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Frank Wren: We Saw Andruw Jones’ Decline

Frank Wren is the little-known Braves GM, probably because he was serving under John Schuerholz his entire career, and we all know how much Schuerholz loves to get attention. Anyway, Wren’s running the show now, and he joined The Monty Show on Sporting News Radio to talk about the Braves. He was asked about the decision to let Andruw Jones walk which was imminent last year because of financial reasons. Wren took it even a step further:

We had the ability to watch over the last two or three years that Andruw was not the same, and he wasn’t the same player he was three years ago. We had already seen the decline begin. Now he very well may get it back to some extent but we had seen the decline so [letting him go] was easier.

While this is the type of thing that would make Dodger fans groan since it would fall into the Ned Colletti category of failing to do proper homework (much like the Jason Schmidt trade), I’m not buying it. Wren says Andruw was showing signs of losing it two or three years ago. Two years ago Andruw had one of his best offensive seasons, and three years ago he popped 51 out of the park. Contrarily, it appeared as if after all the time in the league, Andruw was just coming into his own; last year’s season was the anomaly. And even with his poor hitting, Jones was still playing really well defensively. It may be easy to speak from hindsight after seeing what Andruw’s done this year, but I don’t believe the Braves wouldn’t have been interested in re-signing Jones had his price tag been cheaper. I’d be really interested to know if Wren saw a decline in Jones’ work ethic, rather than physical skill — now that would make more sense.

Bobby Cox Displays Creative Genius

I love it when managers think outside the box. Too much of baseball is “by the book.” Guys playing percentages, playing Juan Pierre every day while benching Kemps and Ethiers. You just wish there was more creativity. Mike Scioscia is one of these guys, but even he took it too far when he put on the hit and run with the Molinas. Anyway, Braves’ manager Bobby Cox pulled off a stunt worthy of our attention. I’ll defer to the AJC for the details:

[Braves reliever Chris] Resop walked two of the first three batters in the 10th inning, and one advanced to third on a passed ball, before Cox brought in left-hander Royce Ring to face Adam LaRoche, who struck out.

Resop was sent to replace Matt Diaz in left field when Ring entered the game, so that Cox could then bring Resop back to pitch after the LaRoche at-bat. The right-hander returned to the mound to race Nady, who drove in the go-ahead run with his sixth hit and seventh RBI of the three-game series.

Cox said he made the move because he wanted Resop to be available to come back and pitch beyond the 10th inning, if necessary, so that reliever Peter Moylan could be assured of having a night off after pitching in each of the first three games of the season.

Even though the move didn’t work out — and let’s be real, no pitcher can stop the force that is Xavier Nady — I like where Cox’s head was. Word on the street is that Resop used to be an outfielder when he first came up, so it wasn’t a stretch to have him out there. Makes complete sense to me. Like I said, I really enjoy seeing managers think outside the box, even if it didn’t work out in this case.

Dodgers Stole Andruw Jones

OK, maybe it wasn’t exactly a heist, but it was a great signing by the LA club. After watching the Angels drop $90 mil on Torii Hunter, the Dodgers spent about a third the price on Andruw Jones, who is a superior player. Just when I thought they would do something dumb like throw $60 million at Aaron Rowand, they sign one of the better center fielders in the game for proper-market value. Even in his worst year, Andruw still managed 26 homers and over 90 RBI. If he duplicates his ’06 stinker, he’ll still be the Dodgers best power hitter. I’m not sure if that’s more of a commentary on the Dodgers, or Andruw, but it’s still a significant piece of info.

Not only is the Jones contract a short-term commitment for a relatively little amount of money all things considered, but the signing gives the Dodgers flexibility to make a deal. They move Juan Pierre over to left field, and now Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp become expendable in right. Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers re-enter the Johan Santana sweepstakes. One problem for the Dodgers though, say they acquire the likes of Johan, they would be hard-pressed to sign him to a long-term deal. No matter what they do next, you can’t knock this signing — it was short term, at good value, and it fills two needs (power hitter and center fielder). Ned Colletti is on his way to redeeming himself (and Scott Boras cannot be pleased).

Don’t Cry for me, John Schuerholz

John SchuerholzExcuse me for a minute while I opine. I don’t like the Braves and similarly, I don’t much care for John Schuerholz. His ego got in the way a year or so ago after Billy Beane got all the attention from the best-seller, Moneyball, when he felt the need to write a book about all his successes. In the book, he made it very clear that he was hamstrung by a tighter budget, and that the Braves, not unlike the A’s, were a small-market team.

Well, if that’s the case Mr. Schuerholz, then how can you afford to bring Mark Teixeira aboard? The guy is making $9 million this year, and set to make a few more in his final season of arbitration this winter. Moreover, how can you also be in talks with Kansas City about bringing Octavio Dotel in, who with his bonuses, is set to make around $7 million this year? How can you talk out of both sides of your mouth, crying poverty from one, and bringing in high-priced players at the deadline out of the other?

The Teixeira deal was bad enough. Now, if you pull off another one for Dotel, then we’ll certainly know all those rumors of cheapness were a sham. Sure, your resume is impressive, just don’t go crying poverty to me and we can all be friends. OK?

- CB

Schuerholz Implies Andruw Is Gone

On the cusp of free agency to be followed by millions upon millions of dollars, Andruw Jones is struggling through a crappy season. No matter, Braves GM John Schuerholz is already preparing for life without Andruw. Asked if he could imagine the Braves without Jones robbing hitters in center field, Schuerholz offered the following on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan:

Well we have to Joe, the reality is in our business today, his contract is up. We’d like nothing more than to have him remain here and be a big part of our ballclub as he’s been for the previous 10 years. But the reality is, there’s a lot of money out there for star-caliber players like Andruw and someone may be willing and able to pay him more money than we can. Our job, my job as a general manager, and our job as an organization is to put the best 25 guys together, not to necessarily pay what has to be paid to star-caliber talent. We can’t put a team on the field – we’re an $80+ million payroll team. We can’t do that if we’re obligated to pay star-caliber players what the marketplace bears. We can’t match that. What we have to do, is put the best 25 guys together and try to compete like that. That’s always our goal.

Much like the frequent references in his book, Schuerholz wants everyone to know that he’s running a low-budget, low-payroll club. OK John, I get the picture, you have an $80 million budget — spending $18 mil/year on Andruw probably isn’t the best way to go. So unless U is willing to give Atlanta a hometown discount — the way Hudson and Smoltz did — he ain’t staying with the Braves. I’m guessing the center fielder gets dealt prior to the deadline.

Smoltz Wants Chipper to Sack Up

Nothing like one veteran team leader calling a fellow veteran team leader a pussy in so many words. That’s basically what’s going on in Atlanta, if you can read between the lines of John Smoltz’s recent remarks. The stud pitcher, for whom I’ve already proclaimed my affection, made some comments after Friday’s 5-0 loss to the Tigers which marked the Braves’ third straight shutout loss. Smoltz seemed to be calling out the injured players who weren’t making their way into the lineup :

“I certainly appreciate the effort of the guys who were on the field busting it. We all wish we were feeling better, but that’s the way it goes. …

“We can’t worry about who’s in the lineup and who isn’t. You can’t worry about that stuff anymore. … The guys who are in there are busting their butts, that’s all I know.”

Chipper, who was already on the 15-day DL once this year, missed two games this week to nurse a sore groin. Jones noticed the comments and couldn’t help but feel pressured to return to the lineup earlier than he would’ve liked, belting a home run to account for the Braves’ lone run on Saturday. He also got in a nice jab back at Smoltz for good measure:

“I’ll play the rest of the games this year and do what I can,” Jones said, then followed it with a clear jab at Smoltz: “Somebody I know better not miss a start, though.”

Far be it from me to question the grind and rigors of a grueling 162 game schedule, but I will say this: John Smoltz pitches the start after he dislocates a finger. John Smoltz made 33 and 35 starts in each of the past two seasons. Chipper Jones hasn’t avoided the DL since 2003. Maybe it’s fair to say that Smoltz is tougher than the average player, while Chipper is more injury-prone than the average player. I can understand where Smoltz is coming from considering his actions speak for themselves. And especially considering that Chipper’s the best hitter on a team that’s been offensively challenged recently, Jones should feel pressure to make his way into the lineup quicker. Advantage Smoltz.

(photo courtesy Joey Ivansco/AJC)

John Smoltz Is One Tough Mo-Fo

Only 5 days prior to Saturday’s start, John Smoltz dislocated the pinky on his throwing hand while tagging out a runner. Yeah, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “come on, it’s just a pinky, what’s the big deal?” Not so easy

The right pinky of Smoltz’s pitching hand was bent upward at a grotesque angle. The veteran, overcome with anger, frustration and fear, fired his glove at the ground and clutched his hand.

Yeah, so that was on Monday. And after the X-rays came out negative, Smoltz pretty much cleared himself to pitch on Saturday. I mean, just to name a few, Beckett, Bonderman, and Halladay, have all hit the DL within the last two weeks. But not Smoltz. Instead, Smoltz made his start against one of the best lineups in baseball, the Red Sox, and held them to four baserunners in seven scoreless innings, striking out seven as part of Atlanta’s 14-0 win. Smoltz also retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced. Red Sox manager Terry Francona had the line of the night:

“I’d hate to see him with all his fingers”

My thoughts exactly. Man, I was never a fan of John Smoltz growing up, but I have to say, I’ve grown to appreciate him more and more as he’s gotten older. He’s up there as one of my favorite pitchers in the game. And to quote my boy Biggy, John Smoltz will die on the mound, but until that day comes, he remains awesome.