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

Jan 26, 2012, 12:03 PM EDT

Image (1) Braves%20logo.gif for post 4936

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.

  1. Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Being married to Ted Turner turned Jane Fonda into a born-again Christian. I mean, really, could it have been that bad?

    • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      PS – does that mean that there’s a little Calcaterra knockoff somewhere in the bowels of the midwest without a local team to root for who will never have the opportunity to discover the Bravos on TBS like Craig did, changing his life, altering his perceptions, and warping his values so profoundly that litigating to screw over corporate sharks like the ones he worked for himself lost its frisson at such a tender age and condemned him to a basement, a keyboard, a monitor, occasional mini-novas of media notoriety and spring training camps whose stands vend horrible horsemeat and Velveeta™ sandwiches and endless correspondences with a faceless audience of derelicts, miscreants, pariahs, poltroons, spalpeens, curmudgeons, clotpolls, trulls, trolls, brigands, topers, runagates, rakes, duchenozzles, smellsmocks, lobcocks, reprobates, chipwiches, horriblehorsemeatandvelveeta™vores, tosspots, sots and archsots and other assorted and felonious debauchees?

      • El Bravo - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:51 PM

        *douchenozzle (best post script ever too)

      • cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        I am not a brigand. Haven’t held up a traveler, knocked off the payroll stage coach, or poached the King’s deer to feed the hungery ever…its not that I wouldn’t (actually, as far as face to face robbery goes, it is: I’m pretty cowardly. That deer would be toast, though) I just haven’t had the opportunity.

      • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        ….douchenozzle.

        Edit function!
        Edit function!
        EDIT FUNCTION!

      • robmoore - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        I’m at least 4 of those.

      • umrguy42 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        OG, I’m picturing Harvey Korman’s list of groups from Blazing Saddles

      • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:15 PM

        Remembering Harvey Korman is always good for one’s state of mind. Eating beans with friends, not so much.

        However, since we’re on the subject of references and allusions, that whole list of unsavory types is in fact (with a few hardcore intrusions from Circling the Bases lore) based very directly on a passage from a great work of modern Southern American literature. The winner’s choice of pie or cake.

        Well? We’re waiting.

      • cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:37 PM

        Not Suttree is it? I seem to recall McCarthy going in for that kind of list. Hey, I was drunk.

      • Old Gator - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:35 PM

        Donnnnggggggg! The prize goes to the swarthy globetrotter in the beaver hat! Name your slice!

      • cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 5:54 PM

        Big ole slice of cake pu-lease, served on a Jessica Alba.

  2. dcfan4life - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    The real question then becomes does this remove the Braves from a competitive team. They have been in the mix or winning divisions for 20 years with great signings, strong pitching, and a good farm system. Does there unwillingness to spend now ensure they fall back down to middle of the pact. As a Nats fan id love for us and Philly to duke it out each year instead of worrying about the Braves but as a baseball fan to see such a great organization get gutted like that is just sad.

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:47 PM

      Let’s not leave out Miami. Remember the Marlins had flashes of dominance when Loria didn’t even really give a crap about much but the bottom line. Now I think he may have a different view. Another team that will undoubtedly duke it out in the NL East.

    • El Bravo - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      In the farm system I must trust…

  3. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    As a Cub fan, going from Tribune to Ricketts has been wonderful. I think teams are a lot more interesting when you have an actual person, or family, running a team, as opposed to a faceless corporation few fans know much about.

    Let’s hope Ted goes batty one more time and buys the team back.

  4. hank10 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Just another example of what happens when a corporation buys a sports franchise and it becomes nothing more than a line item on their balance sheet. Of course there are corporate owners who pump money into their franchises (Comcast and the Flyers for example) but mostly they own them as they would stock.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      Comcast is based in philly and owns philly teams. They are fans and owners. Liberty media is based in denver (I think, my wife used to work for them) and owns the braves

    • umrguy42 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      Nostalgia for “the good old days”, but back when Anheuser-Busch owned the Cardinals, it worked out pretty well too, on balance.

  5. mooseinohio - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Yet somehow Mark Cuban would be bad for baseball. Wake up Bud – passionate owners with money make things happens and tend to keep their team in the news through making deals. Not always for the betterment of the team as Tom Hicks and Daniel Snyder have proven but Cuban did turn a lousy basketball team into playoff caliber team that won a championship.

    As a longterm fan of all team New England I can say that the Red Sox benefitted greatly once a committed owner bought the team, the Pats went from dog house to penthouse after Kraft (long time season ticket holder) became owner, the Celtic won a championship again after new owner from Boston bought the team and the Bruin raised a banner after longterm tightwad Jacobs let the rein go.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      After the Wilipons and McCourt, owners and Bud have little counterargument to guys like Cuban anymore. Not that they really did in the first place.

  6. APBA Guy - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    It’s not like the principals at Liberty don’t have the money: Chmn. John Malone is Forbes’ 69th richest American with $ 4.5 Bn (approx 20x Mitt Romney) and is well known for his hardball tactics when he ran TCI cable. So you wonder about this local TV deal. Who is it with? How does it favor Liberty, or does it favor an owner(s) individually or through another held entity?

    Clearly as a division the Braves are only a small part of Liberty, not mentioned in the opening paragraphs of their Annual Report. My guess is that they could go for the right price. CEO Greg Maffei is from Oracle, so money is all that matters to him. He was the highest paid executive in America in 2010 at $ 88M. Not bad during a recession. That’s about equal to the Braves payroll. Maybe that’s how they set it. The team makes what Maffei makes.

    Plenty to feel good about, Craig.

    • jwbiii - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      Braves games are broadcast regionally by WPCH, formerly WTBS. They are owned by Time-Warner. The deal was probably made when Time-Warner still owned the Braves, but were on their way out the door. Not a very savvy play by Liberty Media if my assumption is true.

  7. tcostant - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    You know the SF Giants use to do this all time with there budget; save some millions for a July trade. Here is why, lets say you have $4M left in the budget; in July you can aquire someone making upto $8M a year, because you’ll only be paying half there salary. It lets you wait and see, if your in it and lets you fill a need later with a better player.

    • dondada10 - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      Good point. I was thinking they were squirreling it away for the draft.

  8. buffalomafia - Jan 26, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    I worked in Atlanta this past year & there ownerships in hockey & baseball suck!

    In hockey they gave away every great player they had for a Vortex burger! Management didnt care about winning thats why they lost the Thrashers!

    Also ifvyou have the best pitching staff in baseball then why didnt the Braves get another bat or two last year @ trade deadline? Maybe they wouldnt have choked & the Cardinals would have not won the World Series?!

    Same thing this year the Braves stood pat & did nothing to improve there team?

    They still have Chipper Jones who always gets hurt & the overrated Jason Heyworth!

    • umrguy42 - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Heck, buffalo, in hockey they gave away the whole team!

  9. cosanostra71 - Jan 26, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Craig, I enjoy your baseball articles, but it gets old when you talk about religion/atheism and politics as much as you do. I opened this article to read about the Braves ownership situation, not your sarcastic remarks on Supreme Court dealings.

    • irishjackmp - Oct 4, 2013 at 10:45 PM

      I agree. I haven’t read any of his articles for a few months for the same reason. This was the first article of his I have read in a while. Soon as i read it my first thought was “oh… i remember why i stopped reading him now”. I suspect those who feel the same why have long since stopped reading.

      Think I will just go back to ProFootballTalk

  10. vols84 - Jan 26, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Here’s a trade for Bud Selig. Ted Turner trades Teds Montana Grill ownership to Liberty Media straight up for the Braves. Everyone wins with that trade.

  11. buffalomafia - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    @ vols when in Atlanta go to Fat Macks BBQ

  12. foreverchipper10 - Jan 27, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    This makes me sad. :(

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