In his first public comments since being forced to resign as the Braves’ general manager and, eventually, permanently banned from Major League Baseball, John Coppolella issued a lengthy and apologetic statement to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The 38-year-old says that he has been “disgraced and humbled” and that he and his family have been “devastated and embarrassed by the repercussions of my actions.”
“Throughout my 20-year baseball career my singular focus has been to help make my team more successful,” says Coppolella. “I am heartbroken that in this case my conduct has done the opposite for the Atlanta Braves organization. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Coppolella goes on to apologize to the Braves organization, the Commissioner’s office, his former colleagues and peers throughout the industry and to Braves fans everywhere for the damage caused by his actions.
Those actions, of course, included significant circumvention of collectively bargained rules pertaining to both international amateur free agency and the annual June amateur draft. Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that his office’s investigation revealed that the Braves inflated their contract to a foreign professional in the 2015-16 offseason and then funneled some of that money to five players that were signed as international amateurs as a means of circumventing the international bonus pool system.
Had Atlanta signed the five amateur prospects for those full amounts, they’d have been barred from signing any player in the next year’s class for more than $300K. Instead, the Braves were able to spend aggressively on the 2016-17 class — netting well regarded names like Kevin Maitan and Abrahan Gutierrez — both of whom (along with 11 others) has since been declared a free agent by the league. Atlanta also inflated the bonuses of six additional players as a means of enticing prospect Robert Puason’s agent to agree to a deal in the 2019-20 signing period and offered Korean prospect Ji-hwan Bae “extra-contractual compensation,” per Manfred’s statement. The commissioner also noted that the Braves offered “impermissible benefits” in the amateur draft as well.
“I have learned the lesson of a lifetime, as my mistakes have cost me my dream job and my future in the game that I love,” Coppolella says near the end of his statements. “I hope that other people, regardless of their profession, use this as a cautionary tale when making their own business decisions.”