Greg Maddux needles Mets, offers wisdom, will be missed

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Prior to Mets-Braves last night, Greg Maduxhad
his number 31 retired at Turner Field. And after a nice ceremony,
Maddux concluded his remarks with this gem: “Let’s beat the Mets …
like old times.” Who knew that Greg Maddux was funny? Even as a Mets
fan, that slayed me. And his matter-of-fact delivery just forces you to
nod your head begrudgingly in agreement.

Later, in an interview with WPIX’s Kevin Burkhardt,
Maddux was asked about setting hitters up. Within his answer, he noted
that he “still had to play to a hitter’s strengths in order to keep
their weaknesses.” Loved that, and not just because it sounds like
something you might hear Phil Jacksonsay. It goes in
line with the stories that Maddux purposefully threw (what appeared to
be) meatball changeups to hitters, but placed them just far enough
inside so they’d pull them foul.

Maddux will be most remembered for his whiffleball movement,
ready-to-field-the-position delivery, and masterful precision. But
here’s three more underrated things that stick out and make him unique:

  1. In the 90’s, just about everyone had switched to the solid color
    sock, and some guys had brought back the knee-high look. But Maddux
    always had his pants stop right below his calf so there were like 6-8
    inches of sock before his shoe. And when stirrups went out of fashion,
    he still wore those white socks that had the colored line stitched in.
    The problem was, if you wore low-tops, the stitch ended before the
    cleat started and solid white showed at the bottom. Fashion disaster. I
    guess you can wear whatever you want when your ERA is like a 1.50.
  2. He despised pitching to Braves catcher Javy Lopez,
    and eventually had his own personal catcher. So even though Lopez was
    one of the better hitting catchers in baseball at that time, Bobby Cox would have to pencil in the likes of Charlie O’Brien and Eddie Perez every five days.
  3. When
    he wasn’t pitching, there was a 50-50 chance that if the television
    cameras shot him on the bench, he was picking his nose. It probably
    only happened a few times, but those few images are burned into my
    brain. And this was before Joe Torre perfected it.

Maddux will be missed.

Finally, now that Maddux has his number retired by both the Cubs
and the Braves, here’s the list of players who have been honored by
multiple clubs:

  • Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros, Rangers)
  • Rod Carew (Twins, Angels)
  • Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees)
  • Carlton Fisk (White Sox, Red Sox)
  • Frank Robinson (Orioles, Reds)
  • Rollie Fingers (A’s, Brewers)
  • Hank Aaron (Braves, Brewers)
  • Casey Stengel (Mets, Yankees)

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.