The Atlanta Braves have named John Scheurholz as team president. Frank Wren will replace Schuerholz as general manager, the executive who handles trades and free-agent signings. The significance of the switch is that Scheurholz will relinquish direct authority over individual roster decisions. The Braves will lose the strategic influence of a general manager described by long-time third baseman Chipper Jones as "an unbelievable judge of talent."
Well, so what? Very recently on this forum, I trumpeted the value of character over talent. Let's make this much clear. Yes, talent matters. But judging talent, balancing it against less intangible attributes, and simply making things work are mean feats to accomplish -- let alone all together. Herewith ESPN columnist Mark Kreidler's thoughts on John Scheurholz's departure:
It's always about the talent. But which talent, and in what combination, and at what cost, remains the baffling Rubik's Cube for every franchise in the major leagues. For years and years and years on end, the Braves solved the cube. . . .During John Scheurholz's 17 years as general manager, the Atlanta Braves recorded 1,594 wins against 1092 losses. They won their division every year within a 15-year stretch, except the one year when major league baseball players went on strike. The magnitude of his achievement speaks for itself. Those of us who scout, recruit, and foster academic talent should be so fortunate to accomplish something comparable to the record John Scheurholz has compiled with the Braves.
Players get older, arms fade, rosters grow brittle, injuries happen -- it's the same story everywhere you go.
Everywhere, that is, except Atlanta, for a decade and a half. That's about five lifetimes' worth of winning, by pro sports standards, with John Schuerholz and his colleagues right in the middle of it, though rarely actually on the field. And that is what the Braves were really saying goodbye to on Thursday.