AJC’s Thomas Stinson notes how much has changed in the decade since the Braves and Yankees faced each other in the World Series.
Back in the Bronx for the first time in five seasons, the Braves tonight open a three-game series that will describe for them in most dramatic terms yet how their world has changed. Once the freest spenders in their respective leagues, the Yankees this time will field a team that is being paid more than twice as much as the Braves ($194.67 million to $80 million).
Back on the night of Jones’ two-homer heroics in 1996, the Braves and Yankees were the game’s gold standard. For seven straight years, the teams ranked either first or second in payroll in their respective leagues, but also did so with rosters anchored by everyday players they drafted and developed.
No longer. The Braves’ 40-man roster includes 27 players who were originally drafted or signed by the organization. (John Foster, first drafted by the club in 1999, was traded away but subsequently re-signed with the team.) Though the roster includes 10 free agents, only two of those were signed to major-league contracts (Todd Pratt and John Thomson), and only one of them makes more than $1 million (Thomson at $4.75 million).
New York’s 40-man roster has 10 players originally drafted/signed and developed in the Yankees system. More than a third of the roster (15 players) is composed of free agents, who this season together will earn more than $140.6 million.
Five Yankees will make in excess of $15 million this season. No Brave can match that salary.
“Don’t care. Doesn’t bother me a bit,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “I like a ball game. When it starts, everybody’s even. I love it. I love it. I get sick and tired of playing the same [NL East] team 19 times.”
It is an amazing reversal. Once Ted Turner sold the Braves, along with the rest of his empire, to TimeWarner, it has been run on a for-profit basis with the constrained payrolls that come with that mindset. To be sure, they’ve managed to win division titles despite their changing economic circumstances (a trend that is sure to end this year) but they’ve not been World Serie contenders for years. And, while it’s been awhile since the Yankees last won it all, they’re automatic contenders every year.
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