Dear Mr. Malone,
My name is Andy Lipman. I’m 41 years old from Atlanta, Georgia. I was born in Atlanta in 1973 but my Atlanta sports allegiance did not begin until 1982.
Let’s flash back to that season. That was the year the Braves started the season at 13-0, a Major-League record to start a season. For most, that spring was mostly about wins and losses. Not for me though.
That 13 game winning streak meant a heck of a lot more to me than just baseball. It was around that time I learned my life expectancy was 25 years due to the fact that I was born with cystic fibrosis. My father got me into America's pastime that spring. I needed the Braves then a lot more than they needed me.
Those 13 straight wins kept me playing baseball and therefore improved my lung capacity. Baseball is a part of the reason I’m 42 this Friday and still thriving with this disease. Like I said, I needed baseball, specifically the Braves, back then a lot more than they needed me.
Let’s turn to present day. The Braves have one of the worst teams in baseball, attendance is dwindling and fan support is at a low I haven’t seen since the team moved to Turner Field.
There’s a disconnect between the Braves and its fans. Just as an example, I went to the Yankees game yesterday as I am a season ticket holder and I was embarrassed to tell my 7 year old that we are still considered the home team despite the fact that 60% of the stadium wore Yankee pinstripes.
Mr. Malone, all I keep hearing about is "The Braves Way." I get the marketing strategy to get younger in order to succeed. Heck, I predicted it going into the offseason. I understood the Heyward trade though it pains me to realize that you’re essentially saying we couldn’t afford him when he becomes a free agent. I understood the Justin Upton trade though once again I’m miffed that you’re saying we can’t afford him. I understood the Gattis trade because the guy couldn’t be a solid catcher. I even understood trading Kimbrel BUT only because you were starting over and you were able to get rid of Melvin Upton.
Here’s what I don’t understand. When did the Atlanta Braves become a small market franchise? When did "The Braves Way" become putting the brand over the team? When did ownership stop caring about the everyday fan?
When Ted Turner was at the helm, he either got the big named free agents or at least had the Braves as one of the teams that was in talks with the high-priced guys. I looked at ESPN after last season and the Braves were not listed as favorites for any of the best players in free agency.
Here are some other things I don’t understand. Why do we still have Fredi Gonzalez? He’s a terrible strategist and knows very little about sabermetrics which is a key metric to winning in present day baseball. I also don’t understand why we drafted about 50 pitchers in this year’s draft when hitting is our biggest weakness. You may say we’ll trade that young pitching for hitters but we haven’t exactly brought in any great hitters into our minor league system lately. We then took money we weren’t spending on guys like Heyward or Upton and signed an outfielder to a long-term deal who was past his prime and about to go under the knife. Markakis had a decent year but he can't hit for power anymore and his better days are far behind him.
We were told "The Braves Way" meant getting younger but we followed up trading some of our mid-20 stars by signing an aging catcher, several past-their-prime outfielders and a couple of scrap heap relief pitchers.
I didn’t expect to trade our number one minor league prospect, a good young pitcher and a few other players for a couple of scrubs and a 30-year old player with an injury history who is still NOT considered ready for the big leagues. That doesn't sound like "The Braves Way." I think Olivera will be our modern day Brad Komminsk. If you don’t know about Komminsk, he was supposed to be the next Dale Murphy. He wasn’t even as good as Eddie Murphy.
Mr. Malone, I have never met you and never heard a word from you about the team that has given me and millions of people around the country reasons to turn on the television or walk through the gates of Turner Field. I want to hear from you or John Coppolella or John Hart or Jon Schuerholz or anyone with the name “John” who is a Braves employee as to why we are basically tanking when kids like mine want to root so badly for this team.
We are being insulted as fans that the big deal surrounding this team is a new stadium. We don’t care. I don’t go to Braves games for the “fan experience.” I go to see a competitive team that will play its heart out for our city and I believe that most season-ticket holders will agree with me.
Somewhere there is a kid like me who needs another “13-game winning streak” to keep his self-esteem going during a difficult time. Somewhere a young Braves fan needs a run like in 1991 for some extra motivation to get him through a tumultuous time. Somewhere there is a kid who needs a CHAMPIONSHIP reminiscent of 1995 so that he doesn’t have to focus on all of the medical treatments he has ahead.
Thirty-three years ago I needed our Braves to get through my treatment-filled days. Today I believe that they need me and millions of others to stand by them and bring back the success that our fans deserve.
Thank you for your time. Please come to Turner Field sometime and witness firsthand the amount of empty seats and the number of fans wearing the visiting team's jerseys. It might be an eye-opening experience for you.
Please help us bring back a professional baseball franchise to Atlanta. If you can’t bring this kind of competitive unit to this city, I beg you to sell this team to someone locally who can.
I realize you need some type of stock in return but please consider the working man who spends a good percentage of his salary to attend games. Please consider the lifelong fans who have been watching games since before you were even born. And of course, please think about the kids who are learning baseball for the first time and need a local team to root for. Those are your future season-ticket holders.
They are a lot more important than a few pieces of paper to someone like yourself who honestly doesn't need the money.
It's time to scrap "The Braves Way" and change it to "The Atlanta Way."
We are all in this together.
Andy C. Lipman
Atlanta native & a Braves fan forever