“The Braves have been a great asset, great for Liberty, and we are happy owners,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said.
And we are unhappy fans. To us, the Braves are not an asset but a big part of our lives since we were kids. They mean something to us. To Liberty, they are an asset to be monetized.
“I think there are a lot of great things ahead for the Braves, starting with the new stadium, but (also) longer-term potential,” he said, citing baseball’s rising TV and digital revenues. “I think there are a lot of ways the Braves continue to be a very interesting business for us, as well as a great team.”
Winning or losing doesn’t really matter to Maffei, though he dubiously claims he watches “as many games as I can” on TV and has been to Turner Field “many times.” Not surprisingly, he’s unaware (or, more likely, uninterested) that most Braves fans long for committed, local ownership.
“I only read the AJC occasionally, so I don’t (see) as much of that as some people do,” Maffei said. “But I would say: Look, we are people who believe in the team, but we don’t manage it day to day.
“We have experienced, accomplished, dedicated management who runs it on almost every decision.”
Besides, he said, “for all intents and purposes, there is local ownership.”
“There are a couple (decisions) that we usually assent to, but on pretty much everything day to day this team is run out of Atlanta.”
As for the asset, er, team’s every-shrinking payroll, don’t blame Liberty.
“What happens is, we have a budgeting process where the Braves’ management brings us a budget, a payroll budget included. And I don’t think we have once changed the number,” Maffei said. “It’s not like we come and say, ‘Nah, you got to cut that.’ I don’t think that has happened in the nine years that we have been involved.
“Really the management sets the direction on what they think the right place to invest is, the amounts they want to put in what parts of the operation, including payroll, and we have assented every year.”
Clearly, Maffei thinks we’re stupid. But although it’s easy, and therapeutic, to hate on Liberty, the brunt of your ire belongs with The Used Car Salesman, aka The Worst Commissioner Ever, aka Allan “Bud” Selig.
While Bud didn’t open the door to corporate ownership he certainly welcomed it like never before. We saw Fox buy the Dodgers and Disney take over the Angels. And, as is almost always the case (see CBS and the Yankees), corporations make lousy owners.
The Braves have spent the last 15 years under the thumb of two corporations, and here’s what they have to show for it:
- Worst local TV rights deal in the game
- Steadily shrinking payrolls
- Bland, focus-grouped game day atmosphere
- Ignorance of market
- A move to the ‘burbs that’s already alienated a significant portion of fan base.
They could’ve easily had a local owner that sucked, or, worse, Jeffrey Loria. But at least we’d know who to hold accountable. At least they would care, even if for the wrong reasons.
Liberty could care less. Apathy breeds irrelevance, and increasingly the fan base is following the ownership group’s lead.
Thanks again, Bud.