Coppolella

Knockahoma Prospectus: A Knucklehead’s guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves.

If you’re a casual fan like I once was, then the start of the new baseball season is often simultaneously exciting and confusing. You may have been paying attention to a whole bunch of other crap that was more important to you at the time. If you’re from Braves country you might have been chasing the Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide fighting for the College Football National Championship. Maybe you were watching the Falcons break your heart, or the Jags nearly pulling off an NFL miracle, not to mention those of you who are college football fans watching the coaching carousel fiascos.

The point is, I get it. I know what it’s like to suddenly tune back into baseball and not have a clue what is going on. Add in the fact that the Braves have had arguably the weirdest winter in the team’s history, and it’s quite a bit to take in. I thought it might be helpful to give you a fast review of all the things you might have missed. So without further adieu, I give you…

A Knucklehead’s Guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves.

First let’s recap the offseason.

John Coppolella quit. He got into a metric crap-ton of trouble and he resigned as GM. Oh yeah, he’s also now banned from baseball for life.

  Let’s keep it simple and say 

– He cheated.

– So did everyone else.

– He cheated and didn’t hide it.

– He wasn’t very good with leading people.

– MLB needed an example, they made one.

The basics: he bundled contracts of not so good international players and funneled that money to better players so they would sign with the Braves to get around rules that say you can only spend so much on international bonuses. This is a set of really ignorant rules that MLB has in place to keep teams from paying players what they are actually worth. That being said, rules are rules and Coppy and his team broke them.

The results: The Braves get smashed by MLB and 13 Braves prospects become free agents and sign with other teams. The only one you probably knew is Kevin Maitan. He’s now an Anaheim Angel (like half of the former Braves players and prospects, seriously they are like “Braves West” now).

The Braves also can’t sign any international prospects for a few years (there’s more details, but you probably don’t care, and if you do there are better articles for that).

Braves keep all their really good prospects other than Maitan. Including OF Drew Waters (it was about 50/50 on him going away there for a while).

Ok, so now we’re past that Crap storm.

Oops, wait, no we aren’t. In the midst of all that, John Hart (VP of Baseball Ops) appoints himself as decision maker and signs Snitker to a one year deal as well as firing half the coaches under Snit (Pendleton and Perez – fortunately they stayed with the organization), while hiring several new faces (Walt Weiss and Eric Young, Sr to name a couple).

But wait, it gets better. Then the Braves hire Alex Anthopoulos (AA) to come be the new General Manager. This was a great hire. He comes from winning teams and understands baseball. But here’s the kicker:, John Hart then rides off into the sunset (Anthopoulos probably kicked his butt out) scott-freaking-free. In fact, last week MLB hired him to return as an anchor on MLB tonight. So the guy who oversaw the greatest scandal in the past 20 years of baseball gets off without any accountability whatsoever. Ain’t baseball grand?

Ok, so back to the team.

Anthopoulos. Really smart. Basically Coppolella with hair and personality.  They even sound the same (it’s freaking weird).

AA pulls a rabbit straight out of his butt and trades Matt Kemp and his giant gut and colossal contract to the Dodgers for Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson and Adrian Gonzalez’s colossal contract. Simply shipping Kemp is a feat in and of itself, but back to LA makes it even more hysterical.

Before you get all excited about names… Gonzalez (who has been atrocious the last few years) was immediately cut loose by the Braves as part of the deal. Kazmir, while once terrific, is coming back from a few years of significant injuries, and McCarthy (who had a great year last year) is a bit of an injury concern himself, having only pitched in about 17 games last year. Long story short, there is some good potential here for quality players, but the best part of the deal was dumping Kemp’s contract, bad hamstrings, and apocalyptic defense.

Next – Addition by subtraction.

These guys are all gone now…

Matt Kemp – Gone.

Matt Adams – Gone. The Braves didn’t sign him back because he has no place to play. (NO, he can’t play outfield or ANY position other than first base and that position is taken.)

Adonis Garcia – Gone. A-dong-is wanted to play in Korea. HE GONE.

R.A. Dickey – Gone. Retired.

Jim Johnson – Gone. Traded to the Angels for Justin Kelly and the rest of the Braves 2017-2018 Int’l bonus pool funds.

Jason Motte – Gone. Braves only had him on a 1 year deal, he’s back with the Cardinals now.

Jace Peterson – Gone. Non-tendered. Signed a minor league deal with the Yankees with an invite to Spring Training.

Ian Krol – Gone. Non-tendered. Signed a minor league deal with the Angels with an invite to Spring Training.

The Braves didn’t do anything.

Well that’s what fans will be telling you anyway.

– They didn’t sign a big name 3B (No Todd Frazier or Mike Moustakas). They didn’t sign a big name pitcher (No Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta). They didn’t sign a big name LF (No JD Martinez, Corey Dickerson, or Adam Duvall).

– Looks like they aren’t spending any more money. (lots of possible reasons, but this ain’t the time or the place – read Boggy’s 2-part article right here for more info).

– They did add some bench pieces like Charlie Culberson (Dansby’s Doppelgänger), and Preston Tucker, but these are mostly bench and depth moves.

What does that mean?

Johan Camargo is going to be playing 3B – most likely.

Nick Markakis is going to be playing RF – most likely.

– MLB’s #1 Prospect, Ronald Acuña will be playing LF (after April 13th) – most likely.

What does all of THAT mean?

– Well, it means ATL isn’t going much over $100M in payroll despite what they said last year.

– It means Camargo is going to get a real shot to show what he has.

– It means the Braves don’t have a ton of power.

This last point is the one everyone is going to harp on, and they probably should. The Braves have one guy projected to hit more than 20 HRs – Freddie Freeman. This team is going to be an on-base dependent team. They’ll pop a home run or two (and maybe more than people think), but for the most part, they’re going to have to play a bit of old school baseball; get them on, get them over, get them home. Fortunately, nearly the entire team has speed and should be fun to watch.

What to watch for in 2018.

Across MLB:

Well, they changed some rules, nothing too major (thankfully), but they did limit coaching/catcher visits to the mound per game, and the amount of time in between innings, let’s see if it speeds things up or not.  

The Twins added a bunch of talent in the off-season, as did the Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton is now a Yankee). The Red Sox signed JD Martinez to try to keep up. The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani (famous pitcher/hitter from Japan) sweepstakes. Oh, and if you tuned out before the playoffs, the Washington Nationals STILL have not won a playoff series in team history.

What to watch for on the Braves:

YOUNG PITCHING.

There’s going to be a ton of it. Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, AJ Minter, Akeel Morris.  All names that you’re going to be hearing this year. The talent is starting to make it to the majors and it’s going to be legit. Also, there’s a name or two you may see disappear if they don’t figure things out. I’m looking at you Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler (but for now they’re still trying to make a go of it and Blair lost 40 lbs over the winter).

YOUNG HITTING.

Oh you thought the Braves only had arms… sorry they have MOARRRR HITTERZZZ.

Ozzie Albies

Dansby Swanson

Johan Camargo (5 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs in 87 ABs in the 2017/18 Dominican Winter League)

Ronald Acuña. Acuña, baseball’s #1 prospect, is going to explode on the scene this year and he’s full of piss, vinegar, and a whole lot of swagger. You might not like him if you like your players to act like a stoic member of the Queen’s guard.

At the end of the day, this team is going to be fun and fast. They may be bad at times, they may be really good at times. However, most of this year is going to ride on their ability to pitch.

Watch for how Snitker develops the young kids (he’s spent his whole life doing just that), and look for the kids that truly surprise at the Major League level.

Now that you’ve read a knucklehead’s guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves, you know enough to be horribly dangerous when talking Braves baseball with your friends. If you have questions feel free to ask them in the comments and I will fill in any gaps that I can. Chop on!

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The Long Dark.

It was a dark day when they came for them. The screams heard across the nation were heart wrenching. Hopes and dreams shattering in a moment. Looking back, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, perhaps it was worse.

The colors of the fall had set in fully. The long days of summer slowly trumpeting their retreat. The summer had been challenging, as most are in the sweet plains of Georgia in recent years. The boys had fought bravely, but still were found licking their wounds from the battles that seemed to never end on those late sunsets in the brutal southern heat. The ground that had been gained over the last few years was slow and tedious, but the future seemed bright.

Then came the Fall.

It seems Fall always bring bad news. I guess it should be expected. The trimming back of the fruitfulness of the harvest. The first hints of beautiful color, sending a foreboding warning that barrenness will soon cover the land. They say hindsight is 20/20, but even now I don’t see how we could have seen it coming. You never expect those dearest to you to fall so far, so fast. When our general suddenly withdrew from battle it was a blow to the morale of all the force, and as expected weak links were quickly exposed. Optimism was rich in many, in spite of the fear that gnawed at the hearts of the faithful, while some quickly drew sabres and cast blame. Who could blame them? I certainly had no idea that the outsiders would take back so much ground so quickly.

But alas, that is how the gods operate. Fickle as they may be, always protective of their beloved and always critical of the outsiders. Fearful that someone might usurp their tedious balance of power. As quickly as they had struck down the general, they set about stripping away all of his glorious works. First one cornerstone and then the next, as they gradually unbuilt the perfectly hewn masterworks of the architect they so despised.

Needless to say, the general had opened the door for this. Otherwise, the people would have revolted against the gods. However, the gods can play in the fields of a man’s heart, so long as man gives him the open door. The general believed in few closed doors.

Following his fall, the winter came quick. Icy polar blasts dropped down from the northern reaches. Darkness swallowing up the day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Fifteen of our men would fall to the cold icy blackness. The screams from that day I’ll never forget. It was as if a child was torn from the arms of mothers, obsequious fathers watching as their babes were cast out and sent to live with other homes, never again to see the lights of the fires of home.  

The darkness was all consuming. All encompassing. It stole your very soul, it’s icy tendrils ripping away at the fortitude of the most well built of places like the violence of time etched in the walls of the pyramids. With the cornerstones of the edifice removed, the buildings cracked and crumbled and questions from the faithful turned to the obsessions of mad men. 

One brief fire illuminated the men with a momentary breath of hope. Or was it hate? Seeing men turn on the shipping out of the wounded, no matter their exorbitant costs, shown a dark light on the desperation of the camp. Survival was becoming the heartbeat, all other motivations found secondary to being free of this weight of darkness.

Seeking semblance of normalcy, some turned to the mindless pursuits of endless bartering proposals with the other tribes, some fell away to more droll calculations of remunerations, and some of the purest of heart even found their eyes wandering to the opportunities of the hurricanes of winter.

The cold was paralyzing. If you stood about thinking too long your breath froze to the strands of your mustache like the persistent leak of thick viscous oil. Stoves went out. Darkness settled. The long winter made every second of every day long and tedious. Never ending. No sun, no hope, no future. No barters were made, no whispers spread, the shadows of the taken lingering large in the empty spaces of the farm. No hope of spring.

 

33 days until pitchers and catchers report. If you’re an Atlanta Braves fan this winter sucks.

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An American Martyr

Martyr: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle : ie. John Coppolella.

In a world where being politically correct is worshipped, where Clay Travis is considered the anti-christ, and where the heel turn is the best character in all of wrestling, John Coppolella stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Randy Orton and Chris Jericho combined could not pull off half the heel-turn that Coppy has. Some fans were outraged at this “scumbag”. How could Coppy be such a “traitor”? Well let me tell you something. John Coppolella goes down in my book as not just one of the greatest rebuild General Managers of all time, he’s also an American hero. A true blue American martyr.

The man merely wanted to pay some latino players what they were actually worth to make his team the best. The man wanted Drew Waters to have a car, so he offered him a car. The man wanted the Braves to have the best farm system in America, and by God they did. The man wanted to take a team with half the budget of MLB’s darlings and make them competitive. Stick it to the man, John.

The other GMs hated him because he took his job too seriously. Screw them. Media guys didn’t like him because he held grudges and didn’t leak stuff. Screw them, too. The system always hates the innovators that play by a different set of rules. John Brown, Joan of Arc, Socrates, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr, Nathan Hale. All martyred because they refused to quietly go with the system as it was. And now, John Coppolella.

In a country where the very idea of a free market has governed our principles, our strategies, and ultimately our success for 300 years, John Coppolella is the latest in a long line of casualties. He’s a casualty in a system of corporate greed that simulates fairness by creating fake rules to regulate what needs no significant regulation.

Let’s be real, if Kevin Maitan signed on an open market he would have received $15+ million, and if he were to become a bust then said team would learn their lesson and not pay so much next time. If Drew Waters signed on an open market he’d get a couple of cars and about $10+ million. Let’s not let MLB’s corporate PR machine twist what happened here.

A $40 BILLION organization that has made it’s bread and butter on the backs of athletes (95% of which have been underpaid for the last 140 years) just banned a guy from it’s game for life because he outsmarted a broken system for a measly $15 million. This is the equivalent of Bernie Madoff’s child stealing a candy bar and his father disowning him while stealing billions from investors.

Did he break the rules? Heck yes he did. Do I care? NOT ONE BIT. Because rules that actually make one iota of sense don’t need to be broken. And since when did we as Americans decide that doing everything by the book was the ‘right way’? Was it illegal to dump a ship full of tea into the Boston Harbor? You’re dang right it was. Was it illegal to write our own constitution and tell King George where he could stick his rules? You bet your Don’t Tread On Me flag it was. Was it illegal for Rosa Parks to sit down on a bus? Sure was. This country is built on the idea that sometimes the heel gets it when no one else does.

While John Coppolella is in no way a civil rights icon, or a founding father, he is a martyr for the American way. Let me say it loud and clear. MLB and Rob Manfred are a bunch of hypocritical turdwaffles. They are perfectly fine with letting a player abuse his wife, to only return to playing baseball in a few weeks once the news coverage dies down.

They had no problem making PED users the face of the entire game for a whole decade, yet now condemn them and refuse to let them into the Hall of Fame. They don’t mind owners stealing millions from taxpayers to build a new stadium every 15 years while the stadium they have is still perfectly fine. But GOD FORBID one guy figures out how to beat their sanctimonious little system to get five extra prospects and pay those prospects what they should have been being paid to begin with.

This punishment reeks of the hypocrisy that has become synonymous with not only Major League Baseball, but America as a whole. We glorify politically correct images and people who pretend to play inside the made up rules because someone else said this is “the way to play”, while crucifying anyone who doesn’t fit perfectly into our little box. Regardless of how you feel about Trump this is why he’s had success. He says F the pc-rules. (Have I mentioned that sometimes rulebreakers are total idiots?) Al Franken will get to stay a senator in spite of groping a girl, Roy Moore may get elected in spite of being a 20-grade A-hole, and Rob Manfred will get to let off his buddy John Hart while looking like a hero for coming down hard on John Coppolella.

I’m not buying this BS. Was John Coppolella a total jerk? Perhaps. Did he break all kinds of rules? Sure. Did he cheat? Yep. Did he steal prospects? Yes. (RIP Dave Stewart.) Do I feel bad about it? Heck no.

Rob Manfred can take a sanctimonious walk down to Boston Harbor and throw himself in. Then he can take a few hours to dry and think about his made up rules and his self righteous BS while the rest of MLB continues to break them any way that they possibly can.

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