Braves CEO: we’re not selling the team; and, oh, our TV deal is awful


Braves fans were spoiled when Ted Turner owned the team. The games were broadcast all over the country and they spent on whatever they felt like it because Turner was simply mad. Mad, I say.  Ah, those were the days.

In recent years the team has been owned by Liberty Media Corporation. That has been the opposite of fun. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of emotional investment in the team by ownership. Surprising considering corporations are just like people and everything.

But more to the point, it’s because Liberty Media sets a budget, sticks with it and seemingly has no interest in the Braves doing anything more grand than keeping the corporate balance sheet tidy. Oh sure, I imagine they’d like to see the team win, but not if it meant that someone would have to go back and edit an Excel spreadsheet to make it happen. That would be dreadful. And it may distract from pressing matters in the film or news divisions, and that just wouldn’t do.

Anyway, the team’s Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk sat for an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently, and it doesn’t look as though the thrilling efficiency that is Atlanta BravesCorp will be changing any time soon:

The Braves have set a player payroll budget of $94 million for this year, leaving them with several million dollars still to spend, the team’s chairman and CEO said.

Terry McGuirk, in a wide-ranging interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in his Turner Field office, also said team owner Liberty Media has expressed no intention of selling the club in the near future.

And on another significant note, McGuirk disclosed that the Braves are locked into 25-year local TV contracts that will prevent the franchise from cashing in on Major League Baseball’s trend toward dramatically higher telecast rights fees.

OK, fine. They have “several million more to spend.” But they seem to have no intention of spending it. And call me crazy, but I bet McGuirk gets a shiny star placed on his annual evaluation if he operates under budget. That’s how corporations work.

The TV thing is what kills me. We’ve seen a lot of teams make crazy-good TV deals recently that have allowed them to substantially increase payroll. The Rangers and Angels are just two which come to mind. Meanwhile, the Braves — owned by a media company which maybe should have seen the explosion in rights fees coming — are going to be locked into 2007 thinking for the next 20 years. Mercy.

Thank God it’s past noon now. I’ll be in the lounge for a few minutes.

Ryan Zimmerman’s spring training has been . . . weird

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.

Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.

I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.

On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.