Atlanta Braves modeling themselves after Green Bay Packers?


The Atlanta Braves are rebuilding via stockpiling draft picks and other assets. Are they drawing influence from outside the MLB in the NFL’s Green Bay Packers?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Michael Cunningham wrote an article published Christmas Day about comparing the Atlanta Braves’ current rebuilding process to how one of the best and most consistent franchises in the NFL in the Green Bay Packers.

For the Atlanta Braves to get back on top in baseball, having not advanced in the postseason since the 2001 NLCS, the Atlanta front office should think outside of the box and draw influence from other successful professional sports franchises.

Cunningham compares Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s drafting strategies to what Atlanta Braves president of baseball operations John Hart and general manager John Coppolella are doing in stockpiling high-end assets.

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Since 2009 Green Bay has had an NFL-best 109 draft selections. Part of what makes Green Bay so successful is the internal culture that the Packers have created within their organization. Rarely will Thompson look to acquire players via free agency, unless it is the absolute right scheme and culture fit (i.e. pass rusher Julius Peppers, formerly of the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears).

Since last winter the Atlanta Braves have acquired 25 prospects through trade to help bolster their farm system. These transactions in large part have elevated the once barren Atlanta Braves farm system to one of the best in baseball in a matter of months. Sure, this has hurt the Major League product on the field, but the future does look bright in Atlanta.

Where this professional sports analogy between the Atlanta Braves and the Green Bay Packers ends is in how the organizations choose to acquire their players. Since football doesn’t have a minor league system, Green Bay only wants players to come into its organization in day one by being drafted by the Green Packers. The Atlanta Braves will look to obtain players that were once in other Major League farm systems. Green Bay also conducts most if its business through draft day trades. Atlanta is always looking to make a move to improve its baseball team.

Perhaps the Braves Way can find a new source of inspiration in how Thompson runs the Packers front office. Since acquiring quarterback Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons in the early 1990s, the Green Bay Packers have been the most relevant football team in the NFC, meaning they haven’t been bad since before 1993.

The Braves Way probably does have its own trade secrets in a way that the Packers’ culture does. Atlanta fielded a competitive team annually from 1991 to 2014. What Hart and Coppolella do realize is that winning cultures stem from drafting well and through strong player development programs, not through poaching a stud from a non-contending team at the MLB Trade Deadline or overpaying for a former All-Star in free agency.

Though there are similarities to what the Green Bay Packers do under Thompson and what the Atlanta Braves are doing under Hart and Coppolella, Atlanta is by far more willing to bring in another team’s former high draft pick into the Braves’ farm system than Green Bay is to trade for a young player on another team. Atlanta trades for Minor Leaguers and sometimes draft picks. Green Bay only wants draft picks.

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These are two completely different games in football and baseball, but winning is a panacea. The Green Bay Packers have done a ton of winning over the last 25 years. So have the Atlanta Braves, but at least during this time of rebuilding, we can feel assured that the Braves organization is taking a pragmatic approach to making their team a contender once again. If the Packers’ cultural identity and player development program resonates on the baseball diamond in Atlanta, so be it; Green Bay is a great model of consistency and above all: winning.