How many managers' heads are going to roll?

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Donald Trump.jpgFormer Mets GM and current Sirius/XM radio host Jim Duquette tweeted something that caught my eye a few minutes ago:

Major League Scout – “Hearing more managerial
changes by the end of the month. Could be up to 10 changes by the end of
the season.”

Ten?  Really?  My reaction was the same as Duquette’s: Wow.  Duquette thinks that 3-5 firings by the end of the season is more reasonable. I think he’s right.

But just for fun, here’s my list of guys who, based on my gut, a hunch and some moderately informed approximatin’ have a decent-to-certain chance to find themselves out of a job come this fall, for whatever reason. Note: I’m being intentionally bearish on many of these guys just to see if I can get to ten:

  • Cito Gaston of the Blue Jays: Maybe he won’t be fired given how good the team is going, but there have been multiple indications that he’s going to retire after this season and that the team is just fine with that. Maybe everyone changes their mind about it if things continue to go well, though;

  • Dave Trembley of the Orioles: I was actually surprised he outlasted Trey Hillman;

  • Bob Geren of the Athletics: This is probably a longshot, but there was talk about it last year and things aren’t substantially better this year. The A’s tend not to make moves just to make moves;

  • Fredi Gonzalez of the Marlins: Matthew is going to have more on him at around 6PM Eastern, but for now it’s worth noting that he was on thin ice last winter. Can the Hanley Ramirez Hullabaloo work to his political advantage?

  • Jerry Manuel of the Mets: The Mets are obviously in dire shape. I mean really, they have the same record as the Red Sox for crying out loud!

  • Bobby Cox of the Braves: This is a retirement, not a firing obviously. Although if Nate McClouth and Melky Cabrera don’t start hitting Cox may end the season in handcuffs after he murders them both;

  • Lou Piniella of the Cubs: I think Sweet Lou will be allowed to see the season through and then retire.

  • John Russell of the Pirates: He hasn’t done anything offensive to baseball and nature or anything, but the Pirates may be operating their franchise under numerology principles. Since Jim Leyland left, they’ve had managers serve for two, four, and five years each. If they fire Russell, they’ll have a three to complete the set.

  • Ken Macha of the Brewers: It’s getting ugly in Milwaukee. And, as I mentioned yesterday, this is a team that fired their manager just before the playoffs.

  • Joe Torre of the Dodgers: This is all a function of how much of a headache he really gets on the behind the scenes stuff.  For all that gets written about it, I don’t think anyone besides Torre knows if he’ll come back for more. And even he may not know yet.

  • A.J. Hinch of the Diamondbacks: The bullpen is bad and you can only fire so many players. In a lot of ways Hinch’s hiring was a grand experiment. That experiment appears to be failing.

That makes 11, although (a) some of those are long shots; and (b) Gaston, Cox, Torre, Piniella and Torre wouldn’t be firings, technically speaking.

So, six firings. Seem reasonable to you?

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.

As reported earlier, 12 of their international signees are now free agents. 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. Other Braves’ International Baseball Operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

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

“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.”

Bae was expected to sign with the Braves and posted photos on social media with Braves gear.

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 who 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 the castle.