Braves excited by news of team sale
Players, management optimistic about Liberty Media
WASHINGTON -- John Smoltz has spent each of his 20 Major League seasons with the Braves, and other than the fact that they win a whole lot more than they did back during his 1988 rookie season, not a whole has changed.
Nor does it appear that anything else drastic will change now that Smoltz finds himself employed by Liberty Media Corporation.
Late Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball's owners approved the sale of the Braves from Time Warner to Liberty Media. The long-expected transaction was warmly accepted by Braves players, coaches and management.
"So far, every indication that we've had is that it's going to be a smooth transition," said Smoltz, who joined the Braves when they were owned by Ted Turner.
When Time Warner came to terms on an agreement to sell the Braves to Liberty Media in February, Commissioner Bud Selig once again made it known that the deal would only be approved with the guarantee that the organization's management team would be held in place.
With Terry McGuirk continuing to serve as the team's chairman and president, and both general manager John Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox still in place for seemingly as long as they desire, the Braves won't experience any change to the direction that helped them compile an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles.
"We're competitive with where we are now," Chipper Jones said. "We're happy with where we are now. I don't think you can have a better man running your team's payroll than John Schuerholz. He's very creative, and regardless of what our payroll is, I think he's going to keep us very competitive."
Schuerholz, who became the Braves' general manager under Ted Turner's direction in 1991, says there haven't been any discussions regarding future payrolls. But he has been assured that it won't drop below the $80 million neighborhood that it has been in since the end of the 2003 season.
"Terry McGuirk has told me that our payroll will at least be what it has been in the past," Schuerholz said.
McGuirk was one of Turner's right-hand men during the late 1970s and thus has a long relationship with the club. He assumed his current roles in 2003, when the team was owned by Time Warner.
"Terry is the one who is always in the line in the clubhouse when we win ballgames," Jones said. "He's always encouraging us, and always a positive influence. It's good to have that at the top."
Like they have over the past four years, the Braves players will continue to view McGuirk as being ownership's physical presence. While he's far from being as eccentric as Turner, his regular attendance has shown the players that he cares for them and the product.
"You always like to know who is out there for you," Smoltz said. "You certainly want to honor them. Terry certainly has become the franchise face, and from what I understand, why this happened."
Knowing that he'll still have the opportunity to work alongside McGuirk and Schuerholz was all Cox needed to be supportive of this transaction.
"I hear nothing but good things about the new owners," Cox said. "It's never worried me one bit. It's never been any of my business. I'm not paid to worry about transactions, just manage."
Like Selig, the Braves players are happy that this ownership change will do nothing to the organization's leadership team.
"All the people at the head of the Atlanta Braves are going to stay in place," Jones said. "So we're all happy about that. We'll see where the payroll goes."
Jones' worry concerning future payrolls provides the reminder that even the slightest alterations naturally bring some worry. But based on everything that they've been told, the Braves expect their business to continue in its usual manner.
"For a guy who now knows that he's going to be here for the next couple of years, it's comforting to know that that direction won't have any bearing whatsoever on what we're doing," Smoltz said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.