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Schuerholz steps down as Braves' GM

ATLANTA - John Schuerholz stepped aside Thursday after 17 years as general manager of the Atlanta Braves with only one regret.

Despite an unprecedented 14 straight division titles, the Braves won just one World Series.

With a few more rings, he figured, this would have been the perfect farewell.

'What else is there?' said Schuerholz, who will become team president and turn over the GM duties to his right-hand man, Frank Wren. 'It would have been, unequivocally, the complete validation of the grand nature of this franchise. Nobody could have said anything about the Atlanta Braves and ended the sentence with the word 'but.'

Otherwise, Schuerholz has no complaints with his career, one that could land him a spot in Cooperstown someday.

He turned 67 last week and was admittedly worn down by the grind of more than a quarter-century as a general manager. Before coming to Atlanta, he spent nine years in the same post with the Kansas City Royals, winning another World Series title in 1985.

But he will forever be remembered for his impact on the Braves, a perennial last-place team when he took over in 1991. That very first year, Atlanta won the NL West and went all the way to the World Series. In the years that followed, the division titles kept coming with numbing regularity, until the streak finally ended with a third-place finish in 2005.

'Obviously, John has done an unbelievable job with the organization,' outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. 'He definitely deserves to retire and enjoy what he's accomplished. It's sad, because we didn't want to see him go.'

Actually, he's not going anywhere. Schuerholz signed a four-year contract and remains second in command to chairman Terry McGuirk, but will step away from day-to-day personnel decisions, such as trades, free-agent signings and other roster moves.

'I'll miss that,' Schuerholz said during a news conference at Turner Field.

Wren, a former GM with the Baltimore Orioles, spent the past eight years working for Schuerholz and hoping to eventually replace him.

'Our styles are different,' said Wren, who also got a four-year deal. 'But our philosophies are very, very similar.'

Wren only got word Tuesday that Schuerholz was looking to move upstairs, even though the idea was first proposed by McGuirk six months ago. Schuerholz broke the news to his successor over iced tea after they watched a developmental league game in central Florida.

'I really had no inkling this was coming,' Wren said.

Schuerholz, who's always been notoriously tightlipped about personnel moves and the inner workings of the organization, grinned and pumped his fist when Wren described his reaction.

'I can keep a secret,' said Schuerholz, baseball's longest-serving GM with one team.

The 49-year-old Wren turned down an offer to become Pittsburgh's general manager a few years ago and didn't pursue a couple of similar opportunities. Now, he's got the job he really wanted.

'We're going to keep doing things the way we've been doing them,' Wren said. 'The Braves way. It's been working pretty well.'

While Schuerholz is willing to provide advice in player matters, calling himself a 'mentor' and a 'sounding board,' he'll mainly be involved in the business side of the franchise. He made it clear that he won't be looking over Wren's shoulder.

'I let people establish themselves, do their jobs and support them,' Schuerholz said.

Atlanta's only World Series title came 12 years ago, a six-game victory over the Cleveland Indians that gave the city its first, and still only, major sports championship.