Payroll Slashing: The New Norm For Atlanta

This offseason, the Braves had slashed their payroll by more than $25 million dollars. Kissing goodbye Greg Maddux, Gary Sheffield, and Javy Lopez. Is this a sign of things to come for Atlanta fans?

Much has been made, and will continue to be made, of the lowering of the Braves payroll. And it has been lowered significantly, whether one amortizes Mike Hampton's salary over the life of his contract -- no matter which team is paying the salary -- or counts only the later years, when the financial burden falls solely on the Braves.

But the fact is that the payroll is not lower only because the AOL-Time Warner merger was a corporate disaster. It is lower because the Braves are in a different competitive circumstance.

Anytime the Braves added a high-priced player in the last decade, it was because the team was oh so close to a World Series win, and that player was thought to be that last push the team needed to secure a championship. Management went over its budget in those instances and had to employ deferred payments to do it. It was willing to do that so long as the Braves' vaunted starting pitching was intact.

But that particular window of opportunity has finally closed. And so, therefore, has the checkbook.

This year's payroll will be lower because the players the team wants to promote are younger, less experienced, and don't earn as much.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- The number of players from last season's team not returning this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I believe this is a talented enough team to win another division." -- General Manager John Schuerholz, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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