It’s about time Coppolella, Hart take ownership of Braves’ problems

Braves general manager John Coppolella talks on the phone before a game against the Washington Nationals on April 13, after outfielder Hector Olivera was placed on paid administrative leave by Major League Baseball following his arrest. (AP photo)

Braves general manager John Coppolella talks on the phone before a game against the Washington Nationals on April 13, after outfielder Hector Olivera was placed on paid administrative leave by Major League Baseball following his arrest on domestic violence charges. (AP photo)

This is how spineless sports executives do it when they’re trying to grease the skids for a firing.

Grumble in the shadows to local media members, and hope somebody bites. Second-guess every decision. Leak a juicy narrative to national media members (where somebody will always run with it). Throw out a job candidate for a job that doesn’t even exist yet.

The Braves aren’t merely a bad baseball team. It appears they also have lost their moral compass.

The latest: The Braves are “discussing whether to fire” manager Fredi Gonzalez, a “high-ranking Braves official” told USA Today. OK, that’s not exactly a newsflash. But the fact somebody in the organization would say that from the shadows speaks volumes about what has been going on in the Braves’ front offices. The publication also reported that former San Diego manager Bud Black “is considered the favorite if they hire a permanent manager,” which also repeats an old rumor.

The debate here isn’t whether the Braves are having a horrible season — they are — but rather what should have been expected. It has been an embarrassing year for the organization only because it was an embarrassing roster put together by first-year general manager John Coppolella and his quasi-mentor, John Hart.

Neither Coppolella nor Hart apparently have mirrors in their offices. Either that or they look in the other direction any time they walk past one.

So is this the “Braves way” now?

Coppolella and Hart have had a plan for two years to overhaul the roster, gut payroll, rebuild the minor-league system and attempt to lay a new foundation for the Braves’ future. That’s all fine. Really. I get the plan. It’s not brain surgery.

But there have been two problems. (Well, only two if you don’t count the Hector Olivera and Andrelton Simmons trades. For starters.). While Hart has been disingenuous about “travelling down parallel roads” — claiming the Braves would work to stay competitive while rebuilding (hah!) — Coppolella has been delusional about the team he has put together. He honestly believes this roster is better than that of a year ago. He can’t fathom why it’s not winning more, never mind that even the most devoted of Braves’ fans who believe in the makeover knew it wouldn’t win more.

Coppolella thinks this team should be better. A lot better. Never mind that the starting rotation is the worst in baseball. Never mind the array of flammable products in the bullpen. Never mind that any slight potential for improved offensive production in the every day lineup this season was submarined by Ender Inciarte’s hamstring injury (bad trend: he had one of those last season, too), and Freddie Freeman’s dreadful first three weeks, and Hector Olivera’s arrest (which isn’t to suggest he was a proven player before that), and A.J. Pierzynski’s market correction after hitting .300 at the age of 38 last season (currently: .222 at the age of 39). I could go on, but you get the point.

The Braves can’t hit (.228, 27th in majors). They can’t score (28th). They can’t pitch (4.69 ERA, 24th). They can’t field (22 errors, tied for second most).

But let’s blame the manager. Because it’s easy and convenient and the last thing team builders ever want to admit publicly is, “Hey, maybe this is our fault.”

They’re not 7-20 because they have a bad manager. They’re 7-20 because they have a bad team.

The Braves have already used 37 players this season. That includes 20 pitchers. We’re barely into May. Welcome to the land of opportunity.

I generally make it a policy not to address potential job candidates before a firing because I find the practice kind of classless. But I’m going to break that policy here because Black is linked with the latest Gonzalez firing rumors I mentioned above.

Black won two World Series rings, one as starting pitcher with Kansas City (1985), the other with the Los Angeles Angels as a pitching coach (2002). He was hired as manager in San Diego in 2007 and kept the job for nine years. He had two winning seasons. He never managed in the postseason.

Black’s cumulative nine-year record: 649-713 (.477).

Gonzalez’s cumulative 10-year record (six with Braves), even with the two-year franchise dump: 708-684 (.509).

Black almost was hired in Washington but apparently he overvalued himself in negotiations. “Insulted” by the Nationals’ offer, was the report. The going rate for managers with a .477 winning percentage must be higher than we thought.

The fact Gonzalez can’t fix this doesn’t make him a bad manager. It just makes him human.

Perhaps somebody in the front office should realize that and take ownership about what the real problems are.

Reader Comments 0

181 comments
lakejamescat
lakejamescat

@JeffSchultzAJC For the fans who lived through the 80s Braves it is insulting to hear them mention to fans to be patient. Please.

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

I said months and months and months ago that this team would be a 100% train wreck this year and they would lose 100+ games this year.  They may make a run at the 1962 Mets 120 losses.  This team stinks.  Hart and the baby GM are the REASON.  Big deal, they have the #1 minors of PROSPECTS!!!!  Prospects means:  I am in the minors and have not done a stinking thing in the Show yet.  Thousands of "prospects" are currently working at Taco Bell and Wendy's drive thru's.  They have all pitchers and no hitters and everyone are tying up their young guys early and are not into trading them.  They can get Mike Trout from the Angels and give up 35 or so of those prospects, making the Angels the #1 minors of prospects and the Braves down to 29th again.  But little would one hitter do.  This team ain't winning this year, they ain't winning in 2017 and they ain't winning in 2018.  I nearly cry when I think of the big bats they had in my first ML game way way way way way back in 1966 with Henry Aaron, Joe Torre, F. Alou, Mack Jones, etc.  That bunch could swing the lumber.  Very few can swing the lumber on this washed up bunch of nobodies.

GameBlausers
GameBlausers

 Meh. This article started off well, before plummeting down a cliff. Jeff, you're right that the front office needs to be decisive. But, your supporting details are wanting. I thought you would have been better than to list winning percentage numbers without giving any context.


At any rate, while it's hard to actually prove the effect that managers have on the game, I don't think Fredi does a good job at keeping guys loose and relaxed. Then again, maybe it's the losing talking. But, I can't help but look at unorthodox guys like Joe Maddon at the Cubs and Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City and wish we had someone unafraid to be creative or quirky. Then again, maybe it's their winning talking.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan


About time the local media are seeing the two Johns for the lying incompetent snakes they are

They have sabotaged the brand and blaiming someone else for it

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Yeah, Jeff opened his window and caught the breeze. Advice for those expecting forthright honesty from Executives: Don't hold your breath.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Get the Braves a couple of homerun hitters and a new manager.... they could go 42-40 in the second half. That only means that they can win the 60-65 games that was predicted for them before the season starts, otherwise, they can set a new MLB low for wins. Problem: Yeah! Where do you get 2 homerun hitters. The Braves management always set their sights on young pitchers and seldom go after power hitters. This team is the result of that thinking. If the Braves have the greatest pitcher in the world pitching for this team, the best he could hope for was to pitch a nothing to nothing tie. The Braves organization appears to be a farm team for other ML team's pitchers. The Braves get them, train them, then trade them for more prospects. A little far fetched? Probably! But, right now all fans are PO. If you are a Braves fan and love baseball, this team could change your thinking.

Wilbo
Wilbo

The people in the front office who should be taking ownership for a nearly 2 decade long run of pathetic failure are John Shurholtz and Bobby Cox. Those 2 jerks presided over a stupendously disgusting run of playoff collapses unparalleled in professional sport. The stench of failure that permeates the entire organization emanates first and foremost from these 2 losers, the only difference at present being the team now bows out of contention early as opposed to the Coxian and Shurholzian formula of choking like sick dogs in the heat of the postseason. The organizations sucks right down to its rotten core and no trimming of mid-level and/or lower level personnel is going to make any meaningful difference. 


I so hope this decrepit, cowardly, dishonest organization loses 330 games over the next three years. That would claim for the Atlanta Braves an incredible distinction of longterm impotence that they richly deserve, and will hopefully lead to them playing in a new but empty stadium for years.


The Braves suck in every possible way. Unmatched pathetic losers.

longtimebravesfan57
longtimebravesfan57

Great article! Fredi is a minor problem. Ownership and the Front Office are the ones who are really bringing the Braves down. Ownership only cares about making lots of money, and the Front Office is so obsessed with pitching prospects that they forgot you need hitting, especially power hitting, too. I've been a Braves fan since 1957, and I have never been so disappointed in the team, the Front Office and ownership.

richbrave
richbrave

Wasn't GM BOBBY COX in a similar strait in the late '80's, and became the bench manager to prove his point about the building process at the time?


Maybe I misunderstood the circumstances of the change, but from here it appeared the higher up's then told him to ante up or hit the road.


So when does COPPY own this rebuild by doing likewise?


Weasels usually burn a scapegoat. Last year that was FRANK WREN.


This year is it FREDDY GONZALEZ?


And after that? 


How long before the conflagration reaches JOHN MALONE's desk? Because it's obvious that's where the final decision on this makeover rests.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@richbrave  For this team to win with FG they need to call in a Louisiana Witch Doctor....kill a rooster and slaughter 2 goats as an offering to the baseball Gods. 

TampGator1
TampGator1

The Braves have Teheran, who is a big league 3rd or 4th starter due to his inconsistency.  They have Wisler, who seems to be getting it and could become a big time #1 starter in the bigs.  The kid (Blair??) they just brought up looks like he will develop into a #1 or #2 type starter in the future.  Folty has potential, but I see him as a set up man in the bullpen in the future.  Jenkins and some of the other talented pitchers currently in the minors look like they could become solid big league pitchers as well.  Vizciano is a big league closer, no doubt.  The new LH reliever looks really good.  The system has some solid arms coming up to work out of the pen as well.  Freeman is a solid IB.  Alibies or Swanson will make excellent major league infielders at shortstop or second base.  Ruiz looks to have potential at third base.  Smith and Inciarte look solid in the OF. If the Braves go out into the FA market next year and sign a power hitting right fielder and a solid catcher who can hit (or trade for one of the two), then this team has a bright future, I think, with Freddy or whomever as the manager (I would prefer the whomever).  If Liberty closes the bank on Coppy and the Braves do not hit the FA market hard this offseason, then the Braves management and their manager will continue to come under question by the AJC and the fans.  It is not hard to figure out. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

@TampGator1  A fair assessment of the pitching and future talent. The Braves will need a team like Cox managed for 14 seasons if they are going to win with FG. I have a feeling that Mister Ego(Cox) is itching to finish the season managing the Braves when FG is fired. That would be a real PR joke.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TideDawg @TampGator1 What are you going to do with Markakis, give him away? The guy led the team in hits last year and leads the team in hits and RBI this year. A real professional hitter and the guy is just a afterthought for too many Braves fans.Markakis is the most solid player on the Braves,but he gets little or no recognition for being on the team.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

I like Neck but he is a expendable piece.  He should be moved since he will not be around when this team is ready to compete again.  They also need to sell high on Incierte and Teheran.

aksports247
aksports247

@JeffSchultzAJC great article!!!! Ownership should take ownership I 100% agree!! This lineup is a joke this pitching staff is a joke!

Mark3570
Mark3570

Totally agree with the article. Face the facts, as long as Liberty Media owns the Braves they will be a second or third tier team.

B.Serious
B.Serious

Before I retired , the company I worked with reduced our staffing so much that we couldn't get the daily job duties accomplished no matter what mirrors we used.  Freddie G. has the same problems, not much for talent depth and no mirrors to hide the shortfall of first line personnel.  Freddie should have been gone last season-but wait...things will get better in the new stadium!

TideDawg
TideDawg

I don't always like what Schultz writes. As a matter of fact I seldom like what he writes, but I don't blame him....he's a writer. Writers don't care about what they write because they can change it tomorrow. What they really care about, and what their bosses care about is that people read what they write. If readers respond to what they write, negative, positive, or hostile they have accomplished their mission. Readers seldom respond to articles they like. They will respond to articles that rile them. If readers didn't respond Schultz would go crazy worrying about his job as a writer. However, if he continually trashed your team, your coach or your organization, I doubt if he would feel safe going into a sports bar. Selah!

Wilbo
Wilbo

@TideDawg Schultz is a totally useless, untalented pooh-butt. He suits the Braves perfectly.

teddymonds
teddymonds

"they also have lost their moral compass."


Could not agree more. The stadium column by Torpy this week -- detailing how they fleeced four communities for new ballparks, including Atlanta -- is the bigger issue than their shabby treatment of the manager. Then, after prying as much as they can out of the community, they field a cut-rate team, one of the worst in baseball. Disgraceful and not good neighbors.

TigerBullAU
TigerBullAU

@teddymonds If you read the biz chronicle it doesn't seem Cobb Co has been "fleeced"...Braves investing millions in development, real estate prices have increased, and billions in development unrelated since the announcement.  


The city being "fleeced" is Atlanta... after losing the Braves, they're now desperate and handing out taxpayer dollars for the Hawks after already giving $400M ($100M more than Cobb gave) to the Falcons for one building.... No additional development in an area of town that needs it so badly. 


mark513
mark513

Hey Schultz your war path with the Braves is so self evident you should put a disclaimer up before every article "I hate Liberty Media because I am liberal and people making 56 million dollars make me biased". Gonzalez should not be fired for this year, he should be fire for every year before now, when the incompetent Wren kept him on after the team collapsed twice in a three year span. Oh and the fact that he left his best closer in the bullpen when he had a chance to even up the Dodgers series. Gonzalez is a terrible manager who is not doing anything to help his ball club, having said that I would grant that current management is to be called into question until the results of their plan are put into place. Rebuilds take patience , I know in the world of instant patience has become an antiquated notion up there with buying a newspaper, but it is required. Wren built a fire dumpster of team that was incapable of winning and ignored the farm system the whole time. Instead of going another two to three years of not winning and not being close for another 5 there was a course correction. Give it time before you start bashing management, but god forbid you recognize the obvious Gonzales should have been fired years ago!

TheMikeEZ
TheMikeEZ

@JeffSchultzAJC point taken on the timing (looks bad) but ultimately the club needs new direction. Never should have given him the extension

Gman84
Gman84

By proposing a deck chair rearrangement on the Titanic management proves what most former fans suspected:

1) The tear-down went way too far

2) They think fans are completely stupid

3) Dr Frankenstien had a better plan for reassembly than these losers

4) while telling fans that patience is a virtue- they are in full panic mode

Fire whoever you want but this mess will still be a mess one month from now. We aren't interested in subsidizing this catastrophe regardless of who is manager.

bengoodfella
bengoodfella

@JeffSchultzAJC To be fair, we aren't two years into this rebuild. It really didn't start until after the 2014 season. So it's 1 full season

JeffSchultzAJC
JeffSchultzAJC

@bengoodfella Agree (notwithstanding some moves I disagree with). But then don't take it out on FG if you're preaching patience.

bengoodfella
bengoodfella

@JeffSchultzAJC The Simmons trade was the equivalent of the Chris Johnson contract for Coppy/Hart. We've seen what Fredi can do though.

bengoodfella
bengoodfella

@JeffSchultzAJC Patience with the rebuild is one thing but Fredi isn't new. You think Fredi is the guy to manage a rebuild?

colt07
colt07

This has as much to do with Kimbrell standing in the bullpen as the Braves were eliminated from the playoffs and historical melt downs at the end of a season as this horrific start this year. Fredi G could not manage in Miami and is only here because he and Bobby Cox are best buds and financial partners.

Now Coppy and Hart do bear a large part of responsibility for this disaster, but Fredi G could do much better. They deserve to be let go also, but without an owner there really is no accountability in the front office.

0.788861105409
0.788861105409

Jeff, how are you a sports writer with such a shallow knowledge of sports.  

Lawrence Raheem Felton
Lawrence Raheem Felton

All these clowns care for is a new stadium. ..... Stool pigeons will show up and all will be well\U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602

TideDawg
TideDawg

The Braves apparently have some great talent in AAA. They're there to improve their talent and learn how to win. They're winning in Gwinnett.....leave them there until FG is gone. Don't bring them into a losing situation where everybody is talking about losing and firing FG. Bring them up in Sept. when it is only a short time before the end of the season and the bad taste of losing won't linger. Two or three more kids won't help this team win, it could only destroy their confidence that's being developed in AAA. The only thing wrong with FG is, he doesn't know how to manage. I would venture a guess that he will never get another managerial job after he is fired. Get rid of FG and get Bobby Cox out of any decision making or influence in the Braves organization.

mitalia
mitalia

A change sooner rather than later would be more beneficial. I wouldn't make a change while Albies, Swanson, Ruiz, etc are already here. Fredi still has a lot to prove IMO. Bad decisions in the past have continued this year, and with the rotation finally taking shape with Teheren, Wisler, Blair, and the schedule about to get easier, Fredi has something to prove. Thie media leaks aren't a bad thing; it allows Fredi and the fans know his seat is getting hot. Personally, I'm glad for the leaks, because I'm not so confident in our manager outsmarting others in a 7 game series in which roster moves are magnified than over the course of 162. Fredi already admitted he doesn't like how he's been managing the bullpen, and there have been pinch hitting head scratchers so far this year too.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

It is going to be a long season in 2016, a 7-20 start and the Braves fans are howling for heads to roll.The front office is stupid and don't have a clue,they have traded all of our Superstars for a bunch of bums who can't play. Has it finally sunk  in that the Braves are in the tear down stage of the rebuilding of the roster. This Braves roster in 2016 has already had one overhaul since opening day ,and it is likely that the roster will be a revolving door the rest of 2016.But as more of the younger players in the system replace the retreads on the roster .the outlook for the Braves should be brighter.