The sudden resignation of Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella on Monday due to alleged rules violations in scouting has rocked the baseball world. The Braves never really have gone through anything like this, even counting the John Rocker scandal almost 18 years ago.
The dysfunction within the Atlanta front office created a soap opera this season. While the Braves continued to promote young players and take significant strides in the rebuilding process on the field, the infrastructure of the organization was crumbling with infighting and continual conflicts.
Now, the Braves are without a general manager, and several other scouts remain in limbo. They are taking one step in regaining stability by bringing back Brian Snitker as manager, whose option will be picked up. The Braves will announce that soon.
The sad part about all of this was the turmoil was unnecessary. Coppolella created a great talent base for the future, but the methods with which he built that foundation obviously were not in the spirit of the heralded “Braves Way.”
Part of the problem is the lack of a leader. This organization has an absent ownership. Liberty Media treats the Braves as a piece of property gained in a land swap. Liberty executives barely have seen Braves games since taking over a decade ago.
There is no face of the franchise, no point man. Since Stan Kasten left after the 2003 season, there has been no accountability. It has been a roller-coaster, and including the tenure of former GM Frank Wren, a slow deterioration of the philosophies that once made the Braves special.
Instead, Liberty has allowed Terry McGuirk, a longtime Braves executive who is not considered a baseball man, to have the final say. He, in turn, gave John Hart and Coppolella keys to the car, which has now resulted in an embarrassing conflict.
Coppolella is gone, and Hart should be, too. Hart worked side-by-side with Coppolella throughout the past three years, so to think he had no knowledge of the alleged violations is unrealistic. Plus, Hart deserves equal blame in creating an unhealthy culture in the organization.
Hart’s respect with other executives and scouts eroded throughout the season. Instead of being a role model for Coppolella, Hart allowed Coppolella to run the organization and make changes at will. Many were amazed Hart could not get off the golf course long enough to make sure someone was there to watch over Coppolella.
Then, on Aug. 23, Hart lost respect of most in the clubhouse when he brow-beat Snitker for leaving in Jim Johnson against the Mariners. The players heard Hart’s abusive tone, and some even complained to other executives, as did some of Snitker’s coaches. Hart lost control about a managerial decision in a meaningless game in year three of a rebuilding process.
And now, this mess. The Braves could lose some international players involved in the allegations, and there are fears draft picks could be lost. Plus, an organization once thought to be the Tiffany franchise in baseball has been embarrassed unlike ever before.
Some have asked about John Schuerholz’s role in this. Well, Schuerholz just turned 77 on Sunday. While he was heavily involved in the planning for SunTrust Park, Schuerholz is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the club. That was all Hart and Coppolella.
There is only one answer to start the healing process. The Braves must turn to Dayton Moore, the current general manager of the Kansas City Royals who helped that franchise win a World Series in 2015.
Schuerholz must make one more significant move, and that is to convince McGuirk to select Moore to fix this. Moore worked for Schuerholz in Atlanta before leaving to run the Royals, and the story would be similar.
Schuerholz left Kansas City for Atlanta in 1990 when the Royals’ payroll was decreasing, and he inherited a great young nucleus. It’s happening again in Kansas City, as half of their lineup could leave via free agency this winter, and Moore would be getting one of the best farm systems in baseball in Atlanta.
Moore has tremendous respect in the game. He’s also loved by many who worked with him in the Atlanta organization when he ran the farm system and scouting, and no one else would regain credibility for the franchise. That’s what it needs right now — credibility, respect and stability.
Moore used many of the Schuerholz philosophies in Kansas City, and he slowly built a great franchise that appeared in two straight World Series. He’ll have a much better farm system in Atlanta if he comes, along with a much larger payroll.
The Braves will need to heal after this controversy calms down. They don’t just need an up-and-coming general manager or someone who Hart selects. They need Moore to fix what has been broken and take the talent base that has been created to the next level.
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