Atlanta Braves John Schuerholz: ‘Never Again’

Apr 6, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves manager

Fredi Gonzalez

(left) talks with Braves president John Schuerholz (right) prior to a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

“We will not allow another year like this to occur. We made a vow internally that that is not going to happen.”

On Monday, September 21st, Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz answered several questions – at length – for Phil Hudson of the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

What he had to say was worthy of a bookmark for later reference, as Schuerholz went well above and beyond the questions themselves and answered things that weren’t asked… the ‘impolite’ questions that perhaps the interviewer might have shied away from.

The full article can be read from here… and I recommend that you do. In the meantime, we’ve pulled a few excerpts of particular note.

While responding to a question about the attendance levels this year, Schuerholz said:

…John Hart … and … John Coppolella, have done dramatic, dynamic and outside of the box thinking to try to shorten this downturn that we are experiencing right now. We believe we are at the nadir. We believe we are at the very bottom and the work they did to make the deals they made to get our farm system reflushed with talent again and to offload some contracts that were tying our hands to be aggressive and creative, we are in a great place. We have to endure 2015. We have to own it. And we do. We understand that.

While responding to a question about whether he thought attendance might lag again next year, Schuerholz launched into the bigger question to specifically address fan concerns: i.e., what will this team do in 2016 (emphasis added)?

“[Fans] have to wait until we do our winter’s work to construct the roster for this team. We will not allow another year like this to occur. We made a vow internally that that is not going to happen. If we didn’t do this [see above] when we did it we would have slid along for a long time in this malaise as a number of teams have. … Teams like that slide and can’t stop the slide. We decided to shorten this and be aggressive. Anyway, I don’t think that will happen and 2016 is an important year and here’s why: On the heels of 2015, we need to show our fans, not that they distrust us, that we are the Braves. We still have high standards. We are committed to excellence on a yearly basis. My favorite saying as a management leader is “Winners make commitments and losers make excuses.” We are not offering any excuses. We’re owning this. This is not a good year. Some of the reasons are ours and some of them were none of our doing. 2016 is important because of this. We need to pivot dramatically and positively to reassert to our fans and remind our good fans, hey we are still the Braves.” ”

How to Interpret those answers:

  • He saw it coming, but he’s still hacked off that this team is flirting with 100 losses. If I can read between the lines, it sounds like there is embarrassment in his answer. You could probably also interpret some levels of frustration and anger as well.
  • He recognizes clearly that fans are not happy either.
  • There will be things accomplished in the off-season – still consistent with the overall goals of producing a “pipeline” of consistent talent – to insure that the team is at least significantly more competitive than this season.

On Payroll Outlook:

“Our payroll will remain fairly well static going into next year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a different or better team because we will rearrange the roster and we’ve already begun that process. We are above $100 million and not up to $120 million, so somewhere in that range is where we operate and we will operate again next year.”

That’s consistent with where the Braves had intended to be in 2015. Frankly, with all of the moves made and dollars transferred back and forth, the spreadsheet I use to keep track of all this stuff is in a total shambles.

Right now, the Cot’s site has the Braves with commitments of $68.8 million for 2016. This does not include anything other than contracts now on the books, which involves 10 players (though Dian Toscano is one of them).

Those eligible for arbitration will be Mike Minor, Pedro Ciriaco, Shelby Miller, Chris Withrow, and Arodys Vizcaino (all 1st year eligible excepting Minor – his 3rd of 4 arb years).

Minor is still not a lock to be tendered; the Braves might not unless he’s okay with around $5 million. Miller should get something around $4 million; the rest might average $1 million (Ciriaco is a non-tender candidate, and I will exclude him at this time). For this guessing game, let’s just assume those numbers are in the ballpark: so perhaps add $11 million via arbitration.

The rest of the roster will be roughly $510,000 to $550,000 apiece: 10-11 players are needed to fill out the roster… round up and call it $6 million total.

So that’s $86 million in more-or-less required payroll, leaving $14 million to $34 million of ceiling space. If either Cameron Maybin or Michael Bourn is moved elsewhere (and I do expect this to happen), then that would free up something in the neighborhood of $8 million more.

How Far Can We Guess Here?

More from Tomahawk Take

Clearly, Schuerholz wants to put an end to this losing season – and he never wants to see it repeated again.

My own read of this suggests strongly that there will be an effort made to add another everyday bat to this lineup… maybe more. And I’ll stop there today, since we will have a lot of time in the off-season to speculate about that.

Suffice it to say, that this interview is a bit remarkable given that the team President went well out of his way to be open, candid, and forward-thinking.

The good news might be the notion that he seems as annoyed about 2015 as the rest of us are.

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