35. How long will Schuerholz stay as GM?

John Schuerholz is now in his 17th offseason as GM of the Braves. But how long will the 66-year-old Schuerholz remain on the job? The Braves Show's Bill Shanks finishes the series on the top 35 issues facing the team this winter with a look at the man in charge.

For the first time in sixteen years, John Schuerholz has to construct a roster after his team did not make the postseason. It could be his most challenging offseason since his first with the Braves, when he took over the team in October of 1990.

At the end of the season Schuerholz vowed to get the Braves back to their winning ways with pitching as the priority. He'll have the responsibility of trying to rebuild the roster with the franchise still in ownership limbo, not as easy task.

With the Braves' executive turning 67 years old next May, it's fair to wonder how long he will continue in his role as GM. Schuerholz had hinted in the past that he might retire or step back after the 2006 season, but it's obvious to everyone that he's not looking to leave anytime soon.

Dayton Moore, Schuerholz's heir apparent, left last May to become the GM of the Kansas City Royals. If Moore believed Schuerholz was about to step down in the near future, he probably would not have left for the worst franchise in baseball. But when it became clear that Schuerholz was not going to retire soon, Moore left for the Royals.

Schuerholz has said in the past that he would like to travel with his wife, Karen, after he retires. He's been in baseball over forty years and a GM for over a quarter of a century, so he hasn't had the freedom to take off for an extended vacation very often. As the GM, you are usually pretty tied to the team twelve months of the year.

But Schuerholz still loves his role with the team, and his earlier hints about retiring are now being shrugged off. Not making the playoffs has rejuvenated him to some extent, and some believe the infusion of youth into the team the last two seasons has also given Schuerholz a new life in his job.

With Liberty Media likely taking over as the owners before the start of next season, Schuerholz is now operating the team in somewhat of a limbo. However, all indications point to John Malone, Liberty's chairman, keeping Schuerholz around after the corporation takes over.

And Schuerholz is much like Bobby Cox in that he can probably make the call as to when he steps down as General Manager. No executive in this era has matched Schuerholz's success, which gives him tremendous respect around the game. Unless the Braves fall flat the next season or two, Schuerholz will be able to make the decision on when he leaves.

When he does leave, who might replace Schuerholz? With Moore now gone, Assistant General Manager Frank Wren becomes the favorite. Wren has worked side by side with Schuerholz for the last seven years, and unless he is hired away by another team, he's in place to take over when Schuerholz leaves.

Roy Clark is the Braves Scouting Director, and while he has hinted around that he prefers to remain in his current role, some have speculated he could decide he wants to be a General Manager. Clark has led the last seven drafts for the Braves, which have created a very strong farm system and allowed the team to stay competitive. After turning down the Washington Nationals a few months ago, Clark is here to stay. And if the farm system continues to produce solid talent, he too could be mentioned as a potential Schuerholz successor.

But it seems that for now, Schuerholz's successor is not an issue. When Moore left back in May, Schuerholz said he had no timetable for his departure. And while no one is pushing him out the door, the presence of Moore at least created a potential succession plan for the very important role. But with Moore now gone, it will create even more speculation as to whom might succeed Schuerholz in a few years.

And it looks like it will be at least a few more years. Unless the Braves struggle and fail to make the playoffs, Schuerholz can pretty much say when he wants to leave. From his comments late in the season, he seems more determined than ever to make sure this franchise gets back to its winning ways.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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