It’s no secret among Braves country that Liberty Media — the public company that owns the team — isn’t the most invested ownership in the game. Despite making hundreds of millions in profit annually since the Braves moved to The Battery, they’ve still yet to give the team enough wiggle room in the offseason to make a splash signing that could help put them over the top.
The spending seemed to get a bit better this past offseason. Alex Anthopoulos doled out over $100 million in free agency, and even if a significant portion of that was spent on one-year deals that carry no long-term risk, it was still more than we are used to seeing Liberty Media pony up since they bought the team in 2007. However, because of the coronavirus’s economic impact, it might be the last time we see them dole out that much cash for a few years.
Since Liberty Media is a publicly-traded company — the only one that owns an MLB team — their books have to be made public, meaning everyone can see how much money they make off the team and the amenities around it each year. That’s why Braves fans have been clamoring for them to spend more money. Well now, those same fans better hope the revenues that come from the team aren’t directly correlated with their spending in the offseason, or the Braves are going to be extremely quiet this winter.
According to Tim Tucker of the AJC, Liberty Media’s revenue in the “sports and live events industries” took a nose-dive by over 95% in quarter two (April through June). Last year, they recorded over $200 million in revenue; this year, that number was $11 million.
Braves’ finances hit hard: 95% drop in revenue; employee pay cuts https://t.co/GYmTlowkno
— Tim Tucker (@TimTuckerAJC) August 10, 2020
Now, this should come as no shock to anybody whose been alive since the beginning of 2020. Between April and June in 2019, the Braves season was well underway, and The Battery was popping off nightly. Between April and June this year, there was no baseball at all, and most restaurants and bars were closed due to federal and state restrictions. A toddler could have hypothesized that there would be a sharp decline in revenue.
With restaurants and bars opening up around The Battery, the economic hit in quarter three won’t be as drastic, but it will still be a considerable drop off compared to last year, especially since fans aren’t allowed into games. However, you guys probably aren’t interested in how billionaires are making money amid a pandemic. You want to know how this affects the Braves spending going forward. To that point, Braves chairman, Terry McGuirk, indicated that the loss of revenue will not affect how the team approaches free agency.
Here’s an excerpt of David O’Brien’s recent article on The Athletic:
As far as the on-field product, McGuirk indicated that potential moves during the season or after would not be dictated by the team’s revenue losses, and he expressed typical optimism about the Braves’ position competitively and praised general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
“All the young Braves’ talent and wise salary commitment strategy by Alex is paying off for us in the early days of planning in this pandemic-driven distressed year,” McGuirk said. “The injuries are certainly affecting the level of play right now … but all that will pass soon and we will hopefully have a strong squad for the push to and through the playoffs. Every resource we have at the present time is going into the product on the field as you might expect.”
Depending on how you look at it, this news could be music to your ears or a bit concerning. If revenues don’t impact how the Braves approach free agency, then they should still be able to spend accordingly this offseason (Great!). However, if that’s the case — when Liberty Media makes half-a-billion on the team and The Battery — they shouldn’t be expected to spend $250 million in free agency, as every Braves fan hopes for each offseason.
It’s a double-edged sword. Personally, I don’t see how revenue doesn’t have some impact — positively or negatively — on the budget for the team each year, but it certainly isn’t the only factor. Liberty Media should value having the best possible product on the field at all times, even if it is all about money for them. A better team means more fans, and more fans means more money. If only it were that easy to convince them.
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