Rob Manfred seems to have forgotten who John Coppolella is

Doubleheaders seven innings
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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.


Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.