Don’t Blame Ownership

With the release of Marcus Giles and the Braves failure to even make an offer to Tom Glavine, many fans have been complaining about the $80 million payroll constraint that Time Warner has imposed on John Schuerholz. This isn’t a bad ownership problem. It’s not like John Schuerholz was handed a memo to cut payroll last week. He’s been complaining about the constraint since he cut Kevin Millwood lose after the 2002 season—which was an excellent move to avoid overpaying Millwood.

$80 million isn’t too paltry a sum to run a ballclub. Eight NL teams had payrolls less than that in 2006. One of them made the playoffs (San Diego) and another won 78 games—one game less than the Braves—with $15 million (Florida). In the AL, Minnesota and Oakland made the playoffs on $60 million payrolls. And Cleveland and Texas won about the same number of games as the Braves with payrolls under $70 million. Now, this doesn’t mean that a larger budget wouldn’t make things easier. I could do a lot more things if I had more money, but there’s not much I can do beyond working within my constraints.

If the Braves are so limited limited by their budget that they can’t afford to pay Marcus Giles what he is worth, or even pay Tom Glavine less than he was worth—he was willing to take a significant discount to play in Atlanta—then I have to wonder about some of Atlanta’s recent personnel moves.

My point isn’t that these aren’t defensible moves—I actually liked some of these deals at the time they occurred—and Schuerholz has made some other good deals. And it’s unfair to look back on these deals with perfect hindsight. But, these aren’t the type of moves that a team tightening its belt should be making. We see a lot of cheap young talent going out for more expensive veteran talent. Unless Time Warner was orchestrating all of these moves, ownership is not to blame for the Braves present situation. If you think John Schuerholz deserves a lot of credit for the success he had with the Braves when the budget was big, then he shouldn’t be held blameless since the budget has diminished. Because if all that matters is budget, then the GM is nothing more than a mascot.

3 Responses “Don’t Blame Ownership”

  1. Andrew says:

    JC,

    Sometimes I wonder about our magical (possibly mythical) budget constraints. In his book, Scheurholz notes that he was trying to run the Braves on a budget when resigning Jeff Blauser, and Ted Turner walked in and frankly said, “What’s this shit I read about a budget? You want Jeff Blauser, sign him!”

    Also, I would like to note it appears like Schuerholz may have been planning for retirement at the end of this season possibly but then got stuck: Hudson, Hampton, Andruw, Smoltz, Giles, Chipper (if he had not restructured) all would have been free agents after 2007 or have massively backloaded contracts hitting the books. Just a theory.

  2. Herb Urban says:

    Excellent points. Many of those moves were geared toward one last run at a second ring. Now that the team has fell from the perch and will be lucky to mount a winning season in the near future, those moves look all the worse.

    I wonder if trading Tim Hudson now would not be a bad move. If the Braves are going to go cheap, they need to get younger and better in the process.

    The current rumors involving LaRoche and Davies netting Melky Cabrera, Scott Proctor and Jose Castillo makes me think JS is just phoning it in.
    How many 4th OF and MR does one MLB need?

  3. Jason says:

    John Donovan of CNN/SI wrote an article about the how difficult it is for low salaried teams to even get into the playoffs. It’s at
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/john_donovan/11/16/matsuzaka.smallmarket/index.html
    I’ll excerpt the following from it, which is relevant to the Braves:

    “The ’03 Marlins are the only National League team with a payroll in baseball’s bottom third to make it into the playoffs in the past nine years. That’s one out of 36. Those Marlins also are the only team in the past nine years to win the World Series with a payroll that wasn’t in the top half.”

    The Braves are not in the bottom third of payroll – yet. However, as MLB salaries continue to escalate and AOL/TW tells Schuerholz to contain costs, the Braves will fall down just by standing pat as the other teams raise their salary payments. Maybe by 2008 the Braves will be in the bottom half of the league in terms of salary and the days of going to the playoffs will just be a fading dream.