The Atlanta Braves have known for a while that Major League Baseball was considering hefty penalties for scouting indiscretions. We now know what those are.
The news dropped late Tuesday afternoon that the MLB Front Office dropped that axe on the Atlanta Braves organization. From declaring 13 Minor League players automatic Free Agents to banning former General Manager John Coppolella for life, the message was clear: We’re going to make an example of you.
For those who are unfamiliar with this whole kerfuffle, it all centers around how the Braves sought after and managed to sign players from the International Market. Naturally, there are fairly stringent rules that govern this process so as to not run afoul of things like child labor laws and international commerce.
It had been alleged, and now found, that Coppolella, and the Atlanta Braves organization, flouted those rules by hiding money, and moving money around, so they could give players more than the allotted $300K. The complaint from Braves fans, once the investigation was announced, was that everybody did this. And they are right. Other folks from other organizations have said so openly. Boston got hit with the same sanctions just a couple of years ago.
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But now we know that the punishment for Atlanta far exceeds any given previously to another MLB franchise. In short, 13 Minor League players lost, including Kevin Maitan and others who are already looking like stars in Rookie Ball, a serious restriction on Atlanta moving forward with signing any international players until 2022, the former Director of International Scouting gets a 1 year suspension, and the former GM gets banned for life. It is unprecedented.
There will be some who will brush this away, and point to the talent not affected by this school-house reprimand. They will say that Atlanta still has a 3-5 year window to be competitive and get things right. And they also would be correct, in my opinion. All is not lost.
But there is no washing away the stench of this messy saga. This hurts our beloved Braves and makes the job for new GM Alex Anthopoulos exponentially more difficult. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say that, if Anthopoulos can steer Atlanta out of this storm, and get them in competitive Division races in the next few years, he deserves adulation with the likes of Schuerholz and Cox. That’s how bad this thing was today.
Atlanta Braves fans are fiercely loyal and love this team. They will stick by them and show up for them. But this reconstruction, that has been ugly at times, just got harder, and uglier.
It is possible to admit that and still be hopeful for the future. But there is much hard work ahead, and the margin for error in future decision making just got a lot smaller.
This is a day that will be remembered in Atlanta Sports history. Let’s hope there will be other days ahead that will shade this in the background.