John Schuerholz Interview - Part III

As promised earlier this week, here is the third and final installment of my interview with John Schuerholz...

Joe Hamrahi (JH): Looking back at the acquisition of Tim Hudson, it appears like you made a great deal. Hindsight is always a great thing, however, but with Dan Meyer injured, and Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas making limited progress, you have to be happy with how that deal turned out.

John Schuerholz (JS): I don't look at things that way. I just never do. My view is that when you make a deal, the most important thing is to make your team better. The next most important thing is to make the other team better...because if you do that often enough, there's going to be a lot of guys lined up to do a deal with you. That's always been my philosophy in the 25 years I've been general manager. Why would you want to do anything else? So somebody writes something or says something about what a steal we made...I don't care about making steals. I care about making our team better. And the second most important thing is that, hopefully, the other team gets better.

JH: There's been a lot of the emphasis these days on statistical analysis and how it is changing the way teams evaluate talent. Is too much being made of this? Is there really that much of a difference in how teams evaluate talent?

JS: That's impossible for me to answer because I don't sit in on other teams' board rooms. I don't sit in on their meetings. I don't know if they have a guy on a computer with a green visor on...

JH: (Laughs!)

JS: ...trying to decide who they should go get. I don't know. All I know is that in all the years I have been making deals, I've concerned myself with two things...the subjective evaluation of the player's ability, or his potential to get better from what our scouts tell us through their reports...and the objective data...what are the validations? the verifications (of the player's ability)? Or in other words, the statistics. It's historical information. Statistics and baseball have been linked forever. This issue and the reason all this attention is being paid to statistics is because a guy came up with a pretty crafty title for a book! That's number one. Number two. Well there's not much more to it than that.

Now, have the advances with the computer and research been more helpful? Absolutely, they have been more helpful. Have DVDs and videos been more helpful with instruction? Absolutely. Modern technology is better. When it comes to the bottom line, when I get the packet of information on each player in a deal, the dossier, I review the scouting reports and digest each one, probably about ten times. Then I review the historical information...the statistics. How has the guy performed over time? How's he performed at night? How's he performed during the day? How has he performed vs. lefthander and right-handers? On artificial turf, on natural turf? Before the All-Star game, after the All-Star game? In Chicago? In Milwaukee?. We all do that.

The insinuation that was made in the book is that some (teams) base their decisions, if not entirely on statistical information, predominantly on statistical analysis. I'm not sure how true any of that is.

JH: It's interesting. I spoke to Roy Smith (Vice President of Scouting and Player Development) of the Dodgers this past season. And he said the same thing, and he was working with Paul DePodesta out there (in LA).

I think there's so much beneath the surface that the public doesn't know. I realize that you aren't in the same room as other GMs, but it would seem to me that you guys talk to each other much more than we know. To me, teams are more alike than they are different in the way they evaluate talent. After talking with you, Roy Smith, other GMs...most of you appear to go about talent evaluation in much the same way.

JS: You're right. I think you're absolutely right in that notion.

JH: Moving on...There are a lot of mixed feelings about the World Baseball Classic (set to take place this spring). Are there concerns about when this event is taking place? What happens if a player gets injured? Is it going to interfere with spring training?

JS: The answer to your questions is...yes. We are excited about it, and we have some wonderment about it. We don't know. None of us know. None of us have seen our pitchers have to get ready and condition their arms two weeks earlier and be ready to go at game speed three weeks earlier. (We don't know) what impact that will have on their pitching ability throughout a major league season, especially into September and October. We just don't know. There's some wonderment. We're all trying to do the right thing in the industry. We're trying to be smart. We're trying to discuss it. We're trying to be proactive in implementing protective measures and safeguards...and we'll do that. I think we're all smart enough. There's been a lot of dialogue. There's been an exchange of ideas, and everybody's open minded from the commissioner's office on down.

We know that the game of baseball will be enhanced worldwide because of this. We absolutely know that. Are there general managers, myself included, who have concerns about the impact this will have on our club? Of course. But...we are not going to panic about this until we see what impact it has. But we're smart enough, and in the end, I'm confident baseball will do the right thing in protecting these valuable pitchers that we have. After all, they are our product, and they can determine the success of our team or the continuation of some careers.

JH: I guess my question is more direct. What happens if during the second round of this tournament, one of your pitchers goes down for the year?

JS: Ok, well what happens. Baseball voted to participate. Owners, general managers, and players. What are we going to do? Say we were wrong? We're not wrong, but we're going to have to discuss the issue of how to better protect the physical well-being of our players.

JH: With Dayton Moore being promoted to Assistant General Manager, does that mean John Schuerholz is starting to think about life about baseball?

JS: I'm 65 years-old! I've been a general manager 25 years. Harry Dalton told me, when I became a general manager in 1981, that he didn't think anyone could sit in that chair for more than ten years. In this organization and in all other organizations, we try to replenish the pipeline of talent from one level to the next so that the transitions are seamless. Wouldn't it make sense, that if we do that with players, we do the same thing administratively? And how fortunate this organization is to have someone of Dayton's talent and ability...and Frank Wren's. Frank has been a general manager, a scout. Dayton has worked his way up the ladder. I mean, to have two guys like that in the organization...we are very fortunate. Now, if one of these guys leaves to accept another general manager position, we have a second very capable guy (in place).

JH: You have to be confident to hand off the position to the next guy, and it certainly seems that you feel that way.  

JS: Whenever the time comes for me to hand in my keys, we have two very talented guys here in Frank and Dayton that will receive valid, valid consideration. Now that doesn't mean I'm making any decisions right now (to retire)!

JH: Just to wrap things up, looking back on your career, you had some great years in Kansas City and some phenomenal years in Atlanta...

JS: I really haven't had any bad years in my view. It's been a sensational experience.

JH: Just looking back at some of the players you've been around...from George Brett to Chipper Jones and down the line to someone like Jeff Francoeur. It has to have been a thrill.

JS: And Bo Jackson, and Deion Sanders. It's just been remarkable. Fred McGriff and Raffy Belliard. Greg Olson and John Smoltz. One after another after another. And Bret Saberhagen, Dennis Leonard, and Mark Gubicza.

JH: Has there been anything that stands out from all those years or was it all just one great experience?

JS: The goal for those of us who come into the arena of competition is ultimate success. In 1985 and 1995 I was fortunate to be affiliated with the World Championship teams as General Manager. For me, they still remain the pinnacles of my enjoyment...because that's why we do this. Every year we start off trying to win that trophy.

In fact, and I don't know if this is true or not, someone in the public relations department told me that I was the only one to win a World Series in each league as a general manager. I didn't know that.

JH: Well you have impressed us all. We congratulate you on an incredible career. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

JS: Sure.

JH: Best of luck the rest of this offseason, and I'll catch up with you during spring training.

JS: Thank you. Stop by and say hi.

That concludes our interview with John Schuerholz. A very special thanks goes out to Brad Hainje and Meagan Swingle of the Atlanta Braves media relations department.  Both Brad and Meagan were instrumental in arranging this discussion.

I hope you all enjoyed the interview. As usual, comments are encouraged and welcomed.

Thanks!

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