Scout’s Take: Tipping The Scales Of Justice

In our society the punishment should always fit the crime, but baseball is not like our society. It is only subject to the laws of our country when our leaders in Congress need to do an investigation that puts them on TV. So baseball, the commissioner that is, hands out punishment as both judge and jury.

The recent punishment handed down to the Atlanta Braves for infractions committed in the international market and also in the domestic draft, needed to be done. The people in the Braves’ organization who committed these violations need to be punished. They broke the rules dealing with signing players which allowed them to stock pile a boatload of top prospects. Players who had no chance of signing with other clubs. Very bad, but wow, what a punishment! Ok, so they had to give up every player they signed out of the Latin American market in 2016, a total of 12 prospects. They also lost all of the 11-plus million dollars they gave to those players who get to keep the money and are now free agents who can now sign with any team. The Braves also lost a pick in the third round of the domestic draft, etc. etc. etc. I’m surprised the Braves weren’t told they had to forfeit their first 20 games to start the 2018 season.

Fine, I think that is a fair punishment, but don’t feel sorry for the Braves. They lost prospects, not big league players. Atlanta is stocked with a minor league system that is busting at the seams with talent, (Hear that Mets fans?). They will put some ointment on this sore and get back to the business of building a contender in the NL East.

The part I cannot accept is the punishment handed down to former GM John Coppolella. MLB placed him on the permanently ineligible list, a fancy way of saying you are banned for life. Braves’ super scout Gordon Blakeley, who I believe was the driving force behind these shady deals, was only given a one-year suspension. You can rest assured he, like others in baseball, have been involved with this stuff for years. How do you think the Yankees got all those Latin American players when “the Boss,” George Steinbrenner, ran the show. Blakeley was a big influence on Coppolella from when they were both with the Yankees. Both men resigned from their roles with the Braves on Oct. 2nd, but that wasn’t good enough for Commissioner Rob Manfred. He in essence has taken away the 38 year old Coppolella’s ability to earn a living and provide for his family. Clearly the punishment here does not fit the crime. Coppolella is a magna cum laude graduate from Notre Dame who turned down big bucks to work in the corporate world to follow his dreams of working in Major League Baseball. Rising through the ranks from intern with the Yankees to GM of the Braves.

Since Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ death in 1944, Pete Rose is the only person, who banned by one of his successors, and has not been reinstated. While Mets’ pitcher Jenrry Mejia was permanently banned by Manfred in February 2016 for a third positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, he was eligible to apply for reinstatement this year. It smells like something is “rotten in Denmark” here. When a GM breaks the rules and pays out more money then he is allowed to and is banned for life, the scales of justice are clearly tipped in a way I can’t understand. Coppolella could have been given a 3 year suspension for what he did. This is more than sending a message to other teams and I believe it will become another black eye for baseball. Not because the Braves GM and scout broke the rules involving signing players, but because of the ridiculous punishment to a father, husband and in my case, a friend, who got his head chopped off for getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Have a happy, peaceful holiday season with your family Mr. Commissioner.

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