Turns out John Schuerholz keeps a secret even better than we thought. And so does Braves chairman Terry McGuirk. For more than six months.
That's how long ago it was that McGuirk proposed to Schuerholz that he leave the general manager post to become team president. McGuirk discussed the move with commissioner Bud Selig, who called it "an elegant solution."
Solution to what?
Schuerholz has mentioned in the past that he had a time in mind when he intended to retire, but he wasn't telling. The latest move seems unrelated to that, however. McGuirk said he wanted to "honor" Schuerholz by making him team president at the end of what McGuirk calls his "Hall of Fame-vectored" career.
"It strengthens us," McGuirk said.
Both Schuerholz and Frank Wren, who moves up from assistant GM to GM, are player personnel guys who, Wren notes, have always worked well together precisely because they like the same kind of player.
The transition will be seamless, given that Wren and Schuerholz were in and out of each other's offices a dozen times every day anyway.
Selig, who normally bans all team announcements during the playoffs so as not to distract from the games, allowed this one to go forward so the Braves wouldn't be behind when the free agent period opens after the World Series.
For Wren, this is his dream job, although he will have to give up spending so much of his time watching minor league players, which he loves.
Likewise, Schuerholz will be giving up team-building, which he loves.
But the challenge of casting his eye over the entire organization puts "the wind in my sails" again, he said.
All three executives were beaming at the Oct. 11 press conference; each is clearly thrilled with the re-organization.
Schuerholz is especially pleased that even Wren himself didn't know what was coming until Oct. 9. Having iced teas in the lobby of the team hotel in Florida, Schuerholz said, "I laid it on him." The effect was "jaw-dropping."
And what did manager Bobby Cox say when Schuerholz called him?
"He said 'OK,'" Schuerholz said.
No wonder. Cox was as likely to call Wren with ideas on players as Schuerholz. Except for not seeing Schuerholz's latest suspenders on a daily basis, there should be no obvious difference in the operation of the Braves.
--Manager Bobby Cox started the speculation last spring by saying he might retire after his current two-year contract is up. But after this season was over, he sounded less certain of that. "I'm not saying (2008) is my last year," he said.
--LHP Jo-Jo Reyes earns raves from manager Bobby Cox: "He's so close to being a number two starter at the big-league level, it's not
--RHP Manny Acosta impresses the Braves because they don't have to play the lefty-righty game with him; he can get lefties out as well.
--RF Jeff Francoeur started all 162 games for the Braves, and he felt all of them by the time the season had ended. Still, it is important to him to go to the post every day.
--The Braves scored 810 runs in 2007, the seventh time in 42 seasons in Atlanta the team has scored at least 800 times.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Number of winning months the Braves had: April and September.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's an absolutely remarkable guy." -- Braves President John Schuerholz on 1B Mark Teixeira, who is arbitration-eligible.
The trade deadline acquisition of 1B Mark Teixeira from the Rangers exhilarated the entire organization and fan base, not only the players. So despite missing the playoffs for the second
consecutive season -- a problem team president John Schuerholz points out many other teams would like to have -- the mood is upbeat.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Starting pitching, starting pitching, starting pitching. A bona fide leadoff hitter wouldn't hurt, either. With the exception of one or two starters, the Braves think they have what they need on their 40-man roster already.
FREE AGENTS: CF Andruw Jones, LHR Ron Mahay, INF Chris Woodward, INF Julio Franco.
Jones is gone already. Mahay took the nameplate off his locker; obviously he does not expect to be back. Woodward and Franco are not expected to return.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 1B Mark Teixeira, OF Matt Diaz, OF Willie Harris, LHP Mike Gonzalez, RHP Tyler Yates, RHP Oscar Villarreal, RHP Rafael Soriano.
Teixeira will get his. Diaz and Soriano improved their lots with their performances this season, while Gonzalez is coming off elbow surgery. Harris was spectacular for a short time before expiring in the second half of the season. Yates had good outings and bad outings. Villarreal was not always quite as sharp as he was last season, but he is dependable in long relief.
IN LIMBO: SS Edgar Renteria, 2B Kelly Johnson.
Manager Bobby Cox loves Renteria, whom he calls the Hit Man. And 3B Chipper Jones loves having a .330 hitter batting in front of him in the lineup. But the Braves have rookie Yunel Escobar ready to go, and with their need for a dependable third starting pitcher, they may have to dangle Renteria -- and to a lesser extent Johnson -- in trade talks.
LHP Mike Hampton (left elbow surgery in April 2007) is planning to play winter ball so he isn't so far behind in spring training.
LHP Mike Gonzalez (Tommy John elbow surgery in May 2007) is not expected to be ready to pitch until after the All-Star break.
RHP Anthony Lerew (Tommy John elbow surgery in July 2007) won't be ready for the start of the 2008 season.
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