Braves’ Olivera says suspension ‘justified,’ determined to return

The Braves will soon have to decide whether to bring back Hector Olivera, whose 82-game suspension under baseball's domestic violence policy ends Aug. 1. Olivera is playing for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

The Braves will soon have to decide whether to bring back Hector Olivera, whose 82-game suspension under baseball’s domestic-violence policy ends Aug. 1. Olivera is playing for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

It was a year ago this week when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Hector Olivera to the Braves for a package that included pitcher Alex Wood and prospect Jose Peraza. That this decision came just two and a half months (and 19 minor-league games) after the Dodgers won a bidding war for Olivera’s services — effectively meaning the organization was eating a $28 million signing bonus — likely meant one of two things:

• They discovered a serious flaw in Olivera’s game.

• They discovered a serious flaw in Olivera’s character.

At this point, we can’t be certain which is true. Possibly both. But the Braves, who are on the hook for another $28 million in salary through the 2020 season, will have a decision to make soon on what to do with Olivera, who is facing domestic-violence charges in Virginia and will be coming off an 82-game suspension after Aug. 1.

If the Braves hold on to Olivera, it’s only because they owe him a lot of money, not because he has proved anything as a major league player, and general manager John Coppolella is determined to make the worst decision of his early tenure look not so awful.

My view on domestic violence is the same as most non-neanderthals: zero tolerance. But in any legal situation, if a person has suffered the consequences of his actions and is considered free to earn a living, I don’t have a problem with that. The complicating factor here is Olivera’s next court appearance for a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in April during a Braves’ road trip has been pushed back to Sept. 8. That comes on the off day after the Braves finish a three-game series in Washington, likely not a coincidence.

Olivera spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday since beginning a rehabilitation assignment in the minors. He appeared contrite and answered all of the questions in an exclusive interview with the Journal-Constitution. While he couldn’t get into specific details about his case, he said, “I regret everything that happened and, yes, I do feel remorseful. Like I said previously, I just want to thank the organization for the second opportunity they’re giving me, and I want to make the most of it.”

He said the 82-game suspension “was justified.”

When asked if the incident should be considered telling of his character, Olivera said: “No. It was something totally out of the ordinary. I take a lot of pride in the person I am, and I take a lot of pride in helping my teammates, my family and other people. So for me, it was not something that was a part of my personality.

“I made a mistake. I’m serving my suspension. Now all I can do is grow from it, help out with community service and try to improve as a person.”

Some fans no doubt believe Olivera should be released. What would he say to those people? “I would say to them, ‘We’re all humans. We all make mistakes. I made a mistake. I’ve owned up to it and accepted full responsibility for it.'”

We judge people by their actions, not words. Olivera has much to prove on and off the field. He was hitting .211 (4-for-19) before the suspension. He was hitting .150 (3-for-20) with Gwinnett before Tuesday’s game.

Following is the transcript of a 17-minute interview, with the assistance of Braves interpreter Franco Garcia:

Question: Where are you at physically after the long layoff?

Answer: I feel good. I feel I was able to prepare adequately in Orlando. But with that being said, I just want to thank the organization for allowing me to come back and I’m very excited and emotional to get back and help the team any way I can.

Q: What were you doing to try to keep in shape with everything going on around you?

A: I was grateful for the support from the organization, John Hart and John Coppolella especially, during the time that I was off, getting the proper training staff so I could keep a normal baseball routine. So I’m thankful for that. I’m regretful for the way everything went down, everything that happened, but I’m just happy to be out here.

Q: Where are you at today mentally?

A: I feel great. I feel stronger. It was an opportunity to come through some adversity so I feel even stronger as an athlete and I feel like I’m a better person now?

Q: Why do you feel like a better person?

A: I’m just trying to make the best of the situation. It’s a real educational process. I’m just learning from the whole situation and it’s been a way for me to acclimate myself to the community here in the United States.

Q: I know you can’t get into specifics about your case, but what do you feel about what happened – remorse, shame, embarrassment?

A: I regret everything that happened and, yes, I do feel remorseful. Like I said previously, I just want to thank the organization for the second opportunity they’re giving me and I want to make the most of it.

Q: What was your reaction to the suspension?

A: I wasn’t given any special treatment. I just accepted it for what it was. I assumed I would be suspended obviously. I just embraced and accepted it.

Q: Was an 82-game suspension justified?

A: I accepted the suspension, and it was justified.

Q: In your view, was the incident telling of your character?

A: No. It was something totally out of the ordinary. I take a lot of pride in the person I am and I take a lot of pride in helping my teammates, my family and other people. So for me, it was not something that was a part of my personality.

Q: Most people have zero tolerance when it comes to domestic violence. Do you understand that?

A: I’m completely in agreement with that on domestic violence. I made a mistake. I’m serving my suspension. Now all I can do is grow from it, help out with community service and try to improve as a person. I feel I’ve done that so far with this experience. I want to play baseball and I want to contribute but I also want to continue to contribute to the community and improve myself as a person.

Q: I’m sure there are people who believe the Braves should release you and not bring you back at all. What would you say to them?

A: I would say to them, “We’re all humans. We all make mistakes. I made a mistake. I’ve owned up to it and accepted full responsibility for it.” As far as the Braves and me going our separate ways, I have no control over that. I’m just trying to do my part. I’m just trying to fulfill my responsibilities, working out, doing what I have to do.

Q: Can you be specific about the community service or other things you’ve done during the suspension?

A: I’ve done some events with kids and with my teammates. I went to a few classes regarding domestic violence, learning more and more about it. I went to about nine classes over a month or so. I also plan to do more speaking and to get involved with some organizations and donate time and money to raise awareness about domestic violence.

Q: If the Braves make the decision to bring you back, do you believe there’s damage you need to overcome with teammates?

A: Obviously I need to apologize to them for everything I put them through and take responsibility for my actions. Like I said, I regret what happened. I can’t apologize enough to my teammates and hopefully I can re-establish some of the good of the relationship I had with them.

Q: What was your family’s reaction, either here or back in Cuba?

A: My family was very supportive of me. They knew I made a mistake. Hopefully I can continue to improve as a person and move forward, move past this.

Q: What have the Braves told you about the future?

A: All I know is we’re focusing on getting through Aug. 1 and then we’ll be in communication.

Q: Do you remain confident you can be a successful major league hitter and player?

A: I do. The Braves have invested a lot of time and effort in me. I want to repay that in any way I can.

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26 comments
JS84
JS84

This kind of nonsense is why I quit reading Jeff Schultz' word soup "articles" a long time ago. Dude has absolutely no clue what he's talking about.


In response to the claim made in the first portion of the article which concluded the Dodgers only traded him because they either discovered a major flaw in Olivera's game and/or character ...

I'll go with a third option: it was because they got a very, very good lefty pitcher and the Braves' top prospect at the time and thus believed the trade would improve their team.

In response to his claim that the ONLY reason the Braves would hold onto him is because they owe him a lot of money ...

Perhaps the primary reason is he's very talented and likely gives us a better chance to win baseball games once he's adjusted. His poor performance in the bigs last year was largely due to only a very short stint in the minors after coming to America, an injury and then a very short minor league rehab stint before coming up.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@JS84 Or maybe his poor performance is because he just really isn't that good.  LA didn't eat a $28 Million signing bonus without it having something to do with Olivera, not just the Braves offer.

This entire f'd up deal is a case study on why MLB GM's should never pay $32 Million + a starting pitcher + a #1 prospect for a 30-year old Cuban defector who has never seen a major league pitch.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@JS84 Yeah, you really quit reading Jeff Schultz a long time ago.  That's why you're here, right?


blevins1491
blevins1491

Gotta be honest here, since most ATL sports journalists are so polite.  Frank Wren caught holy hell, and deservedly so, for his misguided, big $$$ acquisitions of busts like Uggla, Kawakami, Hampton, the Uptons, Lowe, and others.  If Olivera is also a bust, which sure seems likely, Coppy/Hart should be held accountable too.  What a huge blunder.

JS84
JS84

@blevins1491 Schuerholtz acquired Hampton. Justin Upton was an extremely good trade. BJ's SIGNING was awful, but we got Justin for peanuts and he dominated throughout his time here. 

blevins1491
blevins1491

@JS84 @blevins1491 We'll agree to disagree on Justin.  Yes, his ATL numbers were better than the crumbs we're getting from outfielders this year, but I wouldn't call it domination. His defense was average at best, and for some reason, everywhere he goes, his team underachieves.  

DawgNole
DawgNole

@blevins1491

The Braves have spent big bucks alright--they've just spent them stupidly.

kste224488k
kste224488k

Didn't he lead the team in hitting this spring training? Hitting around .400 for most of it, he got off to an awful start when the real season began,.but I say give him another chance..I don't think he had any homers but many doubles, dating back to last year's Ab's...I think the power for 15-25 HR is still there and he's in great shape supposedly..hope he starts tearing the cover off the ball, and can improve the big club. We've all made mistakes..he paid with his suspension..he may pay even more criminally speaking, do after all is said and done..I'll hold nothing against him..I'm not perfect and neither is he, obviously...let's see what happens next..a year from now ..any and all questions should be answered by then

JS84
JS84

@DrTruth @kste224488k When you haven't played baseball in months and haven't even had access to team activities to keep you prepared, you're GOING to struggle. Good grief .. why do my fellow Braves fans have to be such dunces? They've all come out of their inbred family shacks this season.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@JS84  At least I'm not the one who looks like D0uchebag of the Year....Where do you keep your trophy?

PSU92
PSU92

If memory serves, Bobby Cox had the police called on him for domestic violence against his wife and he got a 2nd chance.

Joe in Co
Joe in Co

It's a privilege to play the game and he'll always have a huge uphill battle with the fans, but I say let him play when the legal side of things gets worked out. My guess is that we'll find out he isn't much of a ballplayer after all. 

monty1
monty1

He's owned up to it.  That's good. Unlike all the sexual predator doctors who keep getting the benefit of the doubt even after repeated incidents. Unbelievable.

UGA76
UGA76

August 1st put him in the lineup every day and see what he can do in the major leagues.  Atlanta's office is so bad that he is worth the gamble.  He should get 200-250 at bats and then make a decision. 

ftc300
ftc300

Give this man a chance to hit at the major league level . Our hitting is awful. Put him in left field and give him 4 ABs a game thru the end of this season. We gave up a lot to get him and he should receive a fair chance to earn his roster spot or lose it. He also deserves a 2nd chance to show that he can conduct himself as a gentleman and professional. Braves front office and Braves Nation judge not least you be judged

TOJacket
TOJacket

Needs to start slapping the ball around the park and not his girlfriends.

FineSwine
FineSwine

So we are left with a 32 YO rookie with a weak bat, and average (I'm being generous here) defensive skills.  But he does talk a good game (or at least his translator does).  With those credentials, he could be in this lineup for years...

DrTruth
DrTruth

Is he filled with enough remorse to give back $28 Million?

DawgNole
DawgNole

He seems to be saying all the right things, but those paltry batting averages before and after the suspension are glaring.

kste224488k
kste224488k

Didn't he lead the team in hitting this spring training? Hitting around .400 for most of it, he got off to an awful start when the real season began,.but I say give him another chance..I don't think he had any homers but many doubles, dating back to last year's Ab's...I think the power for 15-25 HR is still there and he's in great shape supposedly..hope he starts tearing the cover off the ball, and can improve the big club. We've all made mistakes..he paid with his suspension..he may pay even more criminally speaking, do after all is said and done..I'll hold nothing against him..I'm not perfect and neither is he, obviously...let's see what happens next..a year from now any lingering questions should have well been answered.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@kste224488k

Let's see, which games matter--spring training or "the real season"?

I hope he works out, too--as I noted, he seems to be saying the right things--but those pathetic batting averages scream pretty loudly right now.