|John Schuerholz stepping aside as Atlanta Braves GM; will become president|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 October 2007 11:04|
Schuerholz, who turned 67 last week, remains second in command to chairman Terry McGuirk. Assistant general manager Frank Wren, a former GM with the Baltimore Orioles, replaced Schuerholz as the executive as the one who oversees trades, free-agent signings and other roster decisions.
Outfielder Jeff Francoeur said he got word of Schuerholz's decision earlier Thursday.
``I figured he would be with us another year of two,'' Francoeur said. ``It kind of happened quick for all of us. It caught us off guard.''
The team had no immediate comment other than to schedule an afternoon news conference for a ``major announcement.'' Schuerholz was baseball's longest-serving general manager with one team.
The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 - Schuerholz's first season in Atlanta - until 2004, a streak unprecedented in any of the major American sports. The only blemish on his resume was a lack of success once his teams got the playoffs.
Atlanta's only World Series title came 12 years ago, a six-game victory over the Cleveland Indians that gave the city its first, and still only, major sports championship.
Four other times during the streak, the Braves lost in the World Series. They also were the losing team in four NL championship series, and were eliminated four more times in the division series.
After the team's ownership passed from Ted Turner to Time Warner, the Braves began to cut payroll though they remained one of the highest-spending teams in baseball.
In 2005, Atlanta's postseason streak ended with a losing season and third-place finish in the NL East. The Braves climbed back over .500 this season but again finished third, out of the playoffs.
Still, the postseason failures and recent slide do little to diminish Schuerholz's remarkable record of assembling talented teams year after year, with manager Bobby Cox running things in the dugout throughout the remarkable run.
The 66-year-old Cox has another year left on his contract.
``Obviously, John has done an unbelievable job with the organization and this team,'' Francoeur said. ``He definitely deserves to retire and enjoy what he's accomplished. It's sad, because we didn't want to see him go.''
More than two years ago, Schuerholz said he already had plotted out how his career as general manager would end, but he wouldn't give any details. Just last week, after the Braves wrapped up another playoff-less season, he refused to discuss his future.
``Move on to another one,'' he said. ``I'm not going to go into that. No questions about that. Next subject.''
Schuerholz came to the Braves from Kansas City in 1991, taking over a last-place team that had plenty of potential: pitchers John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery were just starting out their careers.
The new GM filled out the roster with established veterans such as Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream, a combination took Atlanta from worst to first and all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
The memorable series ended with a 1-0, 10-inning loss at Minnesota, a precursor of more postseason losses to come.
Even though Smoltz is the only player who has been with the Braves throughout the Schuerholz era, the general manager kept a steady flow of talent moving through Atlanta.
Greg Maddux and Andres Gallarraga were signed as free agents. Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield were acquired in trades. Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez and Ryan Klesko were developed by a productive farm system.
More recently, Francoeur and All-Star catcher Brian McCann came up from the minors to lead the next generation.
Schuerholz left his job as a junior high school teacher to begin his front-office career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. He moved to Kansas City two years later with the expansion Royals, eventually working his way up to general manager in 1981, at the age of 41.
During his nine years as GM, the Royals won two division titles and the 1985 World Series with a seven-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
``John Schuerholz is an unbelievable judge of talent,'' Chipper Jones once said. ``It almost seems like he has a crystal ball.''