As we posted last night, the Atlanta Braves have been granted the 2020 All-Star Game. Today the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s story on it all contains a humdinger of a quote from Commissioner Rob Manfred on the matter:
“You want to be in a situation where you know in 2021 who is going to be here, who’s going to be running the club . . . There is no better-managed organization in baseball than the Braves. It’s been true for a very long time, and it makes it a lot easier for us to give them an event.”
“A very long time” must not stretch back farther than nineteen months, because that was when a huge scandal — which came out of the blue, with zero warning whatsoever — rocked the Braves front office in the form of GM John Coppolella’s forced resignation as a result of the club’s serious violations of international signing rules. Before then, Coppolella had been under fire for disregarding MLB rules against tampering with players on other teams, cutting pre-draft deals with amateur players and reportedly, poor treatment of Braves employees. Along with Coppolella the Braves fired the head of international scouting, Gordon Blakeley. Coppolella was banned permanently by Major League Baseball and Blakeley was suspended for a year.
“Hey Craig, you’re being unfair! It was just a couple of bad apples! There was stability above them!”
Oh, you mean like former GM and then president of baseball operations John Hart who soon “stepped down” in what was clearly him being nudged out of power in the wake of Coppolella’s disgrace after it was reported that he and boss John Schuerholz were at odds about how to move forward? You’re right, those are the hallmarks of the “best managed organization in baseball.”
“Craig, stop it. That is in the past. The Braves are on stable footing now and the future is bright!”
OK, sure. You know what else is in the past? This report from the Washington Post — from a whole week in the past — in which it was revealed that the Braves are one of a handful of teams involved in a Department of Justice investigation of MLB activities in Latin America and that they were recently served with a subpoena. Based on my professional experience with such matters, I would bet a pretty decent sum that the subpoena is informed by someone who used to work for the Braves telling the feds what to look for and that that someone is looking to exculpate themselves from responsibility as much as possible by tarring others, rightly or wrongly. Which is to say that the current best-managed organization in baseball probably has some managers in various places who are sweating and probably should be.
Rob Manfred is happy to know who will be running the Braves in 2021, but the 2021 All-Star Game is farther away in time than the Coppolella scandal is in the rear-view mirror. In the meantime, there is a federal criminal investigation going on which involves the Braves deeply and for which they were reportedly just served a subpoena. You can say a lot of things about how the Braves are run and how they’re doing now, some good, some bad, but to suggest that “There is no better-managed organization in baseball than the Braves. It’s been true for a very long time” is simply laughable.
In light of all of that, what is Manfred actually praising here? What is he referring to when he’s talking about the club’s allegedly excellent management? My suspicion is that he’s thinking of the part of its management that has been wildly successful in advancing baseball’s non-game financial interests via (a) snagging massively subsidized stadiums at the major league, minor league and spring training levels; and (b) transforming the team into a lucrative real estate company. That model — maximizing revenues from new sources that are not sharable with players — is showing the way for others to follow and is generating the bulk of Major League Baseball’s revenue spike of recent years.
It’s fantastic for the ownership class, that’s for sure. And I suspect it played a huge part in rewarding the Braves with the All-Star Game. But please, Rob, spare us the high praise of the management of the Atlanta Braves when the Braves are still being punished for massive malfeasance and the current guys are still cleaning up messes that are less than two years old.