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