Braves GM Frank Wren, when asked whether he pays attention to the criticism he’s received from the web:
Said Wren, speaking of the reason he strategically avoids such sites: “It’s not unlike talk radio, and I’ve stopped listening to talk radio. I don’t think the average sports fan calls talk radio, nor do I think he goes on the blogs. That’s a special group of fans — someone who wants the experience of making a call or typing a sentence. I don’t think that represents the masses. If you go by those, you get a somewhat distorted view.”
I certainly don’t want the GM of my team planning his day based on whatever “Steve from Stone Mountain” was barking about on whatever talk show was dumb enough to air him this morning, but these comments of his are directed at the blowback from not signing Smoltz, and in that particular instance I believe that sentiment does represent the masses of Braves fans, and that Wren is pretending to be ignorant of just how outraged folks in Atlanta really are.
Maybe the masses are all wrong — personally I have come around to the idea that you couldn’t keep Smoltz at any price, and I like Wren’s explanation in the article as to what went into the Smoltz offer — but there does seem to be a considerable disconnect between what Braves fans want and what they’re getting from management. It’s more of a messaging thing than anything else. As the AJC’s Mark Bradley notes in the article, the Braves are clearly rebuilding for 2010 or 2011. I’m fine with that. In fact I’m quite thrilled with that given the kind of talent we’ve got just around the corner. Frank Wren and company won’t admit that, however, and that has many fans who are less prospect-savvy than us disappointed for quite a while. When that happens, he has to expect the kind of flak he’s been receiving.
In terms of communications strategy I don’t know that Wren is all that different than Schuerholz ever was. I guess the difference is that Braves fans would sit around clueless as to what Schuerholz’s plans were and then wake up surprised one morning to see that we’ve signed Andres Gallaraga, whereas now we sit around clueless as to what Wren’s plans are and then wake up surprised one morning to see that we’ve let a hero go to Boston or that we’ve dealt for Casey Kotchman.
Maybe it’s silly to expect a baseball GM to manage the expectations of emotional fans the way we would a president or a CEO or something, but Wren’s failure to do that has certainly depressed Braves’ fans, and that’s not a good thing.
(thanks to Sara K for the link)