SUNDAY: Hart may not be innocent in this matter, Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph reports in a piece that’s worth reading in full. He “knew everything,” according to two scouts who spoke with Shanks, with one source saying that “(Hart) is just as guilty as Coppy. He helped create this mess by letting Coppy do what he wanted to do.” If true, Hart could be on his way out of Atlanta. His contract is set to expire after the World Series, when the league is likely to announce the results of an investigation that continues to see allegations pour in, per Shanks. MLB investigators have not spoken with Hart, Shanks writes, but they have interviewed Coppolella multiple times, including at his house, and Blakely, among other past and current Braves employees. The league could also talk with some of the Braves’ international scouts, Shanks adds. Even after his resignation, the Braves offered Coppolella a severance package – a move that “amazed” several scouts, Shanks relays – but he rejected it and has hired an attorney, which could suggest that lawsuits are forthcoming.
THURSDAY: The investigation into apparent international signing violations by the Braves has already claimed the jobs of GM John Coppolella and special assistant Gordon Blakely, but the investigation is still ongoing. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has a lengthy update (subscription required and recommended) on the matter, citing sources that tell him the team’s “violations are unprecedented in scope.”
Even as the Atlanta organization weighs its next steps, which will necessarily include a replacement for Coppolella and others, the league continues to dig. There’s no evidence to this point that president of baseball operations John Hart had knowledge or involvement in the transgressions, per Rosenthal, though he also hasn’t yet had his sit-down with investigators.
Whether or not the matter can be traced higher than Coppolella will obviously play a role in the ultimate punishment. That said, Rosenthal emphasizes that commissioner Rob Manfred could potentially also cite lack of “oversight” or “institutional control” over the now-deposed GM. Of course, it’s not as if Coppolella was just a rogue, lower-level employee; he was entrusted with significant decision-making authority and was the face of the front office to the public.
We heard earlier today that former Braves exec and current Royals GM Dayton Moore is not expected to depart for Atlanta — a possibility that many have cited as a potential out for the Braves, but one that might require the departure of Hart (as well as interest from Moore and permission by Kansas City). And based upon Rosenthal’s report, it seems the expectation is that Hart will continue to lead the charge in finding a new GM and overseeing a broader realignment of internal personnel.
Timelines on all of these threads — the league investigation, hiring of a GM, and assessment and actions on current Braves employees — are not yet known. There are a few weeks yet to go before the organization will begin making key offseason decisions, and the continued presence of Hart would presumably help with continuity. Still, it’s obviously imperative for the Braves that they receive and deal with the punishment that’s expected while lining things up for a hectic offseason to come.
Just what kinds of sanctions might be anticipated? Per Rosenthal, “a substantial fine, a loss of prospects and restrictions on the Braves’ participation in the international market” are all on the table. The devil here is in the details, of course, as that slate of possible demerits could either be relatively light or rather compelling, depending upon how extensively applied.
Broadly speaking, we still don’t know how all of this will turn out. And it’s far from clear that the Braves will be fully diverted from their course — which, the organization hoped, would soon reach a stage of contending. But it’s also not yet apparent just how president John Schuerholz or the corporate ownership at Liberty Media feel about things. And given the evident severity of the misdeeds committed, it certainly seems as if further internal turmoil can be anticipated before the team is ready again to return its sole focus to the on-field product.