COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Braves are finding out that one crucial financial decision they made years ago is now coming back to negatively impact how they can do business in the future.
Salary spending escalates every year, and, despite players like Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder continually reaffirming the fact that handing out these insane over-inflated contracts often come back to bite teams, this offseason was no different. The Seattle Mariners gave Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million deal, while the New York Yankees have played chicken with their checkbook to the tune of $302 million in player signings (so far).
How can teams afford to constantly give out Scrooge McDuck money to every free agent with a batting average over .250? Well, the millions and millions of dollars clubs receive from their television contracts does help prevent them from over-drafting their account when their newest free agent attempts to cash his giant novelty check.
The Philadelphia Phillies became the latest MLB team to dip their toe into the TV revenue stream when they announced a new deal with Comcast SportsNet, estimated to be worth slightly north of $2.5 billion. The Phillies' minority stake in the company will pay them roughly $100 million per season for the right to air Phillies baseball -- which is a considerable raise from the $35 million per season they currently earn.
The Phillies were already willing to shell out $159 million in player contracts for 2013. Should the NL East expect an influx of free agents heading to Philly now that the club will earn an extra $65 million each year?
For the Braves, Philadelphia's new TV deal highlights just how bad their own television contract is, and how much the team is shortchanged when it comes to the ability to spend money on player contracts.
The Braves are currently in the midst of a 20-year TV deal that pays them just $10-20 million per season. Atlanta lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs last year -- a team that makes $280 million a year for its own TV contract. Because of their additional revenue, the Dodgers can afford to pay the $216 million in payroll they did last season. Comparatively, Atlanta's payroll ranked No. 18 in baseball with only $90 million.
As teams continue to push the boundaries of what they are willing to spend on salaries every season, the Braves are unable to stray very far from where their accountants have them chained. In 2000, the Braves had the third-highest payroll in baseball at $86 million. Fast forward 14 years and nothing has changed -- expect where they rank in payroll. The Braves are still spending the same way they did when VHS tapes were still sold in stores. In 2013, there were 14 different teams with payrolls over $100 million.
Look no further than this offseason to see just how much the lack of TV revenue hurts the Braves. Instead of being able to pony up the dough to keep Tim Hudson and Brian McCann in Atlanta, the Braves waved goodbye to two of their veteran leaders simply because of money.
In case you were still a little fuzzy about just how bad the Braves' TV is, Jerry Seinfeld still individually makes roughly $70 million per year for "Seinfeld" reruns. While that show is arguably the greatest TV program of all time, the modern-day Braves franchise is getting beaten seven times over by a "show about nothing" that ended its run in 1998.
There is not much Atlanta can do but ride out the next 14 years of its terrible TV deal and try to compete with mid-level payrolls until it can sign a better one. The Braves did make a small improvement last season by moving the 45 games aired on Peachtree TV to the Fox Sports South and SportSouth cable stations, but that additional revenue will not be staggering.
The new Cobb County stadium, and the subsequent stadium naming rights, will boast revenues, but, unfortunately, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward will all become free agents before the Braves make the move to their new digs. If Atlanta does end up losing its star players to teams with more money, the lack of TV revenue will have a lot to do with it.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Philadelphia Phillies