With the Atlanta Braves right in the middle of Spring Training, there is a lot to be excited about if you are a Braves fan. Freddie Freeman appears to be healthy and has looked good, Ronald Acuna Jr http://www.bravesteamfanstore.com/Aaron-Blair-Jersey
. is doing a LOT of good things, the young pitchers have thus far shown they are able to hold their own against major league hitters, Ozzie Albies just keeps hitting, and the team bullpen and defense appear to be poised to be an improvement over 2017. Sure, it is only Spring Training and a lot can happen between now and even the start of season, but there are still good things to see and hope for.However, a cursory look at basically any form of social media has not only some excitement, but a lot of anxiousness and even anger towards the Braves organization. Some of this is likely due to the penalties the Braves received from the commissioner office for a wide variety of infractions in the international free agent market (it has been called the ‘Wild West’ for a reason) and during the draft process. Some frustration lingering from the episode that ultimately cost former general manager John Coppolella a career in baseball as well as several other folks their jobs is understandable Dale Murphy Jersey
. A lot of very exciting prospects were lost and the Braves are going to be hamstrung for years to come as a result.The focus of fans’ (and even some media) angst doesn seem to be focused on that, though. Instead, there is very clearly a desire to just have the Braves do something...ANYTHING...so that the losing will stop. While the Braves have hardly been alone during this very quiet off-season in doing next to nothing outside of moving some money around in the deal that sent Matt Kemp out of town, it is pretty clear that many Braves fans are tiring of being in rebuild mode. Following prospects is all well and good, but for many fans they didn grow up Gwinnett Striper fans or Rome Braves fans or Florida Fire Frog fans, they grew up Atlanta Braves fans...and the team that was so good for so long in the 1990 and early 2000 has not been good for a while now. It hurts and it sucks even if there is a method to the madness.Part of the problem is that the Braves’ front office (or at least the previous iteration of it) was not good at setting expectations. Despite all signs pointing to the fact that this was going to be a full rebuild that was going to require a big chunk of losing before the wins started coming back, Braves talked about fielding a competitive team in 2017 from the first day SunTrust Park was open. They would spin one-year veteran deals as signs that the team was committed to short and long term success. Sure, there was talk of a 3-year plan for the rebuild, but there was also talk of fielding competitive teams each season and making improvement year to year that was, to be frank, unlikely to happen. I do not think they were being intentionally deceptive, but rather that their own hopes were too high and some of those deals turned into total disasters (looking at you, Erick Aybar and Bartolo Colon).The team did improve year to year, but the gains were modest and frankly they always were going to be when the rebuilding strategy was focused on very young international signees and high school talent. That sort of talent has big upside, but it takes time to grow. Even with putting players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Kolby Allard, and Mike Soroka on very aggressive tracks to the majors, they were never going to be ready for 2017 if any amount of responsible player development was used. Ozzie Albies is a freak of nature given his age and it still took until well past the halfway point of the 2017 season to get the call up. Baseball is not like football or basketball where you draft a guy in the first round and you get to see them on the roster to start the next season. Baseball player development and the minors are incremental meat grinders that, more often than not, prospects are unable to get through for a variety of reasons. The end product at the major league level is better from it, but it isn for those that demand immediate gratification.Another part of the equation is that despite the product on the field being subpar over the last few years, the recent news that the Braves’ revenues were up big in 2017 did not sit well with fans. Liberty Media CEO on Braves 47-percent stadium-revenue increase in 1st year at SunTrust Park stounding” David O'Brien (DOBrienAJC) March 1, 2018Again, without further exploration or understanding, fans being madonline is understandable given surface-level context. They see a corporate behemoth profiting handsomely from their team while failing to increase payroll or bring in new talent to help the team be more competitive in 2018. Nevermind that the talent in this free agent class ranged from h” to ww”, that the free agent market is a grossly inefficient use of resources most of the time, or that the Braves operating expenses and debts also spiked in 2017 due to the costs of the new ballpark and the surrounding mixed-use facility, The Battery. In fact, if the revenues hadn taken a dramatic leap forward, that would have been awful news that would portend very tough times ahead for the franchise. Revenues being up means good things down the line, but were never going to be an instant fix with the new ballpark. TV deals can and have had that immediate effect, but the Braves have one of the worst TV deals in baseball and its going to stay that way for a while http://www.bravesteamfanstore.com/Kelly-Johnson-Jersey
. Stadium revenues take time to bear fruit due to overhead and, for some, that is hard to hear. (All of this, and the reality that, when you get beyond the surface-level details, it not really the massive corporate behemoth of Liberty Media profiting, but the Braves themselves, as the Braves function pretty independently and appear to reinvest revenues earned into the team operations.)It is also worth mentioning, too, that just because the Braves have more revenue coming in doesn mean that all of that money should go to new players. The Braves are going to have a lot of young players that are going to either need extensions or start getting expensive in arbitration. Handing out large long-term deals could easily hamper the team ability to keep all of the Acunas and Ozzies and Goharas, especially if a lot of them pan out.Despite all of these reasons why fans shouldn been concerned, I completely understand the frustration. Fans just want the team to be good again. They want the team courting the big name free agents and throwing money around like Ted Turner used to do. They want to see the best players in the league on their team, not coming to visit in three to four game spurts. Rebuilds are painful, they just are...and Braves fans are starting to tire of that pain.Make no mistake, I have no issues with the Braves standing pat this off-season. It is perfectly reasonable to me that new general manager Alex Anthopoulos wants to be sure of what he actually has in terms of both the 25 man roster as well as down in the farm system. The man has a history of being willing to make deals, but he needs to know what kinds of currency and how much of it he has first. Ie never been of the opinion that this free agent class had the type of players that should interest the Braves much and that the next free agent class, which the Braves freed up a whole bunch of money for in the Matt Kemp trade, has several of them. As a result, that path that the Braves are on for 2018 seems fine. Lots of young players are going to see significant time with the big league club to get their chance. We will get to see Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies and Luiz Gohara and others play at SunTrust Park. That will be fun and many of us expect the team to be better this year than last and will certainly be more fun to watch.However, the closer the 2018 trade deadline gets, the more we all should be interested to see what the real intentions of the Braves’ front office and braintrust are. By then, everyone involved should have a good sense of what their assets are and aren as well as what the team needs and wants are. If the Braves aren at least trying (and I mean really trying...not just kicking tires) to make deals that will help the team for 2019 and beyond, that will be concerning. If next off-season passes and the Braves haven increased their payroll and they do not land some significant help from the free agent and or trade market with this newfound financial flexibility, that should be the tipping point in our collective patience.Maybe Liberty Media is, as has long been whispered about, preparing to sell the team, hence a focus on bottom line financials that trickled down to the decision-makers in the Braves organization. Maybe the team has lost touch with how to field a good team by adhering to ‘the Braves Way’ in this modern era that has had a focus on analytics in roster building http://www.bravesteamfanstore.com/
. I tend to be more optimistic in saying that this is the process that was signed up for. It is a long and painful one, but one that could be the start of another long run of success for the franchise. That said, the Braves and their management must be careful with the risks of broken promises. Fans are expecting a team that is competing for the playoffs and an organization and leadership that is actively working towards that goal aggressively. We have been told that enough. Not only are fans expecting that, they deserve that. The next 12 months will decide if that is the case, and if that isn the case...then there could very well, and maybe should be, fewer and fewer folks making use of the facilities in Cobb County.