34. Is 2006 John Schuerholz's last yr as GM?

Braves' General Manager John Schuerholz is now in his mid-60s. There are whispers he might retire in a year or two, but will he? Schuerholz is still at the top of his game. Bill Shanks has more.

Braves' General Manager John Schuerholz is perhaps the most successful executive in the history of baseball. His teams have won two World Championships, six pennants, and fifteen division titles. The machine he has built in Atlanta is unprecedented.

But since he just passed his 65th birthday, it is natural to discuss how long Schuerholz will continue in his position. He's achieved enough success to where he can make the call as to when he will retire or either cut back on his duties, and that's exactly what will happen. It's just a matter of when that will occur.

Schuerholz has hinted that 2006 might be his last season as the team's GM. He and his wife Karen are looking forward to a time when they can travel a bit, something that's difficult to do when you are leading a major league baseball team. But you have to wonder how tough it might be for Schuerholz to walk away from his job.

It's tough to quit something you're good at and have achieved the success Schuerholz has achieved. It's not like he's in bad health or unable to do his job because he's reached his mid-60s. He still worked his magic last year, so it's not like we can make a case for him slipping! This man is as good at what he does now as when he was in his mid-40s.

Plus, there are a few things to consider that might make you think Schuerholz will delay any retirement. First, the team he has assembled is full of youth and exuberance. It rejuvenated everyone last season, including him. To see the future of this franchise would make the most negative human in the world excited. Not many franchises can look at their current roster and their minor league system and be as excited as the Braves.

With that in mind, you know Schuerholz would love to win his second World Series title in Atlanta before he calls it a career. He's heard the criticism of winning so many division crowns, but only one World Series. It has got to burn him a bit as well. So with a nucleus in place that can put his team in contention, it's going to be hard to walk away with the chance of winning that second title.

If the Braves were to win the World Series next season, Schuerholz would probably retire the day after the parade down Peachtree Street. It wouldn't be because he's that tired of being a GM, but because he and his wife are genuinely looking forward to a time they can spend together. He's worked in baseball for forty years, and it's only natural for him to be looking forward to retirement.

And finally, the presence of his son Jonathan in the Braves' system might postpone any major decision on his future. You've got to know that Schuerholz would love to see his son in an Atlanta uniform. That would almost cap his career - seeing his son play in the big leagues. Jonathan is a fringe prospect, but as we saw last year, players can get opportunities. The younger Schuerholz will probably be in Richmond this season, so that means he's only a phone call away from the show. It's only natural that his father would love to see him play for the team he leads.

When Schuerholz does retire, there will be two people standing in line to take his place. His long-time assistant, Frank Wren, will certainly be a candidate. Wren was the GM in Baltimore in the late-90s, and he's turned down a few other jobs to remain in Atlanta. But the overwhelming favorite will be Dayton Moore, who recently turned down a second interview with the Boston Red Sox, where he almost certainly would have been offered that job.

Moore is hugely responsible for the success of the Braves' farm system that churned out prospect after prospect last season and is still loaded with talent. Moore and Scouting Director Roy Clark have developed quite an assembly line of talent, using many of the philosophies Schuerholz has implemented over the years. Many people believe Moore is simply a younger version of Schuerholz, and there's no doubt that if Moore does replace Schuerholz, he'll be the Braves' GM for twenty years. The same philosophies that have led to an unprecedented amount of success will continue for years to come with Moore in charge.

But John Schuerholz will know better than anyone when it's time to step back. Some around him believe that his initial plans to retire after 2006 have been pushed back a bit, and considering the reasons we've just outlined, that's not a surprise. This will not be an easy job to leave, and that makes it a difficult decision for anyone. But Schuerholz is usually pretty good at making decisions, and he'll no doubt know when the time is right to make this one.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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