The Atlanta Braves are moving to Cobb County in 2017. There are two seasons to play until they do. If the tone of this offseason is any indication, they don’t care much about putting a winning product on display at lame-duck Turner Field. The Braves might say this is only a coincidence, that rebuilding needs to happen when it has to happen. I wonder.
Let’s say the Braves were moving into SunTrust Stadium this April. Would they have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis for young arms, many of whom mightn’t be major-league ready until 2017 if then? Would they have committed so fully to a sell-off if they were about to face a (somewhat) new target audience?
As we know, the Braves didn’t really consider moving away from Atlanta until one of Mayor Kasim Reed’s staffers told Mike Plant, “It’s not as if you can move anywhere.” Taking the dare, the Braves found an ardent suitor just up I-75. In what could only be described as an attempt at one-upmanship, Reed held a press conference to stress that the on-the-market Hawks would stay in Atlanta the same day as the Braves staged their Cobb groundbreaking.
There’s no love lost between these estranged partners, and now the Braves have essentially told us, “Rebuilding takes precedence over winning at the big-league level — at least until 2017.” Which just happens to be the time they open play at STS across from Cumberland Mall.
I’m sure the Braves will say this is purely a baseball decision, and maybe it is. But I’m just skeptical enough to wonder if the wholesale rebuilding of a team that was, in 2014, the second-youngest in the major leagues would have been seen as such a necessity if the franchise weren’t in the process of upping sticks.
Further reading: Is all this Braves’ rebuilding really necessary?