Frankie has spoken:
Braves general manager Frank Wren said, “It was never that we didn’t want John back, or a lack of respect for John. Our priority was to have a pitching staff that would allow us to go into the season not concerned about rehabs and injuries and the things that set us back in 2008. And that still stands.”
Fair enough. If, that is, there were any consistency to what this person says. Remember, this is the person who offered MIKE HAMPTON more guaranteed money than he offered Smoltz.
Not concerned about rehab and injuries? And you try to retain the man who treated the DL like an extended stay hotel?
What the fuck are you talking about? You were willing to pay a pitcher who meant nothing to the fans, who was at best decent on the rare occasions he pitched, a pitcher who played the equivalent of two and a half seasons in six years here, during which he was paid about $80 million — you would guarantee this guy more than you’d guarantee the franchise’s signature player?
Speaking of $80 million, your “no rehab concerns” strategy included offering that same amount to a pitcher who has missed an average of 10 starts a year in seven full big league seasons?
And this notion of not paying Smoltz for not pitching? Again, sounds reasonable. But you’re talking about the face of the franchise. We’re not talking about Russ Ortiz.
What’s worse, this is not even just a bad PR move. It’d be one thing if some other team was offering Smoltz $10 million guaranteed. That would truly make no sense.
But that person, our so-called GM, saves Liberty Media a couple million for now. Yet long-term, he’s probably costing the Braves money. This team was probably not going to draw huge crowds even with Smoltz this season. Still, this sure as hell is going to cost them thousands of ticket sales over 81 dates. If 50,000 people don’t go to a game because of this, that’s $750,000, assuming an average ticket price of $15, which is probably low. Add concessions, parking and such and you’ve got to be close to $1 million.
Now think about Smoltz’s retirement. Smoltz’s farewell, huge crowds, good feelings, maybe some merchandise sales. Bigger TV ratings.
Forget all that. That person has robbbed Braves fans emotionally for what he claims to be hard headed, responsible baseball business reasons. For the life of me, I don’t see it. For one, his public utterances do not add up. He’s either lying or changing his strategy every couple of weeks. Either would be awful. Second, he’s not even making a sound business decision.
Commenter Alan says that ultimately this is about Smoltz leaving for more money, that the Braves have paid him enormous sums over the years and he does not appreciate that. In a sense, that is true. He is going to another team because they are going to pay him more than the Braves are willing to pay him. It is also true, from what I read and hear, that Smoltz can be a prickly, egotistical cuss who likes to be stroked.
That person, the so-called GM, knows all this. He also knows that Smoltz has stayed with the team on a couple of occasions when he could have been paid more elsewhere. This go round, that person dithered, made an offer that was clearly inferior to the other one, and apparently made no effort whatsoever at the necessary stroking.
So in this case, unlike most where a pro athlete says they’re insulted by a contract offer, it seems all too clear that the way that person handled the situation truly was an insult to a local sports icon. That person, I suspect, knew Smoltz would leave and, ultimately, didn’t much care.
Maybe some part of Smoltz was curious about playing elsewhere. Still, it seems obvious that he would only act on that curiosity if the Braves’ brass pushed him in that direction.
Wren and the Braves organization bungled this one on every level. It’s not just a stick in the eye to the fans — whom you should be doing anything you can to please as your prepare to put a bad team on the field — it’s not even a smart business decision. The spinning only makes it worse.