Guerry Clegg Commentary: Braves winning a World Series more important than stadium location

November 12, 2013 

Downtown or uptown, Cobb County or Conyers. Frankly, I don't care where the Atlanta Braves call home -- as long as they remain committed to winning a World Series.

If the move from Turner Field to Coca-Cola Field, or whomever winds up being the highest bidder for naming rights, will make the folks at Liberty Media take their ownership seriously, I'm in.

The move will not take place until 2017. By then, B.J. Upton will be in the final year of his contract, and Justin Upton could be gone. But the core of this young team -- Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Evan Gattis, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel and Alex Wood -- should be in their prime, in terms of both production and earning power.

If moving up Interstate 75 will generate the revenue necessary to keep this team together, I'm for it. And if we, the fans, can park and get out in less than 30 minutes without having to dodge panhandlers, that's even better.

Speaking of Coke, the soft drink's tightly guarded formula was no more secretive that the Braves' behind the scenes negotiations with Cobb County. Oliver North must have been leading them.

I suspect the lack of public discussion before Monday's shocking announcement is the primary source of the fans' dissent, which ranged from disapproval to outright anger.

I'll let the political experts debate the wisdom of the Atlanta leaders and the economists dissect the financial ramifications. Neither is my ballpark.

This is what I care about:

Which location gives the Braves the best chance of fielding a championship team?

Yeah, I know the reigning World Series champs are playing in one of the oldest arenas of any sport. But Atlanta isn't Boston, and Turner Field isn't Fenway Park. It's a nice ballpark, mind you, much nicer than Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Better sightlines, better playing field, better atmosphere, at least on the premises. By 2017, the Braves would have been at Turner Field for 20 years. It would have suited me fine if they would have stayed there another 20 years.

But staying put would have required an investment into improvements that wouldn't have been cost efficient.

It's hard to believe Turner Field is already dated. The fact is, though, it is. And the more the ballpark ages, the less competitive the Braves can be. There was a time when they had the resources to retain their best players -- John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones. Yet, they could still compete for talent other teams could not afford -- Greg Maddux, Fred McGriff, Denny Neagle.

Now, they're a mid-market franchise that cannot afford to retain one of the fans' favorites in Brian McCann. Sure, some of that is Liberty Media's reluctant ownership. When is the last time you saw a champagne-drenched chairman of the board chomping on a victory cigar and holding up a championship trophy?

At least Liberty Media has been generous enough not to demand a staggering profit over a competitive product. They've been content with the Braves striking a balance.

Team management say their Liberty Media bosses love the idea of the new ballpark. Surely they have crunched the numbers.

More revenue will make them more competitive. They don't have to go crazy with free agents. Just have enough money to retain the rising young talent they have.

As for the ballpark's design, here are a few requests from a paying-customer. Add a little more spacing between rows, so the family that makes 12 trips back and forth to the concession stand can get by without using my feet at a bridge. Flip-down trays on chair backs would be handy. And strike a deal with The Varsity to have a stand inside the park.

Above all else, just win.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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