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.