some soon to be departing veterans.

Jeff Schultz

March 9th, 2011
5:14 pm

Darren — As I said, “…not limited to…”

Jeff Schultz

March 9th, 2011
5:15 pm

Tale of Woe — Because sometimes general managers don’t have as much freedom when it comes to moving the “centerpiece” players on the roster. Bibby, obviously, doesn’t qualify.

Darren

March 9th, 2011
5:17 pm

Fair enough. That trade also netted Mike Dunn which along with Infante turned into Dan Uggla, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Oregon Brave

March 9th, 2011
5:22 pm

Wren all the way. He’s had some big time clunkers as you pointed out Jeff. But he puts together a team that I don’t mind spending money to watch. Good storyline by the way. Go Braves.

Delbert D.

March 9th, 2011
5:24 pm

Dimitroff. 3 winning seasons and 2 playoffs in a parity-based competitive setting.

Tale of Woe

March 9th, 2011
5:25 pm

The only things Wren has done a poor job of and I think he is getting better at is how he dealt with Tommy G and John Smoltz. I think trading Vasquez was one of the best trades ever, IMO. We got Uggla & Vizcaino out of the deal. Not too shabby.

Chris

March 9th, 2011
5:26 pm

Darren it wasn’t a loss at all. Vazquez sucked big time last year. That trade got us (in a round about way) Uggla and of course Vizcaino who is a top 100 prospect.

JSS

March 9th, 2011
5:27 pm

Jeff Schultz
March 9th, 2011
5:13 pm
“JSS — You selling Atlanta Dream season tickets again?”

W-I-N-N-I-N-G!!!

And not the 7.5 grams version of it Braves, Falcons, and Hawks have been hitting! ;-)
Thrashers fans, fate just bless us!

Jack in Macon

March 9th, 2011
5:32 pm

I think it is harder to build a successful baseball team than a football team, so I have to give the edge to Wren. TD has more money to work with Blank as the owner. Don’t get me wrong as a long suffering Braves and Falcons fan I’m very happy to have both of these men. As far as the Hawks and the hockey teams are concerned, frankly I don’t give a dam$.

One more thing about Wren. I think too much is made of him overpaying for Lowe and KK. Wren inherited a team when two of the team’s great pitching icons (Smoltz/Glavin) were just over the hill (maybe he didn’t handle it right politically); but it was time to cut ties with these guys. And remember before he signed Lowe and KK our starting rotation had Buddy Carlile (SP?) and some other guys I can’t even remember. So yes KK was/is a bust but not Lowe. In fact don’t be surprised to see Lowe have a good year and his veteran leadership is very important to our young pitchers.

phil

March 9th, 2011
5:35 pm

None have done a damn thing. Understood? Nothing! Let’s go win a title and then talk about who has accomplished something.

headley lamar

March 9th, 2011
5:38 pm

No mention of trading 15-game winner, 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeout Javy Vasquez for Melky Cabrera and his three chins?

We got Adroys Vizacaino ( one of the hot young arms coming along ) in that deal and Javy has pretty much sucked since traded.

That was a win for the Braves.

JeJe

March 9th, 2011
5:40 pm

JSS

March 9th, 2011
5:41 pm

Why are fellas so afraid of a pant suit wearing Tennessee grandma like, former gym coach? Why? Because she is a winner!!! Winner, winner, Atlanta Dream Dinner!!! ;-)

Brendan

March 9th, 2011
5:42 pm

Loved this article, Jeff Schultz.

1) Dimitroff: Three (3) winning seasons for a franchise that failed to have back-to-back winning years for 42 years running! Plus, the Falcons went 13-3 last year, good enough to be the # 1 seed. They were eliminated by the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Yes, Dimitroff is # 1.

2) Wren: Okay, the Braves got back in. They lost to the eventual World Series Champions. Wren seems to be addressing the areas where the Braves are weak. Did the Phillies do that??? Seems to me, Philadelphia’s BATS, not pitching, failed them in the playoffs. What do they go get? More pitching. If the Phillies cannot identify what they are lacking, then they are doomed to fail again. What are they supposed to do? Win every game, 1-0? Or 2-1? Look, the Phillies just might win 115 games next year. But in the postseason, it’s all about “timely hitting” as well as “phenomenal pitching.”

3) Rick Sund: Like it or not, the Hawks have been in the playoffs, and improved for many consecutive years. I blame ownership for the JJ contract. If ever there was a time to be cheap, rather than hamstring the organization, it was over JJ. And JJ, and his various contracts, have been the ETERNAL UNDOING of the Atlanta Spirit, LLC, a/k/a “Team Pinoccio.”

4) Rick Dudley: Heavy sigh. Okay, look. Dudley is doing the best he can with what he’s got. But Sopel and Eager, from the Chicago Blackhawks, are already gone. And truthfully, I can’t rightly remember what we got for their departures? I can’t remember what Atlanta got for Hossa (Waddell transaction) or Kovalchuk (Dudley transaction), either? And that cannot mean anything of significance was netted in the transactions. Ladd has yet to re-sign, but Big Buff inked a 5-year deal. We overpaid for him, a little bit, but we’re Atlanta, and we have to, so I’m fine with that. Over the past 30 games or so, Atlanta has won but eight (8) times. Perhaps, a coaching change was necessary to salvage a playoff berth??? At least Dudley didn’t mortgage the Thrashers “lottery to Top Ten” overall pick in this summer’s draft. Chris Mason, backup goalie, was a Dudley decision. That one’s not looking so great. The acquisition of Blake Wheeler and a newly re-signed Mark Stuart look promising, at the expense of perennial diappointment Boris Valabik (10th overall pick, 2004 draft) and underachieving waiver claim pick-up Rich Peverley. Who was anything but “Peverywhere” this season. Buff and Ladd seem to be the players to build around, but they need recent draft picks Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian and Alex Burmistrov to blossom into stars, too. Plus, Nik Antropov must be healthy, to be effective. Jeff, to me, the Thrashers still lack a bonafied pair of Tier I defenders for the blueline. And until the Thrashers can keep an 82 game regular season under 200 Goals Against, I can’t see that they’ll ever truly be a playoff threat. With the HeptaCluser (Copyright, poster Brendan, all rights reserved at U.S. Library of Congress, 2010-11) in charge, all sorts of budgetary woes will surely follow the Thrashers, especially with their NBA franchise getting all the financial “love.” Jeff, the NHL failed to do their homework on vetting an ownership group for Atlanta. And because of it, the hockey market has taken on so much water … that the franchise is now spitting up a flounder.

lanier

March 9th, 2011
5:49 pm

you nailed it Jeff

True Falcon Fan

March 9th, 2011
6:01 pm

OK – Back to real world!!! A little boring read, but good job of reporting!!!!

Thank You!!!

Go Falcons

Arthur Redding, Jr.

March 9th, 2011
6:06 pm

Agree with your ratings, Jeff.

Dimitroff belongs on top. Wren came into an organization highly respected for good management, good player selection, a well-run farm system. Dimitroff entered a situation that had no such respect, no such tradition.

Yes, the Hawks have made it into the play-offs for 3 consecutive years. But in the NBA that’s no great feat. And they seem stuck–a pretty good team that sometimes looks great and sometimes simply folds–a team that will go nowhere in the play-offs. I can’t see anything that Lund has done to change this dynamic.

JSS

March 9th, 2011
6:06 pm

Bottom line…
Dimitoff
Playoff record: 0-2 with a aggregate of being outscored by 78-45…
Wren
Playoff record: 0-1 with two of the greatest collapses, well since Charlie Leibrant to Puckett and Wohlers to Leyritz… Exactly how many games did the Phillies make up after July 20th?
Sund
See Orlando and Larry Drew… Enough said…

Bryan

March 9th, 2011
6:07 pm

I disagree with you on the Lowe. Braves didn’t overpay for Derek . . . that’s the price you pay for middle of career, established, playoff proven pitchers. If you look at the value he brings the team in wins, innings pitched, ect – it’s right there with what we are paying him.

GT Alum

March 9th, 2011
6:18 pm

JSS -

How many teams lose 2 of their best players and don’t drop like a rock? Not to mention Heyward being injured, even if he didn’t miss significant time. If Prado and Chipper don’t get injured, it’s no sure thing that the Phils take the division. And it’s also no sure thing that the Braves don’t beat SF in the playoffs. Not only would we have had their bats, but Conrad would’ve never had a chance to make those errors.

MJC

March 9th, 2011
6:22 pm

Al Horford signed his extention in the summer.

ATL Fan

March 9th, 2011
6:34 pm

It’s a virtual tie between Thomas “Touch Down” Dimitroff and Frank Wren. Hawks and Thrashers have a culture of losing. That’s unfortunate, espicially for the Hawks. Atlanta could be a great basketball town, but until they change the culture, the Hawks will not be on the same level (Elite) as the Celtics or the Lakers.
The Braves are an Elite team.
The Falcons are an Elite team.
The Hawks and the Thrashers contend for the playoffs, not for championships.

FF284

March 9th, 2011
6:43 pm

The good comrade.

Ox Baker

March 9th, 2011
6:45 pm

That would be HeptaCluster with a ‘t’……

JSS

March 9th, 2011
6:54 pm

GT Alum
March 9th, 2011
6:18 pm

JSS -
“How many teams lose 2 of their best players and don’t drop like a rock? ”

The 2010 Minnesota Twins Monneau and Maurer (and they never had their closer Nathan)…

“Conrad would’ve never had a chance to make those errors.”

But Chipper “The Infield Adventure” Jones is a sure thing? Those are some mighty big “ifs!”

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 9th, 2011
6:59 pm

Going with Wren as Dems specializes in drafting players with injuries.

Dems does a good job and is reaching the bell curve of judgment, but Wren got rid of a nut job SS last year just becuase he was a nut job SS.

I’ll always wonder why Chipper didn’t injure himself beating the crap out of hm.

James

March 9th, 2011
7:07 pm

Rick Sund sucks for giving Joe Johnson that ridicules contract.

JSS

March 9th, 2011
7:14 pm

Chipper -vs- Escobar? Chipper would still be looking for his bottom partial plate! That is like Juan Muarchial -vs- Johnny Roseboro… There are some buttons better left never being pushed!

Atlanta Poll

March 9th, 2011
7:14 pm

Frank Wren limited budget lot of good young picture in the farm system future looks great toss up between him and dimitroff.
Thomas Dimitroff turn the team around that was total mess but he has a owner who has a passion to win
Rick Dudley lot of young talent that needs to learn how to win plus he has ownership that has done a poor job.
Rick Sund a team with no passion no direction poor ownership just hope this is his last year.

wilson

March 9th, 2011
7:27 pm

For me, the list goes
1. Dimitroff–Completely turned around a moribund franchise in just a couple of years, with an extremely bright future.
2. Wren–VERY close second place; built the roster of my favorite Braves team ever, one that as Schultz said, was inordinately harmed by injuries and went on an inspired playoff run anyway. Another franchise with a very promising future.
3. Who
4. Cares

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 9th, 2011
7:29 pm

JSS_ I have seen Chipper look at Esco and Esco look into his glove. Chipper would have flicked him off like a booger.

Don’t know what you would have seen to make you feel different.

JSS

March 9th, 2011
7:40 pm

Look at the Roseboro-Marichal aftermath… You guys think a “glare” equates being able to “finish the deal.” You may differ to someone till they touch you… Touch a “Latin man” the wrong way if you like… I know better…

JSS

March 9th, 2011
7:49 pm

Excuse me “defer”

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 9th, 2011
8:15 pm

JSS-

It’s all hypothetical I know but really…

I’d borrow money that says Larry Wayne chases Yunnel into oncoming traffic the connector.

Your Latino profiling is quite disturbing.

Dubious

March 9th, 2011
8:29 pm

Too bad you aren’t grading Brian Burke rather than Dudley/Wads….what might have been if Burke had been hired when he was interested….How things might have been different for the Thrashers, instead of the sorry state of affairs of the last 10 years….

JSS

March 9th, 2011
8:43 pm

“I’d borrow money that says Larry Wayne chases Yunnel into oncoming traffic the connector”

You must have money to waste? He’s pulled a muscle trying to get into the batter’s box and you think he can chase someone? Good luck with that…

5150 UOAD

March 9th, 2011
8:44 pm

Don Waddell is a GM God. Why didn’t you put him on the list? AHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA I think I broke a rib. HAHAHAHAHAHHAH

idot

March 9th, 2011
9:15 pm

The bad part of the Vasquez for Cabrera trade, was getting Melky, and putting him on the Braves 2010 team.
If the Braves had of just let the Yankees keep Melky, or traded him for something else like some balls, bats, a tank of gas, or anything, they would have been better off, and probably would have won 3 or 4 more games last year.

One of Wren’s biggest accomplishments, that he doesn’t get any credit for, is talking Bobby into retiring.

Larry

March 9th, 2011
9:16 pm

Jeff,

Serious question: How would Thomas Dimitroff be rated if you subtract the most obvious selection at the time and under the circumstances primarily, Vick in jail and Petrino in Arkansas) in Matt Ryan? Plus, you need to remember that Michael Turner was being courted by Arthur Blank and Rich McKay BEFORE TD was hired.

I don’t dislike TD and I’m not suggesting he is poor at what he does. However, quiet frankly he really hasn’t been that impressive with his draft choices outside of Ryan and probably would get a “C” grade at best to this point.

Personally, I think one Mr. Matt Ryan has overcome what has been a most underwhelming talent pool brought in by TD! I judge a GM more on drafting than free agent signings as this usually boils down the the highest bidder. In drafting alone, especially the 1st and 2nd rounds (subtracting the most obvious choice by an NFL team in a decade in picking Ryan) Mr. Dimitroff gets a C- AT BEST!

I think the jury is still out on TD before we annoint him with oil.

Remember

Dawg A

March 9th, 2011
9:28 pm

I agree with your order Jeff!!! Sund is awful and that would not matter if the ASG was not in ownership! He has to go! But please take the ASG with you!

Larry

March 9th, 2011
9:33 pm

idot,

Touché!

I think Bobby hanging around the past few years really rubbed off in the team and Wren privately knew so.

The comments by players about a more disciplined clubhouse, more emphasis and laser focus every day on defense, and certainly so many players losing their love handles grown on the past two years perfectly exemplifies a lax attitude.

The only one still growing his gut is Chipper. Hopefully this will be the last season we are all blessed to watch his lazy 90 foot jogs down to first base on a ground ball while he’s thumbing through a Cabela’s catalog searching for the latest “doe in estrus” brand scent disguise.

Good riddance!

NC Brave

March 9th, 2011
10:43 pm

Dimitroff without a doubt. Reasoning: history. Especially having to deal with the Vick cancer and its treatment.
Wren 2nd. Cobbling a playoff team together last year was truly amazing but the Braves history over the past 20 years has been positive. T.D. didn’t have a positive foundation as Wren did.
The other 2 are miles away.

Ricky Bobby

March 9th, 2011
10:46 pm

this shouldn’t even be a debate! Dimitroff is by far superior to Frank Wren. The Braves have been consistently winning since ‘91. The Falcons? Not so much. End of story.

Dudley Will Be Fine

March 9th, 2011
10:52 pm

Thrashers need fresh blood and money at the top. Rick D. will do very well under improved conditions. Hopefully, this time next year hockey fans will have something to look forward to with the ASG in the rear view mirror. A man can dream.

P. Bull Terrier

March 9th, 2011
10:57 pm

I didn’t think very highly of Frank Wren in his first year because of the way he handled Glavine and Smoltz. With the benefit of a little hindsight, it’s obvious he made the right decision in both cases, but I think even he would agree that he could have handled things better. The one thing you can count on with Wren is that he’s going to be aggressive in making moves to try to improve the roster. They might not all work out, but at least you can tell he’s doing everything he can to field the best team he can.

I agree with ranking Dimitroff #1 because he took one of the biggest disasters in sports and made all the right decisions to turn things around immediately. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to predict that he’ll keep the Falcons among the NFL’s top teams for as long as he’s here. With that said, Wren may end up taking over the #1 spot in some years when most of his moves pay off and slipping back a spot or two when some of his decisions don’t work as well.

The Thrashers lost me when they traded Kovalchuck so I don’t know or care anything about Dudley.

Sund is working under difficult circumstances, at best. Even taking that into consideration, he hasn’t done anything to impress me. Another year or two under the ASG and I’ll care as little about the Hawks as I do the Thrashers.