A little over five years ago, Braves fans were hit with a bombshell that nobody saw coming. The organization was caught illegally distributing money to international prospects, which Major League Baseball reacted harshly to. The Braves were forced to release 12 prospects they had signed, and they were restricted from signing international players for the next two years. Atlanta’s GM at the time, John Coppolella, was also handed a lifetime ban from the game.
A few weeks after Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision, Coppolella released a statement:
“To those in the baseball industry, including employees of the Braves and other organizations who feel I was in any way disrespectful or dishonest, I apologize,” Coppolella said in a 2017 statement, via The Athletic. “To the Commissioner’s Office, who spent many extra hours dealing with such an unfortunate situation, please accept my apology. To the Braves fans and to those in the front office who supported me throughout my time as a General Manager, please know that I understand and accept your anger and frustration. To my family, who has stood by my side through this entire ordeal, I love you so much and I am sorry for the pain my actions have caused you.
“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. I hope that other people, regardless of their profession, use this as a cautionary tale when making their own business decisions. I have been disgraced and humbled, and I will strive for the rest of my life to live honorably so that this is not my defining moment.”
The Braves and John Coppolella were caught cheating. For that, there should always be consequences, but they are far from the first organization to participate in such under-the-table deals with international prospects, and they won’t be the last. Cheating has been a part of the game of baseball for decades, and while it isn’t right, it generally isn’t met with such harsh consequences. I’ll never understand why Coppolella was handed a lifetime ban for his wrongdoings. Meanwhile, members of the Astros organization were given a slap on the wrist for their participation in the 2017 scandal.
A lifetime ban was always a ridiculous punishment for Coppolella, and it looks as if Major League Baseball finally sees it that way as well. Jayson Stark of The Athletic is reporting the league has reinstated the estranged former GM of the Braves.
“We can confirm that Mr. Coppolella has been reinstated, given the more than five years he spent on the ineligible list, the contrition he expressed and the other steps he took in response to this matter,” the league said regarding Coppolella’s standing on the ineligible list.
I’m happy to see this decision from Major League Baseball. Coppolella deserved to be punished, fired even, but banning him from the game for life was a ridiculous decision. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he will ever get another opportunity with an MLB organization, but his work for the Braves will never be forgotten. Alex Anthopoulos was able to successfully push this group to the finish line, but Coppolella is responsible for the bones of this organization. Without him, the Braves would never have won the 2021 World Series, and they wouldn’t be eyeing their sixth straight NL East title.
Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire
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