Braves again watch while Phillies sign Lee, spend millions

If the Braves win a World Series with Liberty Media as the owner, it won't be because they spent millions in free agency.

If the Braves win a World Series with Liberty Media as the owner, it won't be because they spent millions in free agency. (AJC photo)

Let’s start with the obvious: Baseball teams don’t win championships in December.

If they did, the World Series would be on a consistent rotation between the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox, often coming down to which team lost a pitcher to a hyper-extended elbow at the drive-thru ATM.

But December says a lot about aspirations and expectations, and the Braves’ owners, in the holiday spirit, once again look like Mr. Potter telling George Bailey to stick it.

The Philadelphia Phillies – whose team payroll already was about $58 million more than the Braves’ last season – just added Cliff Lee to their pitching staff. It gives them four pitchers (Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels) in their starting rotation who have combined for three Cy Young Awards, 13 All-Star games, two NLCS MVP awards and one World Series MVP.

It turns the Phillies — pending any other acquisitions of Albert Pujols or a Swiss Bank — into the overwhelming favorites to win the National League East, the N.L. pennant and the World Series, after which they can move onto other solar systems.

But this isn’t about a division rival adding one pitcher. It’s about the Braves being stuck with one owner.

General manager Frank Wren has conceded several times that he has to work within the confines of a budget, while trying not to step on the Bruno Magli covered toes of team owner Liberty Media. Fans may live for checkbook roster building in the winter, but the Braves don’t have that option.

This is Greg Maffei. He makes more than the entire Braves' roster.

This is Greg Maffei. He makes more than the entire Braves' roster.

Liberty Media doesn’t really care about you, or the product, or the fact that the Phillies’ team payroll has jumped from $89 million in 2007 to $142 million last season. They don’t hand out peanuts and foam tomahawks at stockholders meetings. They hand out profit-and-loss statements.

In sports, we want owners who are as passionate as the guy who’ll show up for the Tuesday night game against the Florida Marlins. Sorry. You get the owner whose luxury suite remains empty on a summer weekend.

A recent Wall Street Journal survey of the nation’s top 10 paid CEOs showed Liberty Media’s Gregory Maffei’s total compensation was $87.1 million, four times his financial take of the year before. The Braves’ total payroll last year: $84 million.

Question: Can Maffei play center field or hit leadoff, because the Braves are still a bit thin in those areas?

Somebody once said money doesn’t buy happiness but it enables one to pick their own misery. Applying that to sports: Money doesn’t guarantee the Phillies are going to win the World Series, but it gives them a significant advantage over the Braves when they go shopping.

Wren told our Carroll Rogers that the Lee signing, “really has no impact on the construction of our roster.”

What would you expect him to say? “Dang! We should’ve signed Carl Crawford!”

Wren robbed the Marlins of Dan Uggla. That strengthened their lineup and will enable them to move Martin Prado to either left field or third base. But they’ve still got issues. They’re banking on Chipper Jones being able to come back from a torn ACL, and he turns 39 in April. They’re banking of Freddie Freeman being ready at first base. Most of all, they’re banking on some combination of Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer not being a train wreck again in center.

With the Phillies signing Lee, some are now screaming for the Braves to acquire Zack Greinke from Kansas City. But the Braves really don’t need another starting pitcher. The rotation of Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens doesn’t have the marquee value of Lee-Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels. But it’s better than most. What the Braves really need is a proven center fielder and/or leadoff hitter and/or another bat (especially if Jones can’t come back). But the lack of cash flow precluded them from going after somebody like Crawford or even Jayson Werth in free agency, or absorbing a big contract in a trade.

Once again, the Braves must shop with coupons. Sometimes that works. But it’s not the way to build hope.

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312 comments Add your comment

TONE

December 14th, 2010
1:53 pm

TONE

December 14th, 2010
1:55 pm

thats more than newton made last year but i am pretty sure he will get a raise this coming season.

idot

December 14th, 2010
1:56 pm

GO BRAVES!!!!

idot

December 14th, 2010
1:58 pm

Money can’t buy happiness, but having it, sure beats the heck out of being broke.

idot

December 14th, 2010
2:00 pm

It would be nice for the Braves to have an owner that has a face, and really cares about winning a WS.

Chpatt

December 14th, 2010
2:01 pm

Just remember the phillies will have one starter under the age of 30 next year…that’s Dominic Brown in right field and he will be a rookie. The Phillies are becoming old and it’s only a matter of time it catches up to them…it almost did last year until they got Oswalt. I expect Rollins, Ibanez, and Victorino to all have down years as well as spend some time on the DL. Carlos Ruiz will not have another miracle season and don’t forget they no longer have Jayson Werth. Sure their pitching is great but it is also old. They have a small1-2 year window to win a world series with this team, let’s hope the Braves don’t let that happen! Braves Country!

idot

December 14th, 2010
2:02 pm

But, I think that the Braves have a pretty good team, and they could still win the NL East, and the pennant.

Jeff Schultz

December 14th, 2010
2:02 pm

First! (Geez. I’m always late.)

droopydawg

December 14th, 2010
2:02 pm

Jeff, I just want to point out that you look like the mutant offspring of comedian Brian Posehn and Charlie Brown.

Jeff Schultz

December 14th, 2010
2:04 pm

Chpatt — Phillies do have some flaws and you point them out, but hard to bet against them right now.

justin1

December 14th, 2010
2:04 pm

Im calling for Liberty Media to put out more money. ONLY because we made the playoffs last year. They might not care a lick about baseball, but if Wren really asked, i bet they would grant us another 10 mil.

T-Bone

December 14th, 2010
2:04 pm

Agree. The Braves will still be competitive. FW has done a good job this winter with what money he’s had to work with. I actually think our rotation stacks up reasonably well with the Phils. They do need another bat, maybe in LF (keeping Prado in the infield and making A-Gonz an Infante-like utility guy). And then they need everything to go perfectly: Chipper to come back to full form, Freeman not play like a rookie, Heyward to play like a veteran, McLouth and Schaefer to live up to expectations, and no injuries.

Oh well . . .

Mitchell

December 14th, 2010
2:05 pm

Braves are fine pitching wise if everyone hold true to form and our young guys live up to their potential. One could say we will have a better rotation then the Phillies in a year or two. They have something those former Braves teams never had and that is an offense. By the time Braves got an offense their pitching had pretty much vanish.

It is going to be a challenge. Phillies started breaking down with injuries last year and still won. You got to wonder if age might be catching up with them. Right now that is the Braves only hope. If not then the East is the Phillies this year and the wildcard is going to be tough to win again.

Jeff Schultz

December 14th, 2010
2:05 pm

Droopydawg — Why, thank you. Any other unprovoked attacks you’d like to take or is that it for today?

Murph

December 14th, 2010
2:06 pm

I love the Braves, but they need to make a move and return the team to dominance. Unfortunately, I see struggles ahead with the loss of Bobby Cox and a team that doesn’t go after the big names when we desperately need them right now. Dan Uggla was nice, but we need Zack Greinke or another big outfield bat!!

Jeff Schultz

December 14th, 2010
2:07 pm

Justin1 — Actually, request would come from Terry McGuirk, who has long been go-between for Braves and owners. But I don’t think it’s as simple as asking for another $10 million. The budget is the budget.

justin1

December 14th, 2010
2:07 pm

Sounds like Droopydawg has some of his own insecurities

Innocent Bystander

December 14th, 2010
2:08 pm

Money may not buy happiness, but it does buy jet-skis. And how many people have you ever seen frowning while riding a jet-ski?

justin1

December 14th, 2010
2:08 pm

Well, either way I think we’ll be fine. As they say, you dont play games on paper. I still think that Wren is keeping a close eye on the Greinke situation though.

Chpatt

December 14th, 2010
2:09 pm

Schultz – they’re definitely the favorite. I just think age is being overlooked here. Utley, Rollins, Howard all spent significant time on the DL last year. Im hoping something like that happens again. People forget how old they are. Hard to believe Utley and Howard are 31, not to mention Ibanez and Polanco at 38 and 35 respectively.

Sanford Drive

December 14th, 2010
2:10 pm

(((((42-34))))) hahahahahahahahaha

Reid Adair

December 14th, 2010
2:11 pm

Liberty Media controls the spending, and what money they do make available is wasted more often than not by Frank Wren’s horrible personnel decisions (Nate McLouth, Kenshin Kawakami, Troy Glaus, Derrek Lee, etc.).

ed simmons

December 14th, 2010
2:12 pm

DROP THEM A NOTE.
Corporate Headquarters
Liberty Mutual Group, Inc.
175 Berkeley Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116

Phone: 617-357-9500

justin1

December 14th, 2010
2:13 pm

Shultz,
Do you beleive that there is any chance of a trade for Cy Young 09?

Supes

December 14th, 2010
2:15 pm

Jeff,

you are missing a point. teams would lining up to trade with the Braves if the Braves made available any of our top tier pitching prospects.

so here is the question…do u want to land a CF-er and give up one or two of our promising young pitching prospects???

I’m definitely sure the Pirates would be glad to trade McCutchen for a package that includes Teheran or Delgado or Minor/Vizcaino…point is Braves have the prospects to trade for a player like that…but do u wanna do that and give up them up?

That would solve your CF situation and definitely improve your lineup given that he’s a good RH bat in the lineup.

So just to say it again…do u try and pursue a trade like that based on what the Phillies did?

Gwinnett Fred

December 14th, 2010
2:16 pm

I’ll make it seem real easy for everybody.

Philly sells out every game, and averages 14,000 more than the Braves.

Not saying that the Braves attendence of 31,000 per game last year was bad or anything, but do the math.

14,000 times 81 games = 1,134,000
1,134,000 times an average ticket price of say $40 comes to $45,360,000.

So when TEAM P has $45 million (not counting the extra concessions money) more to spend than TEAM A, to me it’s pretty easy to see how they can spend the money and why we can’t!

Doesn’t lessen the “suck factor” any, but facts are facts, especially in these bad financial times.

Supes

December 14th, 2010
2:16 pm

On the other side, I absolutely HATE the Braves ownership situation…and I just hope that in the future a man like Arthur Blank would purchase the Braves and do what he’s done for the Falcons. Put his money where his interests are!!!

Chpatt

December 14th, 2010
2:17 pm

I just looked at the age of our young pitchers it’s pretty scary

Beachy 24
Hanson 24
Jurrjens 24
Kimbrell 22
Medlen 25
Minor 22
O’Flaherty 25
Venters 25
Teheran 19 in January
Delgado 20 in February

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bvillebaron

December 14th, 2010
2:19 pm

I for one don’t think that the Braves offense is all that bad. Sure, Chipper’s health and age is a concern and god knows what we will get out of McLouth (hard to imagine him being as bad as last year) or Schafer in center, but in my view they match up well with the Phils position by position offensively (McCann over Ruiz; Heyward over whoever the Phils play in right; Uggla and Utley have different styles but I regard that as at least a push and Utley showed signs of decline the last 2 years; I think Prado is at least a push with aging Ibanez in left; you have to take Howard over Freeman and Victorino over whoever plays center for Atlanta; that means that one has to conclude that Polanco and Rollins are cumulatively better than Chipper and Gonzalez to say the Phils have a better lineup overall.

Hinske and Ross are the start of a fine bench and, despite losing Wagner and Saito, I think the Braves still have a better and deeper bullpen. So let’s see what happens.

Having said that, I would like to see what Wren could do with a $165 million payroll like the Phils.

Fergie

December 14th, 2010
2:22 pm

Mr. Schultz,

Can you answer when/if Liberty Media will drop the Braves and someone else will pick them up?

I heard the following

1. Ted Turner was said to want to buy the braves again

2. Arthur Blank was interested.

Any truth to that?

idot

December 14th, 2010
2:23 pm

I believe that McLouth and Shaffer will both have big comeback years.
I hope that Chipper can come back, and hit at the same level that he was swinging, when he was injured. I think that he will.
McCann will get his other eye repaired, and hit over 30HRs this coming year.
Freeman is ready, and will hit over 20 HRs.
I can’t remember the name of that guy that played RF last year, but he will start the year 100% healthy, and make a major contribution to the team throughout the entire season.
The Phillies are fomidable, but not invinceable.

meh

December 14th, 2010
2:28 pm

do you think the Giants would take McLouth, KK , and Beachy for Cody Ross?

Sanford Drive

December 14th, 2010
2:29 pm

Let’s pick up Turner Field, get it out of the no-man’s-land ghetto, and drop it on 14th and Peachtree Street, where the Symphony Hall has supposed to have been built for th last 15 years. Make it the resident’s of Midtown’s team. Build baseball themed bars and attractions in the stadium’s shadow.

Then maybe we will sell tickets and have money to spend.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 14th, 2010
2:32 pm

Sanford Rydeme
what happened you couldn’t find Mark Bradley’s site to post your SAT scores?

Larry not the cable guy

December 14th, 2010
2:34 pm

Simple: Yanks need pitching, we need a lead off hitter with speed that can play the outfield, trade JJ for Brett Gardner, he had 97 runs & 47 steals, is only 27 & cheap, & from South Carolina so its close to home, hit around .280 last year & is on the rise, Git er done FW!!!

Jeff

December 14th, 2010
2:34 pm

@Idot The Phillies are owned by a faceless group of minority share owners but they do care about winning the big one. We almost need the Braves to lose 100 games and have no one go to games to get rid of Liberty Media. If they took a big loss on the Braves one season I bet they would sell. Thing is we do have some talent so we will win enough and sell enough Heyward jerseys for Liberty Media to give their execs nice x-mas bonus every season.

GStateBen

December 14th, 2010
2:35 pm

Braves owner? The Braves don’t have an owner. They have a group that owns a chunk off varying businesses that the Braves are a part of.

There’s no accountability with corporate ownership groups (including the Atlanta Spirit who are losing money daily) and Frank Wren should win Executive of the Year in 2011 (and should have won in 2010).

still@the bar

December 14th, 2010
2:35 pm

Sanford Drive
What you didn’t like what I said on TT blog about UGA players taking Child and Family Developement, but you throw out your racist statemnet about the TED? HAHAHAHA you are too funny. Where do you think we would get all the parking for the TED at 14th and Peachtree?

Sanford Drive

December 14th, 2010
2:35 pm

And don’t forget fans, MARTA has cancelled the free shuttle service from 5 Points to Turner Field’s front door this coming season. So do not bother taking MARTA.

This should decrease attendance by about 10,000 more per game.

GStateBen

December 14th, 2010
2:37 pm

Phillies owners are not faceless or namless:

David Montgomery, Giles Limited Partnership (Bill Giles), Claire S. Betz, Tri-Play Associates (J. Mahlon Buck Jr. William C. Buck), Double Play Inc. (John S. Middleton)

GStateBen

December 14th, 2010
2:37 pm

papadawg

December 14th, 2010
2:38 pm

This spending is totally out of control. It’s time for a salary cap in baseball.

PMC

December 14th, 2010
2:39 pm

Thank God we got to play Cleveland in 1995. At least there was one win with all that talent for 15 years.

Com'on Man

December 14th, 2010
2:42 pm

Why in the world are people so high on Zach Greinke???
A Career Era that is worse than Jurrjens…

Sanford Drive

December 14th, 2010
2:43 pm

still@bar

Declaring an area a ghetto is not racist. Maybe when you hear the word “ghetto” you instandtly think “black man with gun”…. but that is not what I said. So you are being more racist for thinking it.

The area around Turner Field is the most dangerous area around any Major League ballpark. Ithas been given this crown the last 10 years or so. A LOT of people do not come to games for this reason.

We do not need to have a massive parking lot. A few decks would be built in some of the vacant lots around 14th and Peachtree and West PEachtree and Spring Street. So again, this will help clean up some nasty scenery already in Midtown.

MANY more residents wouldbe able to walk from their condos or houses in the VERY large midtown district, and they will.

With all the office buildings, and upscale environment in Midtown, it will be a main initiative to keep these standards with a Stadium. Nobody can convince me it will ruin the neighborhood. It wil only enhance it.

And you have Marta RIGHT THERE with the Arts Center Station. NO shuttles, no transfers. SO many people would be more willing than ever to not drive (lessening the need for parking spaces) and more people would WANT to take the Train. So it’s a big win for the environment, MARTA and the Midtown economy.

It will never happen though. Atlanta is too corrupt and too stupid to make any bold move of reason for something like this. So let’s enjoy the ghetto atmosphere of current Turner Field, and HAVING to drive there now that MARTA is not willing to help out anymore.

PMC

December 14th, 2010
2:43 pm

I’m actually very optimistic about the team next year. I’ve felt better about the 2011 Braves team than I have in years. I think 2012 should set up nicely too.

Wren has done very well with his approach. He’s had a plan and he’s largely stuck to that plan.

The major difference between big money teams and bargain basement teams is that the rich teams can afford injuries. This team had a bunch last year and still nearly beat the eventual world champs.

I’m pretty confident about these Braves for 2011

Johng

December 14th, 2010
2:43 pm

As a Phillies fan, of course I’m hyped. For years we’ve labored under a cheap and invisible ownership. But when the puppet Bill Giles finally retired, the new president taught the owners that revenue can be had by putting a winner on the field. Just 6 years ago Adam Eaton was our #1 starter. Now, 149 consecutive sell outs later, we have a rotation we always thought was unfair (ala maddux/ glavine/ smoltz/ avery).

Imagine a mediocre team, getting about 22K fans per game (still not too bad). Now double that, over 81 home games, at an ave. price of $28 a ticket, and suddenly you have an extra 38MM, without concessions.

I seriously doubt that Philly will keep all 4 going into the season…I see Hamels being traded for a stud outfielder or Oswalt for top tier backend bullpen help. But either way, improved lineup, improved bullpen, or 4 front line starters, they are the favorites by far……unless they simply “expect” to win as they did in the NLCS……complacency is a killer.

I like Braves fans, they always seem to enjoy the game when they visit here, and after 13 straight titles, seem willing to suffer abit now. But don;t worry, when the Phillies core starts to erode in 3 years due to age, Atlanta will be next to run the table! And as long as it’s not the Mets, I’m happy with that!

Com'on Man

December 14th, 2010
2:43 pm

Teheran will be 20 in January

Com'on Man

December 14th, 2010
2:46 pm

I think they should just go ahead and crown the phillies champs… someone go ahead and call Selig and have the trophy made,,, no you guys need to relax… this is baseball… there is a reason they play the games… The Braves will have a good team next year…