Bill Shanks

Hart never held to accountability for Braves scandal

John Hart is the former Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations.
John Hart is the former Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations. AP

There he was Thursday morning sitting on the couch of the MLB Network morning show. It was like nothing had ever happened. It was like he was being honored for his baseball career, when he really should instead be held accountable for the worse scandal in Braves history.

John Hart is back on television. He jumped back on the sofa, spewing out his baseball knowledge as a former baseball executive. Most believed when he left the Braves in November he’d wind back up on MLB Network, acting like he was the king of all baseball.

People in the Braves organization just laugh when they talk about Hart being back on TV. They won’t go on the record. Maybe someday someone will talk about what exactly Hart knew last year, when the Braves were up to no good and a MLB investigation resulted in severe penalties.

Of course, Hart never was held accountable. It’s my belief he was forced out of his job as an executive with the Braves, even though the team didn’t have the guts to say he was fired. He was protected by his good friend, team chairman Terry McGuirk.

Yes, I’m angry with Hart. It’s mainly because of what I’ve heard in the last year about how he conducted business with the Braves. He had a million-dollar salary (some say $2 million, some say $3 million), but he was not always around. Golf was his priority, not making sure an eager young executive under Hart’s watch was not taking advantage of the system.

John Coppolella paid the ultimate price for the scandal. He’s banned from baseball for life, and it’s probably warranted. However, word is if he had just been more forthright with the MLB office (i.e. told them what others did and what others know), his penalty might not have been so severe.

The Braves did what many teams in baseball do – they stretched the rules of international scouting. But they flaunted it and got caught. They were careless, almost brazen with their behavior acting like, “If everybody does it, we’ll do it, too.”

And they got caught. They got punished. They were shamed.

McGuirk recently met with reporters from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and acted like this was all Coppolella, calling him a “cancer.” There was no talk from McGuirk about Hart, no accountability whatsoever for the man in charge of the entire baseball operation.

It’s a joke. Braves scouts and personnel said last fall Hart knew what was going on, and some even believe McGuirk wasn’t exactly in the dark as much as he lets on. How could those decisions be made, with the money that was being spent, without Hart and McGuirk knowing about it?

The Braves love their image, and they are trying to escape this discussion and just move on. They want you to think this was just one bad guy. They want you to think their perfect imperial palace had only one infection. But from what many whispered over the past year, this was an organization completely out of control and without solid leadership.

Yet, the man in charge of it all got off free and clean. Hart has never really answered questions about his involvement in the scandal. He’s still wearing his dapper clothes and looking like he’s a great baseball executive.

If the talk is true, about how Hart and Coppolella edged out Hall of Famer John Schuerholz to carry on their shenanigans, that’s sickening. And with Hart berating manager Brian Snitker after a meaningless game last August, we know how he treated people. It was so bad that night in the clubhouse Nick Markakis reportedly wanted to fight him.

And yet, no one can ask Hart what he knew about the scandal. He told Braves people last fall he knew nothing that Coppolella was up to, but if that’s true, why not? What kind of executive is that? No one bought his story, by the way.

Thankfully, the Braves have moved on. They have a new man in charge, Alex Anthopoulos, even though Teflon McGuirk is suspiciously still bulletproof. As long as Liberty Media, the Braves owner, doesn’t have to be involved, they will have their token executive hanging around.

And Hart will still be on that sofa talking baseball on MLB Network, like he did nothing. You just wonder if more information will eventually come out to make even MLB embarrassed he’s on their payroll.

Maybe as long as he’s no longer on the Braves payroll, we just shouldn’t even care anymore.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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