Braves president John Schuerholz has remained quite active since the ending of his legendary stint as a general manager. Along with advising current Braves GM Frank Wren on a regular basis, Schuerholz has served as a leader on a pair of influential committees formed by Major League Baseball's Commissioner Bud Selig.
Schuerholz serves on MLB's Playing Rules Committee and as the co-chairman of the Commissioner's special On-Field Committee. The 72-year-old Baltimore native could enter Baseball's National Hall of Fame as early as next year. His resume as a general manager includes two World Series titles (one in both the National and American Leagues), six league pennants and 16 division titles. He served as the architect of each of the 14 consecutive full-season division titles the Braves won from 1991-2005.
MLB.com recently spoke with Schuerholz about his club's busy offseason and his experience on these committees.
MLB.com: What was it like to see the Braves eliminated last year in a one-game Wild Card playoff that the Commissioner instituted after being advised by a committed that you co-chair?
Schuerholz: I heard two things consistently this offseason: the one-game Wild Card playoff system is unfair and the infield fly rule stinks. That is because we were the victims of the outcome of a game against a team we had prevailed over five out of six times in the regular season.
MLB.com: Was it fair that a 94-win Braves team was eliminated from the postseason while getting to play just one game against an 88-win Cardinals club?
Schuerholz: Some people say that is patently unfair because the record in baseball is based on 162 games. What happened to the sanctity of that? Some felt more strongly about that than others. But then there is the excitement factor of this one playoff game. If it had happened two seasons ago, we would have loved to have this system in place because we would have gotten in the playoffs.
MLB.com: What did you say to those who complained about left field umpire Sam Holbrook's infield fly ruling, which nearly sparked a riot in the eighth inning of the one-game playoff at Turner Field?
Schuerholz: I thought it was a misapplied ruling and some of that might have had to do with the positioning of the umpires, because of the addition of the two umpires where they don't ordinarily umpire a game. We had two umpires stationed in the outfield and the perspective they have of a fly ball or the infield fly rule is different than when they are positioned on the bases. I don't think the call was appropriately made and I don't ever criticize umpires. Who knows we might have rallied and scored five runs? Nobody knows for sure. But I know we would have won the game if we would not have made three errors, despite the inappropriate infield fly call.
Our fans were pretty passionate about it as we saw and I loved that. I didn't like how they expressed their passion. But I loved their passion.
MLB.com: It seemed some of that passion was energized this winter when your club signed B.J. Upton to a franchise-record contract and then landed his brother, Justin Upton, in a seven-player trade with the D-backs.
Schuerholz: I've been around a long time and I don't get real effusive, but it's so exciting to feel the excitement and the anticipation among the Braves Nation, as I'll call it. The excitement around this team is as measurable as I can recall.
MLB.com: In October or November, was there any reason for you to believe your club would acquire both Uptons?
Schuerholz: It probably would have been a little too much to hope for. But that doesn't stop you from working. That didn't stop [Wren] from picking up the phone. It didn't stop his scouts from going out there to gather inside intelligence that gave him new hope to go back and re-ignite trade talks. Nobody stopped working because we thought it was unrealistic to get it done. We just kept working harder to get it done.
MLB.com: Getting back to your work with the committees, will we see MLB expand instant replay rules in the near future?
Schuerholz: The Commissioner has created a subcommittee for replay enhancement and he asked me to chair that group. We've had a remarkable number of really interesting conversations about how much more we can utilize instant replay. It's still in the formative stages and we have explained to the Commissioner that we prefer to have the whole cloth completed before we present it to him, and say this is what we believe the new instant replay program should be.
MLB.com: Are you willing to say that would include such things as fair/foul non-home run calls?
Schuerholz: No, I am not, because then I would be announcing parts and scraps and fabric, instead of the whole cloth.
By the end of the day we'll have the best of the advanced instant replay technology at our fingertips. We'll understand the logistics of how replay should best be utilized, whether it is by a challenge system or something that is initiated without a challenge system. We haven't decided on that. We need to determine how we can utilize this technology and at the same time, honor and protect the flow and the rhythm of our great game of baseball without having artificial stoppages at too high of consistency.
MLB.com: Finally, what are your thoughts about your club leading into Spring Training?
Schuerholz: Since 1991, we've had a couple of down years, a couple of dip years, but not many. Most of them have been good competitive, we've got a chance to compete kind of years. That's what we think of this year and even more than that. This is going to be a tough [NL East] division we're in, and we think our team is as prepared as it's ever been to go out and battle for it.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.