A Lasting Legacy
Pop quiz: name the only general manager in baseball history to lead both an American League team and a National League team to a World Series title.
Yes, it’s the same man who decided a few days ago to end his Hall of Fame-worthy GM career ” John Schuerholz.
Universally regarded by fans, the media and his peers as the best in the business, Schuerholz announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as GM of the Atlanta Braves, a position he’s held since prior to the 1991 season.
What a legacy he’s left behind.
Schuerholz’s legend began a good decade before he ever started remaking the Braves’ into one of sports’ model franchises. He took over the Royals in 1982, guided them to the postseason just two years later, and was at the helm when they won the World Series in 1985.
But of course, the lasting memory of Schuerholz that will endure is his time in Atlanta.
Hired as GM before the 1991 season, he inherited a squad that had suffered through seven consecutive losing seasons.
Talk about a quick and dramatic turnaround.
In 1991, the Braves shocked the baseball world with their worst-to-first season, the beginning of an unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles. That’s not just a baseball first ” it’s a professional sport mark that may never be touched, especially with the Yankees’ run of AL East titles ending this year.
How did he do it? It seems basic enough, but it was all about creating a philosophy and never wavering from it. Shrewd drafting, exhaustive scouting and timely trades represented a formula that stead the Braves well for almost two decades, and is indeed a model many an organization aspire to emulate.
And to a man, GMs around the majors seem to view Schuerholz as the best in the business, even though he’s taken many a fellow GM’s wallet in lopsided deals over the years.
Think about the mid-season 1993 deal that brought in Fred McGriff, who helped turned Atlanta around that year. The cost? Melvin Nieves, Donnie Elliott and Vince Moore. Any of those names spark anything for you? I didn’t think so.
How about Schuerholz’s mid-season 1999 trade that landed Terry Mulholland and Jose Hernandez? That pair was instrumental in guiding Atlanta to one of their five World Series appearances under Schuerholz’s watch.
Of course, the Mark Teixiera deal ” even though it didn’t propel the Braves back into the playoffs this year ” could still go down as one of the greater steals of his career.
But in the end, it’s all been about homegrown talent. Look at the club’s Opening Day lineup this season. It included exactly one player (Edgar Renteria) who was not drafted and developed by the club. How many teams can make a claim like that?
Schuerholz will stay on as team president, with longtime assistant Frank Wren taking over as General Manager. But with Schuerholz’s philosophy in place, I have no doubt that Wren will soon enough guide the Braves back into the postseason after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.