Monday, February 07, 2005

Not just Angelos?

Nats' arrival has Braves desperate to retain mid-Atlantic foothold, too?

VARTV, which is sort of like DCRTV, except with a "VA" instead of a "DC," has posted what looks like a joint press release from WRNL-AM (Atlanta's newest radio affiliate) and Atlanta Braves' management. Here's a snippet:

"We have a strong fan base in Richmond, partly from our association with the city through our Triple-A club, and we look forward to having them tune into Sportsradio 910 WRNL to catch all the action." said Derek Schiller, Atlanta Braves Senior Vice President of Sales and

[poor punctuation in original]

This has me wondering: Are the Braves nervous about the Nats, too? We all villify Peter Angelos for some disingenuous stunts regarding his "regional team," but maybe the Braves are starting to take a similar posture.

Consider: A couple of years ago, WRNL dropped the Richmond Braves' radio rights and attempted to sign up with the Atlanta Braves. The way the Richmond Times-Dispatch media columnist put it, indications were that the two parties had a done-deal---until, that is, Atlanta considered that the A-Braves would compete with the R-Braves (whom, through a rather unusual arrangement in today's baseball climate, the Atlanta organization actually owns and operates). Richmond's media rights had shifted to WXGI-AM, which subsequently became an ESPN Radio affiliate.

As a result, the A-Braves dropped out, and the Baltimore Orioles were suddenly on WRNL 150+ times a year, for three seasons.

And now, the A-Braves have finally put their footprint in the market.

This development has me thinking:

1. It's rather coincidental that 2005, the Nats' first year of existence just up the road, will mark the first time (at least in recent memory) that A-Braves' games have been on Richmond radio, don't you think? Just refer back to that quote above and let me know if you see anything noteworthy. Sounds sort of like Peter Angelos, doesn't it? This is an Atlanta Braves' market, the guy is essentially claiming.

2. Richmond's ballpark is really, really old (it dates way back to 1985), and Atlanta management has grumbled about that. In the past, I have argued(and attempted to support) that Richmond's a pretty nice minor league baseball market, "antiquated" stadium or not. That was four years ago, though, and attendance dipped some more since then. There have been rumbings around here that, if Richmond doesn't poney up for a neato downtown park, the A-Braves will send our R-Braves packing (maybe for Macon?). If there's no minor league team to supplant on local radio here, then Atlanta's footprint is established in a somewhat significant market---not a major one, of course, but approximately a Top 50 one with just over a million people.

Now, these two considerations are in some tension with each other, as you can tell. If the R-Braves become the M-Braves (or whatever), it would be reasonable to expect a backlash here; this has been the home to the Braves' Triple-A affiliate since 1966, after all. But if they do pack up, we'll have no team at all---unless the Nats were to move in, which would make a lot of sense.

And perhaps the Braves realize this and figure that killing their Triple-A affiliate's radio deal is a pretty small price to pay to remain relevant in the mid-Atlantic region.

Just a thought.

Yeah, if the Braves move their AAA club to Macon, I can pretty much guarantee our AAA club won't be in New Orleans for long.
Precisely, Yuda. And if the Braves go to Macon, Atlanta's lost yet more influence in the Carolinas and Virginia. (Remember, for instance, that Durham is no longer an affiliate, too.)

I could be overstating the worth of like the No. 56 media market (Richmond), but if you cede Richmond, maybe eventually you cede Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, etc. DC might be a little "northern" for the latter two (especially since maybe they're not "Redskins Country," what with the Panthers around), but Richmond is a pseudo-suburb of Richmond in some respects.
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