I hate to say this. I have to agree with Bill Shanks. We are fair people around here. When Bill Shanks is usually dead wrong, we call him out. But when someone is correct, we will praise them.
For long time readers of The Grit Tree, you know that Bill Shanks and his cavalcade of idiots host a talk show every afternoon in Macon. Since it is either listening to Shanks or Sean Hannity, I choose Shanks.
But Good Ol’ Bill hit the nail on the head last night on Twitter about the Braves’ problems. While folks on Twitter were quick to rein down hatred on Fredi Gonzalez, Bill astutely pointed out that while Fredi makes the bad decisions in games, all the scorn should not be pointed his way.
Point a fair share to Liberty Media Group.
The faceless owner of the Braves has overseen a dwindling payroll. The Braves simply don’t have the money commitment from the ownership group to contend with the big boys. In 2005, the last year of the Braves 14 year reign of the NL East, the Braves payroll was $86M. In 2012, the payroll is $83M.
You want to know what other team has remained stagnant over that time? Oakland. But throw that out, because the A’s have a religious zeal to martyr themselves to be the cheapest teams in baseball. Billy Beane has made himself a celebrity over it.
Even perennial cellar dwellers Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Toronto have seen their payrolls increase over the past 7 years.
Chipper Jones is the second biggest problem. Chipper is a first ballot Hall of Famer. He is an all-time great Brave. But in 2012, he shouldn’t be on the team. He shouldn’t be the 5th highest paid 3rd baseman in MLB.
Look, if the Braves had the Yankees or Red Sox (or even Minnesota Twins) payroll, paying Chipper a ton of money would be OK. But the Braves 2012 payroll is $83M. Chipper Jones makes $14M. I’ll save you the math: that is 17% of the payroll. One player, whose production has waned over the last several years and who is no longer reliable to play every day, is sucking up 17% of the Braves payroll. Throw in Tim Hudson. I am a HUGE Hudson fan. But two players who are both over the age of 36 and started the season on the DL have 30% of your payroll tied down. Oh, in 2011 it was even worse. Derek Low, Chipper Jones, and Nate McLouth accounted for 41% of the payroll!
For 2012, the Braves rank 16th-the bottom half of Major League Baseball-in payroll. You can’t afford to be paying the over the hill players high if those players are the only ones you are going to pay, and paying said player hamstrings you so you can’t go out and find anyone else.
Martin Prado is the team’s best offensive threat right now, and through 4 games he is batting just .267. I know it is early, but the best batting average of an everyday player is only .267 is not good. A guy at work made a great point-Prado is one of the key pieces to the Braves offense. Prado is a great player and seemingly an equally great person. But if the Braves want to compete for a Championship, to be at the level with the Rangers, Tigers, Phillies and Yankees, then having Martin Prado being your best offensive player won’t cut it. If Prado was with any of the aforementioned teams, do you think he would be the key part in the lineup? Hell, if Prado was with the Marlins, he’d bat in the lower half of the order.
To compare it football: back in 2008 and 2009, Georgia’s talent was nowhere near Alabama, LSU or Florida. The starters on Georgia’s teams wouldn’t even be 2nd string on Alabama’s team (I’m talking about Prince Miller and Bryan Evans, among others).
Having Chipper Jones on the roster kept the Braves from going out and getting someone like Adam Jones or other moves in the offseason. Having Chipper weigh this team down makes Eric Hinkse, Juan Francisco and Matt Diaz play everyday roles. The key pieces of the Braves team right now wouldn’t carry the jock strap of the key players for the Yankees, Phillies, Tigers, Rangers or Angels.
Good pitching can only get you so far. But you need the bats.
Now, I am not one to overly react. I am patient; we are only 4 games in. The Braves schedule is fairly easy for the month of April. May, it starts getting tough with series against the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds and Marlins.
But the rest of April the Braves see Milwaukee, NY Mets, Arizona, the Dodgers, and Pittsburgh. That is very manageable. The Braves still have plenty of time to get things right. There are 158 games left.
But right now it is very frustrating. There is no excitement because the team is exactly the same as it was last season, and the same problems that were around in 2011 are plaguing the team right now.
PS: Instead of linking in the post, I will just give you the website that I went to get the initial information and you can double check me. USA Today has a great data base of salaries.