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Schuerholz believes Braves
will reload, not rebuild

Special to

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tom Glavine is rumored to be headed to either Philadelphia or the New York Mets, and Greg Maddux's future remains veiled as his agent, Scott Boras, builds a mystery. The Atlanta Braves payroll is likely decreasing, and general manager John Schuerholz says, "Right now I have no idea what's going to happen with them. We really haven't gotten past the initial stages of negotiations."

Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine has compiled a 242-143 record and a 3.36 ERA in 16 seasons with the Braves.
After 11 straight first-place finishes in their division -- a string of success that has Glavine as its cornerstone and Maddux a fixture in nine championships -- Atlanta now has an uncertain future with the prospect its starting rotation could have more questions than Cy Young winners next season.

"We have operated under strict guidelines, so this winter is no different," Schuerholz said. "It's hard to know where we are at this point. But we have a good team, and we will field a good, competitive team next season. Who plays on that team, I can't tell you right now. We will do whatever we can, within the boundaries of our payroll. We will not do anything that isn't viable."

A function of seasonal success is that good players become expensive players, especially those with annual postseason exposure. The Braves have committed nearly $52 million to Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Vinny Castilla, and Kevin Millwood and Damian Moss are arbitration eligible. In addition, they may have to plug a hole at first base, which this winter may present a buyer's market.

Smoltz, the National League Cy Young winner in 1996, can go back to the starting rotation and pass the closing role over to Tim Spooneybarger, but gone could be Glavine, a two-time Cy Young winner, and four-time winner Maddux. Still, Schuerholz cites a Baseball America article that says the Braves have more top prospects than any other organization in baseball as he claims the team's future remains bright.

"We've got some good young pitching, and we like Trey Hodges, who has won 30 games in the minors the last two years. Other very good young pitchers like Adam Wainright and Bubba Nelson may come along quickly, so I feel good," Schuerholz said. "I feel confident that by the time the 2003 season starts, we will once again be extremely competitive.

"Public reaction to what we do in the winter has never been a part of our plans," he says. "We react to what happens during the season."

Teams don't always get what they pay for
Jim Thome may get $15 million a year from the Phillies, but the days of the $17 million-$20 million contracts may become antique concepts. The dangers of a team in small- or medium-sized markets putting a large contract in the hands of a single player it cannot do without have come back to haunt the team time and again. Consider these facts since 1985:

Jim Thome
The sky may not be the limit for teams interested in signing slugger Jim Thome this offseason.

  • No team that has won the World Series since 1985 has spent more than 15 percent of its total payroll on one player.

  • Only four of the 68 teams that have participated in the league championship series have spent more than 15 percent of their payrolls on one player.

  • Only 3 percent of all teams that have spent more than 20 percent of their payroll have reached the playoffs.

  • Only 7.7 percent of all teams that have allocated more than 15 percent of their payroll on one player has made the playoffs.

  • The 2000-01 Athletics are the only team to have made the playoffs in consecutive years despite allocating more than 15 percent to one player. In their case, Jason Giambi.

  • No team has won the World Series with one player making more than 15 percent of total payroll.

  • The only teams in that time to make the World Series with one player making more than 15 percent of payroll were the 1987 Cardinals (Ozzie Smith) and 2002 Giants (Barry Bonds, who made $14.1 million of the team's $81.5 million payroll).

    Balloon payments
    The average winning percentages of teams, by the percentage of highest-paid players' salary vs. team payroll:
    of payroll
    20%+ .463
    17.5-20% .470
    15-17.5% .481
    12.5-14.9% .514
    10-12.4% .521
    7-5%-9.9% .529

    It is easy to understand why Toronto is hamstrung with a $50M payroll -- it pays Carlos Delgado $17 million. Or, while Alex Rodriguez is the model player, how his $21 million payout next season will impact the depth of the Rangers, who intend to keep their player salaries around $100 million. If Boston stays at $90 million, Manny Ramirez's $17.9M salary will be right on the 20 percent cusp. Colorado wants to be close to $55 million, but four players on the team account for 72 percent of the payroll, including Mike Hampton who makes $12 million. Tampa Bay wants to be in the $35 million range, and Greg Vaughn takes up $8.8 million of that. Junior Griffey has deferred so much of his salary to help strengthen the team, but he still makes $8.7 million of the Reds' projected $50 million payroll.

    It's also true that only one team has won the World Series since 1985 with any player hitting more than 35 homers (Luis Gonzalez in 2001, who made $4.5 million), but that may be a function of what home run hitters are paid.

    This truth appears to be self-evident: Unless your name is Bonds or A-Rod, there is no way any one player is worth 20 percent of a team.

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  • Gammons: Diamond Notes (Nov. 10)

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