Look, John Schuerholz is out of office, the office Frank Wren now occupies.
Of which we are all aware. In his tenure, John made some deals with a golden touch, which most of us file away and forget. It’s the killer deals we remember. It’s at a time like this, though, that the GREAT BLUNDER up and hits us in the face. I’ve written of it time and time again, though truth to tell, it never gets any mellower.
The deal brought the Braves the best first baseman they had suited up since the one that brought Fred McGriff to town.
That was a good one.
Honestly, as good as the Mark Teixeira deal was bad. All the Braves had to ship off to San Diego to get McGriff was two outfielders and a pitcher, and in six years all three were asterisks. But the deal for Teixeira was a blockbuster. A calamity. But even Schuerholz couldn’t see it at the time and still doesn’t.
Speaking at a luncheon not long ago, he was asked about the worst deal he’d ever made. He said it was the one that sent Adam Wainwright and Jason Marquis to the Cardinals in exchange for J.D. Drew plus a bullpen trooper.
Wainwright was the killer, a potential 20-game winner for years to come, a home-bred nurtured in the farm system. Forget Marquis, though Jason has been a solid winner himself. That was John’s view, but how could he pass over the Titanic blunder that shredded the farm system to get Teixeira, who was coming into free agency, and knowing well that the Braves wouldn’t be able to afford him.
Truth is, the Braves weren’t far off the lead in their division at the time, and this being Schuerholz’s last volley, he had a good view of the peak in the distance from where he sat. And it might have been just what they needed to get them over the top. Except that it wasn’t. They never got closer, but out in Texas the Rangers revel in the early stages of exhilaration.
Now, I’ve read something of the Len Barker trade as even worse — and as depressing as it was, it wasn’t as immediately crushing as the Teixeira charade. In exchange for Barker, Ted Turner — no market sharpster, he — gave up Brett Butler, with many good seasons ahead, Brook Jacoby, young, solid infielder, and Rick Behenna, whose arm soon failed him. But, this was no immediate investment in a World Series for the Indians.
What the Braves gave up to get Teixeira was the brightest young shortstop in the American league, Elvis Andrus; a closer to match any closer, Neftali Feliz — “best of the whole lot,” Bobby Cox said — Matt Harrison, whose record has been 16-10 before he developed some kind of foot injury; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Braves’ backup to Brian McCann, but since traded, and another pitcher named Beau Jones, a left-hander still in the Rangers farm system, determined to make it a five-for-one deal.
“I’ve got to make it,” Beau Jones said, from the farm club in Frisco, Texas. “I’ve got to make it five of five, if it’s not with the Rangers, then somebody else.” And with determination such as that, who’s to say he won’t.
All the Braves have left to show for the Teixiera binge is a relief pitcher named Steve Marek, now in the farm system. I guess he’s still there. Teixeira, well, he was no insurance policy for the Yankees.
They’ve all got the autumn off, and Teixeira’s holiday came early, spent on the disabled list. I’ve written of it so often I’m tired of it all, but the thought of what might have been is grievous.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.