Major League Organization
By Will Kimmey
Bobby Cox led the Blue Jays to their first American League East title in 1985. His next move was anything but predictable. Instead of staying in Toronto to build on his success, Cox headed home to Atlanta to serve as general manager for the Braves. He went from a team that had won 99 games to one that lost 96.
Faced with turning around years of questionable drafts and player-development decisions, Cox expanded the farm system to a major league-high eight affiliates and developed baseballs largest scouting department.
"The direction was to stay off the free-agent market, save our draft picks and spend as much as we could with the minor league system," Cox said. "We wanted to draft the best players available and trade for young players, especially pitchers."
Scouting director Paul Snyder then worked the plan perfectly, drafting Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, Ryan Klesko, Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Kent Mercker and Mike Stanton between 1986 and 1990. Cox traded away veterans like Dale Murphy and Steve Bedrosian for prospects, most notably getting John Smoltz from the Tigers for Doyle Alexander in 1987.
The Braves continued to suffer as the 80s came to a close, winning an average of 65 games a season as they waited for their young talentwhich also included David Justice and Ron Gantto develop in the minors.
If collecting the players was part one of the Braves rebirth, the reshuffling of the front office was part two. Cox took over as Atlantas manager in June 1990, and Braves president Stan Kasten hired John Schuerholz as GM. Snyder moved into an assistant GM position, as Chuck LaMar became the teams new scouting director. (Snyder reclaimed his old post when LaMar left for the Devil Rays in 1995.)
In 1991, all the pieces fit for the Braves. Armed with a solid young pitching staff and a feisty batting order, Atlanta completed a worst-to-first turnaround that ended with a loss in Game Seven of the World Series. The Braves went to five World Series in the 90s, winning in 1995. Excluding 1994, Atlanta has won its division every year since 91an unprecedented 10 in a row.
Through the years, Schuerholz has mixed in veteran players, but the overall philosophy has remained the same: Keep stocking the farm system with live arms.
"Our farm system is the foundation and cornerstone of any success we have," Schuerholz said in 1996. "Its absolutely essential. We have been able to use our developed players to help our club get better each and every year."
Such players as Rafael Furcal and Andruw Jones have continued the Braves success, and prospects like Wilson Betemit and another wave of pitchers are on the horizon.
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