Posts Tagged ‘Frank Wren’

Braves need this free agent splurge on Upton to pay off

Frank Wren believes B.J. Upton will live up to the contract Braves just gave him. (AP photo)

Frank Wren hopes and believes B.J. Upton will live up to his $75.25 million contract. (AP photo)

This probably isn’t fair to B.J. Upton, an immensely talented player with power, speed and the motivation that generally accompanies an athlete looking for a fresh start with a new team. It might not even be fair to Frank Wren, who was staring at significant holes in his lineup this winter and had relatively few options in how to fill them.

But that’s a lot of money.

It’s a lot of money for a young player who may have wowed the baseball world in 2008, but, statistically at least, really hasn’t blown anybody away since. It’s a lot of money for a franchise that just cleared a ton of payroll space and can’t afford to take a wrong turn and clog the financial ledger with a big mistake again. It’s a lot of money for a general manager who too often has taken that wrong turn and smacked into a wall.

Derek Lowe. Kenshin Kawakami. Dan Uggla. We’re not talking the Apple-Home …

Continue reading Braves need this free agent splurge on Upton to pay off »

Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team

Michael Bourn may have played his last game for the Braves, who have some big decisions to make this offseason. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Center fielder Michael Bourn may have played his last game for the Braves, who have some big decisions to make this offseason. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Once you get past the fact that the Braves waited until game No. 163 to resemble baseball’s all-thumbs team, and that a major league umpiring crew just made the NFL’s replacement referees look fit to be air traffic controllers, this is what the 2012 season really comes down to: The Braves’ margin for error this season was just too narrow.

They won 94 games. That’s impressive. They went 20-9 down the stretch after it looked again like they were circling the drain. That’s really impressive. But what really pushed this team into the postseason were two unexpected occurrences: 1) A 40-year-old (Chipper Jones) unexpectedly hit .300 for most of this season, had two walk-off homers against Philadelphia (the second when the club looked comatose on Sept. 2), and finished second in game-winning RBIs (12) and third in go-ahead RBIs (18) …

Continue reading Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team »

Chipper Jones: Treasure on field, wealth of material off of it

When Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will lose a legend and we'll lose the rarely scene honest and open athlete. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

When Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will lose a legend and we'll lose the rarely scene honest and open athlete. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(This is just one of several articles that will run in Sunday’s AJC special section on Chipper Jones. The section will be a collectors’ item so be sure to pick one up.)

Economics preclude me from following Chipper Jones into retirement. But there’s a side of me that wonders, “Now what?”

This column isn’t about Chipper Jones’ greatness as a baseball player (obvious). Or that he will end his Hall of Fame career with the same franchise that drafted him (reducing Todd Van Poppel to an amusing trivia question). Or that what we are witnessing in his final season seems pure fantasy: A 40-year-old athlete with creaky limbs manufacturing enough highlights to push his team into the playoffs.

Rather, this is about what really has set Chipper Jones apart: genuine, unfiltered, cold-slap honesty.

In the media, we tend to be drawn to the talkers. …

Continue reading Chipper Jones: Treasure on field, wealth of material off of it »

Gonzalez knows if Braves fizzle, he’ll be one to catch heat

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with the job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

Fredi Gonzalez knows criticism goes with his job, whether it's justified or not. (Hyosub Shin/AJC

(UPDATED: 11 p.m.)

One refreshing thing about Fredi Gonzalez, unlike so many in his position, is that he’s not going to try to project himself as someone who has all the answers.

He’ll listen to criticism. He’ll seek feedback from his Yoda-like predecessor, Bobby Cox. He’ll talk to former managers who are now long into retirement, and even managers on other teams. If ultimately Gonzalez fails as manager of the Braves, it won’t be because of ego, arrogance or obstinance.

“I talk to other managers all the time, people I respect,” Gonzalez said Friday. “Why not? I talk to them about dealing with different situations, dealing with crisis. But the bottom line, what most of them say, is you just have to be yourself. You have to be honest with players. You’re going to make decisions that are going to be second-guessed. That goes with the territory. But at the end of the …

Continue reading Gonzalez knows if Braves fizzle, he’ll be one to catch heat »

Braves look good now, but what can we expect next?

Kris Medlen represented another good sign for the Braves with five solid innings before the rain delay. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen represented another good sign for the Braves with five solid innings before the rain delay. (AP photo)

(Updated: midnight)

On this day a year ago, the Braves were 17 games over .500 (63-46), continued their ascent to 26 over in late August, flashing the look of a legitimate contender, and muted almost every remaining skeptic when even Dan Uggla rediscovered the art of hitting (the assumption being that his 33-game hitting streak had followed the laying of hands). Then came the fall.

After the Braves’ 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins Tuesday night, giddiness abounded once again. They have won seven straight. They are a season-best 59-44. Everybody is hitting. (OK. Not Dan Uggla. The hands thing wore off.)

So. Is it safe now to project something special?

Uh … no.

There is a lot to like about this team. They score runs. They deliver timely hits. They rank second to St. Louis in the National League in runs scored. The overall team batting average (.257) doesn’t look …

Continue reading Braves look good now, but what can we expect next? »

Braves, Wren whiff on Greinke — and this is getting old

Zack Greinke is on his way to the Angels. (AP photo)

Zack Greinke: On his way to Angels. (AP)

Frank Wren is trying to swing a deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Frank Wren: Looking for help. (Curtis Compton)

(UPDATED: 9:10 p.m.)

The first pitcher they went after (Ryan Dempster) said no. He prefers Los Angeles.

The second pitcher they went after (Zack Greinke) was traded to Los Angeles (no, not that L.A. team, the other L.A. team).

The Braves are trying to get better before Tuesday’s trade deadline. We think. But this journey is turning into some weird nightmare, or at least a Randy Newman retrospective. (“I Love L.A.!”)

Remember when the Braves used to get what they want? Remember when 90-plus-win seasons and playoff games seemed as plentiful as potato chips?

General manager Frank Wren said Friday night that he didn’t believe the Braves were close to a trade for a starting pitcher of significance. No kidding. I’m not sure how many are left.

When Wren was asked if he was balking at parting with a coveted prospect like Julio Teheran for a rental player like Greinke, he responded: “I …

Continue reading Braves, Wren whiff on Greinke — and this is getting old »

Teixeira trade shouldn’t stop Braves from dealing prospects

Ryan Dempster leads the National League with a 2.11 earned run average and gives the Braves the No. 1 starter they need for the pennant stretch. (AP photo)

The trade for Ryan Dempster gives the Braves the No. 1 starter they need for the pennant stretch. (AP photo)

Five years ago, in a trade that some fans now believe can only be explained by temporary insanity, John Schuerholz dealt seemingly every embraceable prospect in the Braves’ organization to Texas for Mark Teixeira. Teixeira played well (even homering in his Atlanta debut), but it didn’t matter because the Braves missed the playoffs in 2007 and were in mid-flounder again in 2008 when they traded him to the Angels for, if memory serves, a cheeseburger.

What has followed near the trade deadline seemingly every year since is some sense of fan and media panic that the Braves are going to deal “the next great thing” yet again (even if the next great thing more often than not turns to be a pile of stock options that makes wonderful kindling).

Please. Stop already.

There was nothing wrong in 2007 when Schuerholz intended to elevate his team to a title contender again, any more …

Continue reading Teixeira trade shouldn’t stop Braves from dealing prospects »

Jurrjens feels ‘not wanted’ by Braves, struggles don’t help

Jair Jurrjens still ddn't feel right when he reported to spring training. (AP photo)

Jair Jurrjens still didn't feel right when he reported to spring training. (Jason Getz/AJC)

When the Braves sent pitcher Kris Medlen to the minors a few days ago, significantly different conversations were going on in the clubhouses involved.

At Turner Field, the talk centered on how quickly Medlen could “stretch out” his arm and transition from reliever to starter, thereby rescuing the team’s rotation. At the minor league confines of Coolray Field in Gwinnett, the questions centered on whether this unofficially signaled the end of Jair Jurrjens’ career as a Brave.

“I understand it’s a business, and they need to do what they need to do,” said Jurrjens, less than a year removed from being an All-Star. “But you have feelings, and it hurts when you feel like you’re not wanted somewhere.”

And that’s what it feels like?

“If I say no, I’m lying. When you’re doing good, everybody loves you. When you’re doing bad, everybody hates you.

“You hear stuff. When …

Continue reading Jurrjens feels ‘not wanted’ by Braves, struggles don’t help »

Braves crumbling at first sign of adversity, just like 2011

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez may have problems with their team beyond injuries. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez may have problems beyond team injuries. (Jason Getz/AJC)

The Braves hope this is just about injuries. They hope it’s just about a ground ball freakishly caroming off Chipper Jones’ calf and the fact none of their starting pitchers suddenly can make it through three innings without getting hit on the head with a mallet.

But when a team seemingly crumbles whenever adversity hits, there’s something wrong.

The Braves have gone from the third-best record in baseball (26-16) to losing eight consecutive games, the past five by a combined score of 36-15. Stay calm, say the eternal optimists. It’s a mere hiccup. Maybe. But if this spiral is being magnified, it’s justified.

The slide comes with the backdrop of last season’s unraveling. General manager Frank Wren brought back the same team that went 10-20 in the final stretch in 2011 because he viewed the drain-circling as an aberration. But here we are again, watching players do dumb things in the field, …

Continue reading Braves crumbling at first sign of adversity, just like 2011 »

McCann shows a spark, but will Braves give him new deal?

Brian McCann's solo homer in second inning jump-started the Braves' offense. (AP photo)

Brian McCann's solo homer in second inning jump-started the Braves' offense. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 10 p.m.)

In his first six full major league seasons, Brian McCann has played in six All-Star games, won an All-Star game MVP, won five Silver Slugger awards, accumulated more home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and game-winning hits than any catcher in baseball, won a lot of games, smiled a lot, never caused a riff and has proved to be so genuine and honest that he probably wouldn’t know a magic muscle-inflating pill if one did a backflip into his morning Cocoa Puffs.

“He puts up numbers, and he did it even when other guys were taking performance-enhancers,” Braves teammate David Ross said. “He’s more like, ‘How many Advil should I take?’ I can’t corrupt him. He won’t even drink a Red Bull. I want to punch him.”

All of which makes you wonder how it could be that the Braves and McCann may part ways at some point in the near future.

The Braves are off to a good start. …

Continue reading McCann shows a spark, but will Braves give him new deal? »