It’s probably very easy to come to this conclusion after what we’ve heard about for the past 24 hours concerning the franchise and the scandal that has erupted, but it’s still an astute conclusion — the Braves front office is an absolute mess right now. However, you could make an argument that it’s been a mess for a pretty long time now.
Now, I’m not talking about the various personnel moves — you can read about those in another post. I think we can all agree that baseball execs will always make mistakes when it comes to acquiring and trading away players and Coppolella made his fair share of mistakes during his time here. He also helped build what is considered an elite farm system in a relative blink of an eye, so we have to keep that in mind.
Still, there were plenty of missteps along the way that really should have raised red flags, but either we ignored them or dismissed the complaints as being sour. Really, we should have at least given all of the moments that I’m about to mention a really strong People’s Eyebrow, because they were signs that things were not all well at the top of the franchise.
Fredi Gonzalez was basically fired via e-mail
This was something that a lot of us glossed over due to the fact that nearly the entire fanbase was having a celebration when it happened, but it was still a shady situation. The Braves made the right decision in moving on from Fredi Gonzalez, but the way they went about doing it was still shady. If you’re going to relieve someone of their duties, you better make sure you do it to their face first instead of having the person figure it out via e-mail.
They forgot the rules with Emilio Bonifacio
You could argue that we should’ve known that all was not well with the Braves when they gave Emilio Bonifacio significant amounts of playing time for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but that’s beside the point. The point here is that if you’re in the front office, you’ve got to know all of the rules — from the obvious to the obscure. The lack of rule knowledge bit the Braves in the butt for a game in 2016 against the Cubs. This is Jeff Schultz’s take on it (and the title of the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is also an interesting bit of foreshadowing).
It was amateur hour a few weeks ago: Gonzalez was forced to manage a game with the roster one man short after Coppolella attempted to call up the released/then re-signed Emilio Bonifacio, only to realize just hours before a game that he wasn’t eligible because it hadn’t been 30 days since he originally was released.
It’s an obscure rule. But GMs get paid to know obscure rules.
The whole Dian Toscano mystery
Remember this fella? There’s always a sense of intrigue and mystery when it comes to signing players from Cuba, but Dian Toscano was so unknown that there were still legit doubts that the man was an actual person until he actually showed up for spring training one year. They signed him to a four-year deal in 2015 with an option for 2019. Visa issues kept him out of actual games until 2016, and he was traded a few months afterwards and is now out of baseball. Who was the scout responsible for bringing him in?
Gordon Blakeley, a special assistant to the general manager who heads Atlanta's international scouting efforts, evaluated Toscano on multiple occasions before this agreement was reached.
Micah Johnson found out he was “sent down” on Twitter
This is another example of the team just going about their business in a weird manner. Earlier this season, word spread on Twitter that Micah Johnson was being designated for assignment. That was news to Micah Johnson, who reacted on Twitter with an understandable sense of bewilderment.
What made it even weirder is that the Braves then decided that they weren’t DFA’ing Johnson and that there an “internal miscommunication” contributed to the botched announcement. Simply put, well-oiled organizations don’t make mistakes like that! This was basically a combination of the Fredi Gonzalez firing and the ignorance concerning the rules with Emilio Bonifacio.
The situation with the dugout managers
Whether you want Brian Snitker to return to the dugout for 2018 or not, you have to admit that this was still an awkward position for Snitker to be in. He went from being an interim manager in 2016 to basically managing for his job for the entirety of 2017 due to the option that the team had on his contract.
That’s especially awkward when the team he was given was not one that was built for that type of situation. It makes sense if you’re going to do it for a team that’s tanking and maybe even for a team that’s putting all of their eggs in one basket in an effort to slide through the championship window before it closes. You don’t do that to a manager of a team that’s still clearly in rebuilding mode.
Plus, apparently there’s been a rift between the “Old Guard” and the front office when it comes to the managerial situation for years now. Even going back to the days of Frank Wren, apparently he got the gate partly due to the fact that he wanted to fire Fredi Gonzalez. Bobby Cox wanted to keep Fredi around, so guess who won out?
I'm hearing what some other folks have speculated with #braves: Wren wanted Fredi Gonzalez out, and Bobby Cox pushed to keep him.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) September 22, 2014
Fast forward to the present-day, and guess what? There were rumors that Coppolella and John Hart wanted to oust Brian Snitker, but Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz wanted to keep Snitker. It’s the same story, but a different time. It’s fortunate for Snitker that he’s probably going to keep his job, but this is no way to handle your managerial situation.
Too many cooks spoiling the pot
That brings me to the ultimate point — even with a new General Manager coming in, are we really 100 percent sure that the General Manager is going to be the one who has the final say in what happens? Or will it be Cox, Schuerholz, Hart, or anybody else who happens to have the ear of the right person at the right time?
There should be a clear and concise idea of who’s running this franchise. If you take a look at every successful team in baseball right now, you know exactly who’s calling the shots up top and everybody knows their role and sticks to it. That is the type of stability that the Braves sorely need.
We don’t need a shadow group from the past calling the shots from the background and meddling when they aren’t needed. We don’t need to be hearing about any type of power struggles in the future. Let the people who have been hired to do the baseball work actually do the baseball work without any type of interference.
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I’ve gone on for a bit too long now, but those are just a few of the weird situations that made you scratch your head over the past few seasons, but they were moments that we were willing to overlook because the farm system was in such good shape. But right now, all the warts are out there in the open for the Braves as a franchise right now, and it’s a nasty sight to see.
There’s been plenty of talk about how if the Braves are going to return to being a consistent contender like they were for most of the past two decades, they’d have to go back to “The Braves Way.” To be honest, it seems like this “new” way of doing things — basically running a baseball organization in the shadiest way possible — is the actual “Braves Way.”
They’d better figure out a new way to run things, though. This may be good enough to rebuild a farm system, but it’ll be untenable in the long run.