Before the incredible run of the 1990’s, there was the 1980’s. For the back half of that decade, the Atlanta Braves were a bad team.
Starting in 1985 and running through 1990, the team finished in 5th place twice and 6th place four times among the National Leagues Western Division members (realignment took place in 1994).
The best of those teams was the 1986 squad, which lost “only” 89 games… and still finished last.
In the midst of all that was Dale Murphy – a Braves from 1976 until mid-1990 when he was traded to Philadelphia.
It was those mid-80’s clubs that were bad despite Murphy’s play. It was 1982-83 in which he won the league’s MVP awards, but he continued to produce at a high level for multiple years after that:
1982: .281 BA / .885 OPS
1983: .302 BA / .933 OPS
1984: .290 / .919
1985: .300 / .927
1986: .265 / .824
1987: .295 / .997
1984 emerged later as having been a key year – this was when Peter Ueberroth became the Commissioner of baseball and effectively told the MLB owners that they needed to change their tactics over player negotiations.
Shortly after being elected commissioner in 1984, Peter Ueberroth addressed the owners at a meeting in St. Louis. Ueberroth called the owners “damned dumb” for being willing to lose millions of dollars in order to win a World Series.
Later, at a separate meeting with the general managers in Tarpon Springs, Florida, Ueberroth said that it was “not smart” to sign long-term contracts. The message was obvious—hold down salaries by any means necessary. It later emerged that the owners agreed to keep contracts down to three years for position players and two for pitchers.
This was the beginning of Collusion. Roster sizes were reduced after the 1985 season. Many of the free agents were not getting offers. A grievance was filed, but nothing changed at that point.