The Braves Shouldn’t Worry About Those “Damn Phillies” For Long

The big "Atlanta Braves" sign at the entrance to Truist Park

by John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

I’m writing a musical about the last two years of Cobb County Baseball. It’s called “Damn Phillies,” where a middle-aged real estate agent named Joe-Bob Boyd is tired of his Atlanta Braves losing in the baseball playoffs, feeling he’s given up “Six Months Out of Every Year.” He’s ready to make a Faustian bargain, to sell his soul for a series win in the NLDS.

But the Braves fans don’t need “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo,” or a deal with the devil, to overcome their National League East rival. Thanks to smart front office planning, and players willing to play the long game in contracts, Cobb County should be a baseball hub for the next decade. It will be those chop-mocking Phillies fans who will be asking “Who’s Got the Pain” soon.

The Atlanta Braves have only three players paid over $20 million a year: Austin Riley ($21.2 million), Matt Olson ($21 million) and Charlie Morton ($20 million), and only one more paid over $16 million (Marcell Ozuna, $16.25 million). The Philadelphia Phillies had six players paid over $20 million (Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Zach Wheeler, J. T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber), as well as two others making more than $16 million (Tajuan Walker and Aaron Nola).

Advertisement

The bill for those high salaries is about to come due. Harper is locked up through 2031 and Turner is bought through 2033. But as for the rest of Phillies, it’s hard to see who will play for them over the next several years. Wheeler’s deal runs out in 2024, while Realmuto’s ends in 2025. Schwarber’s is up in 2025 while Castellanos comes off the books in 2026. Nola’s may end in 2023. Philadelphia might be able to count on Scott Kingrey, Jose Alvarado through 2026, and Matt Stram comes due in 2024. After that, that’s that.

The Phillies team has a ridiculous number of one-year contracts coming due after the postseason. So maybe Michael Lorenzen, Craig Kimbrel, Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh, Gregory Soto, Ranger Suarez, Alec Bohm, Jeff Hoffman, and even Cristian Pache and the others might sign for longer deals. Or maybe not. The Phillies are on the hook for some monster non-team-friendly contracts which could inhibit their ability to keep many of these players.

Meanwhile the Braves can county on Riley through 2034, Olson through 2031, Ronald Acuna through 2029, Spencer Strider through 2030, Sean Murphy through 20230, Michael Harris through 2033, Ozuna through 2026, Raisel Iglesias until 2026, Ozzie Albies through 2028, and Morton through 2025. Atlanta fans can see Eddie Rosario through 2025, Travis D’Arnaud through 2026, Collin McHugh through 2025, Kirby Yates through 2025, Orlando Arcia through 2027, Tyler Matzek through 2026, and Brad Hand through 2025.

So Atlanta can field a playoff caliber team through much of the next decade. Outside of Harper and Turner, the Philly outlook seems pretty iffy. That would explain why Philadelphia seemed more desperate for a win in 2023. By the time most Braves contracts end, Philly fans will be signing “Those Were The Good Old Days” when thinking about 2022 and 2023. And wouldn’t it be nice to sign Aaron Nola or Zach Wheeler away, should Morton, McHugh, Yates,and Hand go elsewhere? It couldn’t happen to a nicer franchise in Pennsylvania.

This all feeds into local business. Around the Braves ballpark, there’s a buzz, which extends throughout the year. Area retailers and real estate know that there will be baseball, as well as great concerts, shopping, and even other games to watch, like the Atlanta United’s epic hosting of the World Cup finals. For now, I say to Braves fans “You Gotta Have Heart!” The future looks much brighter in sunny Atlanta than snowy Philadelphia.

This writer credits “Damn Yankees” authors George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, as well as lyricists Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own, and do not speak for LaGrange College faculty, students, staff or administration. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

Advertisement