ATLANTA — John Coppolella spent the past three years engineering a massive rebuilding effort that has positioned the Braves to enter the next few seasons with a strong sense of optimism. Unfortunately, some of his actions in the course of that rebuild denied him a chance to reap the benefits of his endeavors.
Coppolella was forced to resign from his position as the Braves general manager on Monday, after an MLB investigation found proof of significant international market infractions. Gordon Blakeley, who served as Coppolella’s mentor during their days with the Yankees, was also forced to vacate his role as a special assistant in charge of the Braves’ international scouting efforts.
“[Initially] we didn’t think there was really anything to it,” Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. “As we went into the last 72 hours, I think in their investigation, they dug up a lot of things that were quite serious, as far as the MLB rules. Because of what they did dig up and what they did have, I think it sort of drove us into this spot we’re in now.
“I can speak for everybody with the Braves, we’re deeply disappointed. But again, we’ve cooperated. This is the Atlanta Braves. There is a certain standard that you just live up to.”
Because this is an ongoing investigation, Hart was limited in what he was permitted to say and Coppolella could not comment.
Coppolella had been with the Braves through the end of the regular season, but when the investigation accelerated he was required to take an unplanned flight from Miami to Atlanta on Saturday. His resignation ends a tenure that began late in the 2015 season, when he was named Atlanta’s GM. He had spent the previous year essentially filling the role that had been vacated in Sept. 2014, when Frank Wren was dismissed.
“I have high regards for Coppy and that is never going to change,” Hart said. “I love his family. Again, it’s deeply disappointing that we kind of came to this point. At some point, maybe we go deeper. But I’m just saddened for him and his family.”
Hart will handle the GM duties until the Braves find Coppolella’s replacement. Along with having to decide the fates of manager Brian Snitker and the team’s coaches, he’ll have to begin planning for what comes next.
While it’s unclear when the infractions were committed, the Braves made a huge splash when they signed Kevin Maitan and four of MLBPipeline.com’s other top 30 prospects that were available to be signed on the 2016 international market.
There have been some indications that this violation may have been found when a previous investigation into what was possibly an unrelated matter led investigators to stumble upon these significant infractions.
“I don’t know what [MLB’s] original focus was,” Hart said. “They informed us they had become aware of some issues and we immediately made it clear we’d do whatever we could to help. Again, over the past 72 hours, you could feel a different kind of a tone.”
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.