Braves general manager John Schuerholz has written a tell-all book due to hit the shelves next week.
Barry Bonds was a Brave for one night in 1992, Tom Glavine was ready to back out of a free-agent deal with the Mets and stay with the Braves in 2002 and Deion Sanders only used the Braves to demonstrate his athletic prowess. Those are among the revelations in a surprisingly candid book by Braves general manager John Schuerholz. “Built to Win” is due to arrive in stores next week. “It’s not like me,” said Schuerholz, who wrote the book with former Orlando Sentinel columnist Larry Guest. “But I was convinced by Larry and the publishers that in order for the book to have the attraction we wanted it to have, it had to be real and authentic.”
He begins the first chapter by revealing that in March 1992, Schuerholz and Pittsburgh GM Ted Simmons negotiated a trade to bring Pirates star Barry Bonds to Atlanta in exchange for pitcher Alejandro Pena, young outfielder Keith Mitchell and a prospect to be named later. “I was euphoric,” Schuerholz writes. “Barry Bonds was a Brave! . . . There seemed no limits to what we could achieve over our approaching several seasons.”
The morning after the GMs agreed to terms, the Braves were setting up a news conference to announce the deal at their West Palm Beach, Fla., spring training home when Schuerholz phoned Simmons, who told him he couldn’t do the deal, apparently because Pirates manager Jim Leyland was furious that Bonds was being traded with a year left on his contract.
Schuerholz’s account of the broken deal: About an hour before the announcement, I decided to call Ted Simmons just to coordinate the timing of the release. “We have a problem,” Ted said. “What do you mean, a problem? Don’t want to release it just yet? What?” “I can’t do the deal,” he said. “You can’t do the deal? You did the deal! Ted, you agreed over the phone, general manager to general manager. We made the deal!” In baseball, that’s about as sacrosanct as anything gets. That had never happened to me, nor has it since, where there was a total reneging of a trade. . . . I guess we can say Barry Bonds was a Brave for 15 hours. At that time of his career, he didn’t have the right to approve a deal, so I’m not even sure if he is aware this happened.”
Statistically, adding Bonds to that team would have almost certainly meant several World Series rings rather than one over the decade of the 1990s. Having Bonds rather than Ron Gant or Ryan Klesko–both solid players but neither superstars–playing left field would have been a huge difference.
Still, I’m not sure he would have fit in with the locker room model Bobby Cox tries to set.
Of a certain former Braves closer, he writers: “Big John Rocker, from Macon, Georgia. Had an arm like a cannon and a head like a cannonball.”
Schuerholz writes that almost without exception, players brought to the Braves quickly adapt and abide by team rules and policies, and put the team ahead of themselves. Sanders and Lofton were two notable exceptions.
On Deion, he writes: “He always seemed to exert extraordinary effort to narrow the focus of the spotlight on him. It seemed to everyone with the club that it was important to him that the attention was directed his way and that it was all about him.” Schuerholz quotes Cox on Sanders: “Deion was for one thing â€” himself. He couldn’t care less about the team. . . . It was all about Deion. And he didn’t want to participate in our duties off the field â€” going to luncheons, fan photo days, things like that, responsibilities that come with being a Braves team member.” Ultimately, Schuerholz said of Sanders: “Good player. Good riddance.”
Of another speedy leadoff man, he wrote: “After the ’97 season, we similarly threw in the towel on center fielder Kenny Lofton, who also could never embrace our environment or ideals.”
Bonds is a better player than either Sanders or Lofton but likely would not have been a better fit.
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