Coppolella tired of being roasted, says, ‘We are not tanking’

Braves general manager John Coppolella continues to get criticized for trading Andrelton Simmons. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Braves general manager John Coppolella is in his first year of getting beat up publicly for trades that seem to make no sense to everybody else. So it figured at some point he would pop, and he did.

After several days of criticism from fans and media over trading shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, and then Simmons himself suggesting the Braves care more about dumping high salaried players than winning now, Coppolella denied the team is tanking today for the hope of a better future.

In an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale on the eve of today’s baseball quarterly owners meetings in Dallas, Coppolella said, “Trust me, we are not tanking.”

He also again denied rumors/speculation/reports that the team is shopping first baseman Freddie Freeman, saying: “I cannot make it any more clear: We are not trading Freddie Freeman. We are not. I’d give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It is not happening.”

So if the Braves deal Freeman this winter and Coppolella shows up the next day missing an arm, don’t say you weren’t warned.

“Tanking” is such an ugly word, but it’s a reality of sports. It suggests management intentionally strips down a roster so the team will lose a bunch of games, setting up the organization for a higher draft pick. Tanking also often includes stripping a roster of most veterans and replacing them with inexpensive young players and spare parts that no other team really want. Trading high-salaried players minimizes financial losses with the anticipation of drops in attendance, sponsorships and other sources of revenue (which all might be the case with the Braves next season).

Players don’t “tank” or lose intentionally because they have nothing to gain by it. They might, however, become so disenchanted with management’s approach to roster building that their enthusiasm wanes and it affects their on-field performance.

The Simmons’ deal made little sense for this reason: Even if Coppolella’s objective is to deal players with big contracts and continue to acquire pitching prospects, Simmons had salary control for the next five years. Also, his salary was not considered ridiculous for a player who most believe is the best shortstop in baseball. For that reason, of all the high-profile deals Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart have made in the past year and a half, the trades of Simmons and young left-handed pitcher Alex Wood (who’s making relative peanuts and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2020) made the least sense. Wood was dealt in a multi-player deal for Hector Olivera, who will be 33-years “in a few years,” to use Coppolella’s timeline.

The widespread belief is that Coppolella is trying to follow the blueprint of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, who were among the worst teams in the majors for years while they stocked the organizations with prospects. Both teams made the playoffs this past season.

Simmons also took some veiled shots at the Braves after the trade, saying, “I didn’t expect it but if you see what’s happening in Atlanta … you won’t be surprised when you hear it’s happening.” And then the knockdown punch: “I’m happy to be part of an organization that’s trying to win, win right now.”

There is no evidence the Braves are trying to win now. Coppolella all but admitted that when he told Nightengale, “If you want to take shots, or (degrade) us, fine. But let’s let it play out for a few years before we start branding our pitchforks and torches.”

“A few years,” he said.

I’ll translate: “Pay no attention to the product that will be on the field this season or maybe next season.”

Coppolella says that isn’t tanking. I call that semantics.

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Reader Comments 0

137 comments
CarverC
CarverC

Love what the Braves are doing.  At the end of 2016, there will be no more liabilities on their roster, and we have already done what took KC, HOU, CHC 5+ years to do. . . get the best farm system in baseball.  Also, the Braves will be better this year than last year.  Do you believe Freeman and Markaikis (health) will be better than last year?  Do you believe Peterson, Olivera, Wisler, Folty, Banuelos, etc. . . (experience) will be better than last year?  Do you believe with the return of Grilli and Johnson, along with the experience our young BP guys gained, the bullpen will be better?  I do, and I also realize our Def will be worse, but let's see what they can do.  Our payroll is lower, our farm system is way better, and we still have moves to make and money (i know it is not a lot) to spend.  We will need more hitter's in 2017 but we have the draft and international signing's this summer.  Be patient Braves Fans!!!

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

Coppy the Clown revealed his true clown-like nature when he lied and said the Braves were trying to win this year by trading Simmons because Aybar was a better hitter. That was the height of intellectual dishonesty, just like the two John Clowns lied last year when they said they were trying to win. No one with a straight face could say that they were improving the team by trading the best defensive shortstop in a generation for some washed-up never was named Aybar. Coppy lost all credibility with that asinine comment. He's a liar and a pathetic excuse for a GM. Worse than Frank Wren even. Trading the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie was a clown move and he robbed the braves' fans of the opportunity to watch Simba for the next 8 years. Simba will be in the HOF some day wearing an Angels uniform thanks to this idiot. I'm glad for Simba that he got away from this sorry corporate excuse of a franchise. The John Clowns must think us fans are really stupid and then to whine and cry for getting called out for making an absurd, loser trade is pathetic. He's pathetic. 

FSUNole
FSUNole

they don't deserve a new stadium..make them play in the gwinnett braves park..they might be able to fill it half way up..friggin bumbs

Jpace
Jpace

Mr. Coppolella might as well get accustomed to being roasted along with his bosses, the other two Johns and a Terry...and that's before we get to the absentee owners. The Braves are NOT "tanking"...they have already "tanked". What else would you call a free fall to next to the worst team in MLB. After basically forfeiting the 2015 and 2016 seasons, they are now beginning to hedge on being competitive by 2017. And, not to let AJC off the hook, you guys seem to be buying into the logic that the Braves are a small market and cash strapped team...which is more of a reflection of the won/lost record than the size of the market. We deserve better and are certainly deserving of an explanation by Braves senior management on how and why the team has fallen on such bad times. They are feeding you (and us) marketing pablum and you seem to be just passing it on with no reflection or tough questions. 

locdog
locdog

His attitude kind of reminds me of Billy Knight. 

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

Hey if the Braves want to fill their stadium there's a bunch of Syrian refugees that need a place to stay. But having to watch the Braves play would make them want to take their chances in Syria.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

Allard got another back surgery.  Yikes!

khd713
khd713

I've been saying for a while that the Braves have a major communications problem, and Coppolella's comments are more evidence of the same incompetence in this department. The Braves are doing a terrible job of explaining to the fans what is happening and why. They need to get their message straight and tell the truth about why they are making these moves. If they had just been straight up with the rationale from the beginning, I think most (but not all) fans would get it and would give them the benefit of the doubt to let this play out. But now I think it's too late. They've done too much damage already by not being forthcoming, and that is evidenced by all the backlash over the Simmons trade and other moves.

KFinGeorgia
KFinGeorgia

The clearest sign the Braves are tanking: they don't make trades for players. They make trades for "prospects."

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@KFinGeorgia

To be fair to Coppy ,he did get a MLB SS(Aybar) for Simmons in addition to the two pitching prospects. Now there is the question of how long the Braves will keep Aybar ,being that he is in the last year of his contract.

Moneyball
Moneyball

Hey Coppy, make sure that it says "Thursday" on your panties today.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I have yet to understand the trade for Olivera. From what I've seen of him he looks like another BJ(Melvin) Upton. I've heard (un-confirmed of course) that all of the Latin American baseball prospects lie about their ages (at least 2-3 years) so they will look more attractive to MLB teams. Forget about birth certificates, they can be purchased with whatever information you want on them.(Ex. Obama) With that in mind the Braves may have spent a fortune on a 33-35 year old Olivera. He's signed for 5 years, I believe. The Braves would keep him and let Freeman and Simmons go.....insane! Every Spring I used to get excited about the new baseball season.....this Spring I'm going to start getting excited about the college football season that starts in Sept.



Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TideDawg

No TideDawg the signing of Melvin was the worst move of the Wren Era by far. The Olivera trade is still an open question,give him at least this full season of play before judging him to be another Melvin.

It's funny that 3 years later the entire Melvin situation has come full circle with Michael Bourn coming back to the Braves.If only Wren would have re-signed Bourn instead of replacing him with Melvin ,he may still be employed by the Braves.Not sure if any of this re-build would be going on now,so i guess you can say Melvin was an Impact player for the Braves,his signing and poor performance is the major force behind the Braves tear down and rebuild.

kumon
kumon

The bottom line is that Coppolella and the Braves organization, think they are the smart ones and the fans don't know anything about trades.

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

Think is the opperative word. But sometimes the fans are right.

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

Keep it up Braves fans let them.hear you. I would love for a flash mob to take over one Braves game and just have like a 1000 people rush the stadium with signs and chants and to let these guys know we want better and we are tired of being disrespected

Jpace
Jpace

@Jetiredo  Great idea but we need to make sure to get a big enough group of people for the flash mob so that we won't be outnumbered by the players, coaches and the 234 other people who bloat the Braves organization.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

Agree with the comments down below about the GM's reaction. Changes this drastic over this prolonged a period will draw fire from some in the fan base.  


So praise the sports blogs and pass the ammunition.


What did Coppolella expect?  Hart, at least, isn't whining like a petulant child about it.  


Nice tan, by the way, Mr Hart.  Maybe this is an old picture.


I agree with your comment, Schultz, about semantics.  Tanking or just plain dismantling a team for the prospects, the results are the same.  And the on-field product for the near future will suffer for it.


And so will the fans, who will still pay full price for admission to the spectacle of Braves baseball and access to the amenities Braves World has to offer.


And as for that glorious day when all these prospects develop into stars?  We'll see I guess.  Wasn't Brad Komminsk the future of the Braves at one time; and Jeff Francoeur?  Nothing against either of those gentlemen.  But they're called prospects for a reason.



Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@CardiganBoy

Francoeur actually had a couple of decent seasons with the Braves,but he broke the cardinal rule .he had the gall to question Bobby Cox ,so he had to go.I guess we all forgot that marvelous trade in fact I cannot even remember the player Cox got for Frenchy.

BLowE12
BLowE12

One reason you will recieve criticism mr. Boy GM is because you seem not to know which way you want to go! On one hand you sign a veteran player in an attempt to win now, then you turn around not even a week later and trade away your best defensive player and try to do the same with one of you your pitchers as well.

When you appear to not know which way you want it that screams confusion!!

Columbus68
Columbus68

Liberty is running this as a business. That is their profession. They set up a stock deal or something too recently didnt they? They inherited this with CNN, TNT, TBS, etc. What do corporate types do before they sell? They cut payroll and expenses rock bottom to make it attractive to buyers.  They are about to sell for as much as they can pocket! Got much better deal and a new stadium lined up, people will come the first couple years no matter how bad Braves suck. Remember when they tried to sell to Aaron's group, etc? Price was too low cause stadium needed some rehab and upgrades, etc...after city would not pony up, they started getting rid of players and got a new stadium....they are gonna sell people. Do not be blindsided when it comes out...

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Columbus68

I doubt that Liberty is in a hurry to sell the Braves, why sell before the new Cobb Multiplex opens. They will continue to shed salaries if they can ,(Maybin, Swisher ,Bourn ,Teheran) and level the payroll in the $60 to $70 million range. This will minimize the loss in revenue in 2016(they will still make a profit) and reap a large increase in revenue in 2017 when the move to Cobb is complete. They will slowly add salary as the value of the team and their stock rises ,then they may finally sell the team around 2020 or later.By then the factor of the new stadium will start to fade and revenue will plateau, and then with their Carpetbags stuffed with the money from Cobb taxpayers and the profit from the sale ,Liberty will ride off in the sunset ,laughing all the way to the bank!

Jpace
Jpace

@Columbus68  We badly need an ownership change so I hope you are right. Liberty might also want to consider chopping the top out of the bloated structure of Braves top management...including the whining GM.

UGA75
UGA75

I purely hate to ever agree with Jeff about anything, usually he is as poor a sport writer as "The Chicken Coop" is a GM. However in this instance Mr. Schultz nailed the truth to the barn door, in every area, a first for him. The Braves couldn't compete above the AA level next year, Liberty Media found some allegedly corrupt Corrupt Commission Chairman in some county named Cobb, and now those county taxpayers are subsidizing said AA Club.


To deal in facts for a change, Mr. Lee is not a stupid man, there is no way he could have envisioned the Braves abandoning any efforts to produce a Major League Team when they move into the new Stadium. Mr. Lee is probably madder than hell about the current sell off of all but a single major league Player on the Braves Roster, but he played with the big boys and found out why they carry around a huge tub of Lube when dealing with County Commissioners, corrupt or honest. Maybe I'm naive and not a great business person, but since the businesses around the new Stadium were expecting the team to pull a lot of fans to their businesses, a really sorry product would seem to me that those businesses might not want to lease property on the Titanic. So maybe this is as stupid as we fans and even Mr. Schultz, think it might be. If that real estate goes bust, then the Braves might be at a high point at present. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

BetterDog
BetterDog


One of the downsides to this social media world is that people say too much.  Facebook, Twitter, Snapwhatever, etc.  When it comes to Atlanta sports teams I do no t want to see John Hart and John Coppololla on Sportsouth every night.  Do what you have to do and then take the heat like a man.  The Braves seem to have a money problem.  Too much Ugla, too much Melvin, etc.  Maybe the Cuban superstar from the Dodgers not looking so good.  The fire sale of players makes sense in a way if they already have doubts about their Cuban superstar.  Dear John Coppolella;  thin skinned leaders are not very effective.  Just look to Washington, D.C.

cmac22
cmac22

What a whiney crybaby!  You sure he is not a college student somewhere?  Somebody, please, SHUT HIM UP!

RichardIP
RichardIP

Put on your big-boy panties.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Do you actually think the cons and schysters at Liberty will turn down a chance to dump Freemans salary?Especially after the robust ticket sales next spring. Can you imagine working in the marketing dept for them. That'll be like selling tickets for the Titanic, after it sank.

JohnCL
JohnCL

The braves are building a farm system stocked with pitching talent. That means they will likely be uncompetitive for 2 yrs or so. That is not the same as intentionally losing in hopes of getting a high draft pick. That has almost never been alleged in baseball. This is not the NBA.... 

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

This just in. Freddie Freeman says, "I would give my right arm to be traded." 


Remember. All they had to do was bite the bullet and get rid of BJ Upton, Dan Uggla, and Fredi Gonzalez, find a new manager with the grit and intensity necessary to create a winning team culture (and avoid September swoons), and then work with the strong core that they had in place and make the Braves a top notch team. 


But, that would have been more expensive. And that concern is going to have a lot of sway over every thing in the coming years. As someone noted, what happens if one or two of these great prospects really pans out and starts demanding some real money. What then? Hasta la vista, baby.  


The Braves organization will be a very valuable franchise and the Liberty Media is going to have huge equity because of what they have into it vs. what it is now worth and going to be worth in the new stadium. They are selling stock, which includes the tax payer subsidized real estate deal, and between the baseball team and the real estate deal, the Braves will be a solid and strong profit performer generating a very large return on investment. Even if the Braves are cellar dwellers. Why would Liberty want to change that with risky deals on professional athletes? 

JohnCL
JohnCL

@Ficklefan  wrong. The minor league system was completely depleted of talent. This is unsustainable unless you are a team like the Yankees who are willing to just keep overpaying outbidding people at the major league level. The Braves don't have that luxury. They don't have the Yankees owners nor their TV contract and cash flow. They absolutely had to restock farm system if they want to create sustainable winning in the future.


Remember the Braves brain trust, once upon a time, built a team that won their division 14 yrs in a row. They are trying to get back to that level of consistency not just make the playoffs for a another season or two before the young guys are ready to get the big money.

I can't come to grips with the concept of putting less than your best on the field in the hopes of putting a better team on the field sometime in the future. There won't be any reduction in ticket, parking, or concession prices next year, huh? I guess I should be happy watching at least a half a major league game. Actually, I do wish them well in their new city. Just don't look for me there.

SupremeGrandPoobah
SupremeGrandPoobah

I guess it would have been too much for the team to have achieved gradual improvement over the coming years, rather than to totally gut the team.  Everyone knows they are too cheap to play our farm players once they become arbitration eligible or free agents.  They just trade them for more prospects (Heyward, Simmons, McCann, and on and on).  This new batch of gazillions of pitchers will only be here for a few years before they are shipped out for more prospects, and this mediocrity (or worse) will continue for many years to come.

Personally,I think there's a lot to be said for assembling and maintaining a core and tweaking it as needs arise (kind of like during the early 90s).  No reason to obliterate the team, and leave the fans and the players on the team with a sense of hopelessness.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Good work, Shultz.

I would like to so you pose one question in any form you wish that seeks an honest answer; use any analogy you choose:

"Will game and season ticket prices be adjusted to the product on the field?"  We both know the answer but I would enjoy the response regardless as this is a question right between the eyes. 

At the end of the day professional baseball is a bottom-line driven business and one should pay a reduced price for a reduced product, be it a watered-down baseball product or a watered down box of cereal.

Also, I find it interesting the stout reluctance to trade a person that isn't close to being the all-round best 1st baseman in the game while trading arguably the best defensive shortstop to ever play the game.  While perhaps not a great hitter, it isn't like he's the modern day version of Rafael Belliard!

rickzz
rickzz

Fair enough. I'll put down my pitchfork and torch and come back in a few years to see how it worked out.

Mark719
Mark719

Boo F-ing, Hoo, Coppy. You and John Hart have ruined this team for the fans. Give me a winner then I'll buy tickets.

LEWWHEEL
LEWWHEEL

So.........why did the Braves sign Markakis last year?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@SupremeGrandPoobah @LEWWHEEL  

Yes it was a odd move,signing a proven MLB player who played and produced for the Braves. If only the Braves could actually find a few more players like Markakis they could score some runs.

MiltonAJC
MiltonAJC

Bad news for Freddie Freeman... 

KG1100
KG1100

After the Braves were historically bad in the 2nd half of the season, heard the new GM interviewed on the radio. The changes to the team that the he continually focused on was improving the bullpen. Really! Expect no major changes except upgrading the bullpen.  Its not okay to put a product on the field that has the real possibility of losing a 100 games.  

DrTruth
DrTruth

@KG1100 I thought Coppy was Ambitious?? Upgrading the bullpen doesn't seem like he's setting the bar very high.  


Braves bullpen was #29 out of 30 in ERA last yr and were only 0.02 ERA from taking the bottom spot from the Rockies.  It's practically impossible to have a worse bullpen next season....

Carterev
Carterev

Clearly, front office insiders are stripping the team so that they can "load the boat" with that hot tracking stock at lower prices, that John Malone will be selling them.  All the Braves' action next year will take place on the stock exchanges and during Liberty Media's tax audit.

Harpie
Harpie

This guy is an a-hole of the highest magnitude. The Braves organization has zero respect for the fans. I am now resigning as an avid Braves fan of 30 years...

50Concept
50Concept

the billionaire owners make millions if the team sucks or not from all the media deals, naming rights, concessions, merchandise, ... plus all the millions the chumps up in cobb county govt will pay for the move!! cash in!!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Braves line up for opening night 2016:

Bourn CF

Aybar SS

Markakis RF

Freeman 1B

Olivera LF

Garcia 3B

Pyrzinski C

Peterson 2B 

Miller P


I am assuming Maybin will be traded to an American league team and have Swisher tied to the deal,to unload their salaries. Who knows this line up could score more than the 2015 Braves ,but it would be hard for any team to score any fewer runs than the 2015 Braves did.