The Atlanta Braves recently forced out General Manager John Coppolella after he allegedly broke MLB rules regarding international signees. One of Coppolella’s assistants was also fired and several scouts and others in the organization are under scrutiny. Major League Baseball is investigating the violations, which are reported to be “unprecedented in scope.”
There’s more of this to watch, however, at least based on this story from Bill Shanks in the Macon Telegraph from over the weekend. It seems that, despite Copolella being forced out in infamy, the Braves offered him a severance package recently and Coppolella is considering a lawsuit:
Word is that Coppolella was offered a financial buyout of severance from the Braves and turned it down this past week and that he has hired an attorney with lawsuits possibly coming. I asked several scouts if they had ever heard of a fired executive being offered a severance, especially after being let go for these type allegations. All were amazed that Coppolella would be offered a financial package after being forced to resign.
Why on Earth would you offer a severance package to a guy who, according to the story currently being told, grossly violated the rules? A guy who, it is not unreasonable to assume, may have cost the Braves draft picks or already-signed prospects, depending on how MLB wants to handle it? More significantly: what possible legal action might Copolella have against the Braves if, as reported, he went rogue and ignored all manner of scouting and signing rules? Generally getting fired for cause disqualifies you from pulling the cord on whatever golden parachutes you were promised.
Without knowing any of the specifics of what happened with the Braves, it’s worth noting that this is not the first scandal involving international scouting practices in baseball. It is also worth noting that, when Coppolella stepped down, many folks on social media joked and speculated that, like NCAA violations and other institutional sports scandals, Coppolella wasn’t the first person to do the things he is accused of doing, just an unfortunate person who was caught doing them. There has always been an element of rule bending, rule breaking and an overall wild west thing about sports recruiting of any kind.
Maybe the report on the severance is wrong. Maybe Coppolella’s potential causes of action are just based on technical and benign employment contract matters. But against the backdrop of sports scandals as we’ve come to know them, part of me wonders if Copolella sees himself as a fall guy here, singled out for behavior that was either actively or tacitly validated by higher ups. Higher ups who, in the past, have been reported to have veto power on big decisions limiting Coppolella in ways that other general managers aren’t always limited. Higher ups who based on this report anyway, took the unusual step of offering a severance package to their disgraced executive. Not saying he’d be right to think that way — we have no idea what, say, John Hart or John Schuerholz knew about Coppolella’s activities — but people involved in scandal often point to the people above them on the org chart when the crap hits the fan.
Things that make you go hmmm. Things that make me want to continue watching this story very closely.
(h/t to Shaun from Atlanta Baseball Talk)