Surging Atlanta Braves Vindicate GM Frank Wren
Frank Wren is stupid.
He can't close a deal to save his life and he has no respect for franchise legends.
Wren couldn't pull the trigger to acquire Jake Peavy and he botched seemingly sure-fire deals with Rafael Furcal and Ken Griffey, Jr.
He then failed miserably in an attempt to salvage the offseason by grossly overpaying for two average pitchers in Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami.
Wren wasn't worthy enough to tie John Schuerholz's shoes, let alone take his place as the general manager of the Atlanta Braves.
He could do nothing right.
These were the thoughts of many Braves fans prior to the 2009 season.
Atlanta fans, who had grown accustomed to winning baseball over the course of the 1990s, were frustrated and distraught by a third consecutive failure to reach the postseason in 2008.
However, despite going as far as turning away future Hall of Famers and fan favorites John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, Wren's skeptics are nowhere to be found today.
With a record of 60-54 and a manageable 4.5-game deficit to the defending World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, Wren's Braves are having a stellar season.
For one, the GM's eye for pitching has greatly benefited Atlanta as the Braves enjoy the services of Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez, who were both acquired in trades by Wren.
Jurrjens and Vazquez, who have posted ERA's of 3.01 and 2.90, respectively, form arguably the best pitching tandem in the National League.
Lowe and Kawakami have also proven their worth, as Lowe leads the pitching staff with 12 wins and Kawakami has pitched six innings or more in 11 starts this season.
Additionally, rookie flamethrower Tommy Hanson has made Wren look like a genius since his big league promotion in June, posting a veteran-like 7-2 record and a 3.05 ERA.
Wren put together an outstanding pitching rotation during the offseason that currently ranks third in the National League in with a 3.69 ERA.
Thanks to Wren's efforts, Atlanta's solid pitching staff is the team's greatest strength and has kept the Braves in the playoff hunt into mid-August—a remarkable feat.
However, while Wren's masterpiece may be the starting rotation he has assembled, his efforts to improve the Atlanta offense have been just as noteworthy.
Braves prospect Jordan Schafer started 2009 in center field, but struggled to hit big league pitching, barely staying north of the "Mendoza Line" with a .204 batting average.
To address the lack of a consistent power bat in the outfield, Wren acted swiftly, acquiring All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
McLouth, who bats in the leadoff spot for Atlanta, has been a key addition to the Braves since his June arrival, playing Gold Glove defense and racking up 92 total bases.
Yet, despite landing a big bat in McLouth, Wren was not done adding pop to the light-hitting Atlanta outfield.
The Braves sent slumping slugger Jeff Francoeur to the New York Mets for the versatile Ryan Church in a move that drew mixed reactions from Braves fans.
While seeing Francoeur leave town on a bad note was a disappointment to Atlanta, Church has blossomed into a solid hitter for the surging Braves.
Church, who had struggled since suffering two concussions in 2008, has regained his former self, hitting .274 and posting an on-base percentage of .400 with a tomahawk across his chest.
Along with landing McLouth and Church, Wren also made a power upgrade at first base at the MLB Trade Deadline, dealing Casey Kotchman to the Boston Red Sox for Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche, who began his career with the Braves, has been a phenomenal addition to the lineup, cracking three home runs and driving in seven runs in just 10 games for Atlanta.
LaRoche, along with Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, adds to a potent lineup put together by none other than the much-maligned Braves general manager.
Wren has certainly made a great deal of buzz in the way he does business with Atlanta, rubbing both fans and his own players the wrong way occasionally.
However, whether you love him or hate him, there is one thing you have to say about him.
The man's got guts.
Despite the heavy criticism and scorn that has come his way, Wren has battled onward, doing what he feels is best for the Braves both now and in the future.
While his way of doing business has been questioned repeatedly and lavished with negativism, Wren has been resilient, sticking to his guns in both good times and bad.
Wren has a lot of bravado—enough to keep him thriving in the Atlanta front office for years to come.
Frank Wren has the Braves playing for their first playoff berth since 2005 and there is little reason to doubt him now.
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