Bill Shanks

Braves winning despite ownership

It’s so tempting to regularly complain about the ownership of the Atlanta Braves. It’s not often done elsewhere, for some strange reason. But this is one space that will never be afraid to tackle the hands-off approach of Liberty Media.

You might wonder why I’m going down this road. The Braves have been playing great baseball since the All-Star Break, winning 20 of 28 games. They are now 19 games over .500 and have the third best record in the National League. If the season ended today (which it doesn’t), they would host the Wildcard play-in game.

Give credit to the management of the Braves for this success, not the owners. The general manager, Frank Wren, has done a fine job creating a winning team with limited resources. Give this smaller budget to other executives, and they would certainly mess it up.

All you need to know about the Braves budget is that it’s pretty much at the same amount now that it was in 2002. That is absurd. While most other teams have increased payroll with time, Atlanta’s is right where it was a decade ago.

What’s sad, however, is to think of what this franchise could be with more resources, both financial and emotional. It would be nice if they had a payroll that was maybe even 15-20% higher than it is now. Something tells me the Nationals would be in Atlanta’s rearview mirror instead of the other way around.

But also just imagine if there was an owner that came out and said, “We’re proud of how the Braves have done so far. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this team wins the World Series.”

I’m dreaming, I know. The chairman of Liberty Media, multi-billionaire John Malone, has supposedly seen the Braves play one time in person in the five years his company has owned the team. And that was in Colorado, where Liberty Media is headquartered.

There’s some jealousy on my part, perhaps because I see how other teams are run by owners who do give a damn about the success of their team. I see the Dodgers now in the hands of people who have tons of money to throw around, and in the same breath will demonstrate how important it is for the team to win so fans can enjoy success.

I see the Padres now in the hands of the O’Malley family, which owned the Dodgers for decades. They also have golfer Phil Mickelson in the group. Maybe the Braves need to be lucky enough to find someone who actually cares buy the team, instead of having the franchise on its spread sheet for investors to analyze every year at tax time.

Now this can also be a matter of ‘be careful of what you wish for,’ since there’s no guarantee people who care are going to know what to do. I might hope for new owners with deep pockets, only to see the Braves get some family in control that has no clue how to run a baseball team.

But it would still be nice to have an owner that cares. Give Ted Turner the business about all the bad decisions he made, and all the times he didn’t let his baseball people make the decisions, but you can never say Turner didn’t care when he owned the Braves.

That’s what I want. I’m sure the Braves front office folks want that as well. They won’t say so. Why would they jeopardize their big salaries by coming out and bashing Liberty Media? But you know they get disgusted that there are strict limitations placed on them by a company that really doesn’t care about the team one bit.

Don’t expect the announcers to go on a diatribe about how terrible it is for Liberty to own the Braves. They’d be calling Toledo Mud Hens games next season instead of Braves baseball.

They may tell you Liberty cares. They may tell you how great it is for Liberty to provide the resources it provides. But don’t ever let that fool you. This team is being held hostage by a corporation that will one day trade it for a movie channel.

Instead, I’ll take a Mark Cuban. I’ll take someone who might be careless at times, and might interfere once in a while, but who I will know loves the team as much as the fans do.

Perhaps there is some celebrity in Atlanta that could get a group together to make Liberty Media an offer. Tyler Perry, maybe? Maybe he can get Oprah involved, or even Usher, who could then get Bieber on board. You’d think Evander Holyfield would be a good option since he goes to games, but the cash on hand is going to child support payments, so that’s probably out.

Doesn’t some family member of Coca-Cola’s founders need something to throw an extra half-billion to? There’s insurance money in this state, so how about those folks? If they owned the team, they could get better advertising rates during the games.

Can’t someone in Atlanta buy the team and get it away from this faceless, irrelevant ownership?

If the Braves win the World Series, this might all sound silly. But they would do it in spite of the crappy ownership, not because of it. And the silly thing is, when they presented the trophy to the team owner, no one would probably even be in town to accept it.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at .  Follow Bill on twitter @BillShanks and email him at .