The Atlanta Braves just announced they’ve removed the first word from John Coppolella’s job title. He was assistant general manager; he’ll be GM, period. He’ll still report to John Hart, the president of baseball operations, but this is no cosmetic move.
Hart is 67 and had to be convinced to sign on full-time, having joined the organization two winters ago as a consultant. Hart was content consulting and offering commentary on MLB TV and playing golf, but he acceded to John Schuerholz’s request to shepherd the franchise through its first post-Wren days. But Hart isn’t apt to be working his iPhone — he has a Bluetooth headset, FYI — to find another long reliever when he’s 70.
It has been unclear how much of the Braves’ wholesale rebuilding has been the work of Hart, as opposed to Coppolella, but here’s my guess: More than half the ideas have come from Coppolella, and I don’t think it’s a 51-49 split; I’d call it closer to 65-35.
Hart has final say, yes. But the trade for Touki Toussaint, which essentially was buying a prospect for cash, and the massive swap for Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old who hadn’t played in the majors, seemed creative in a way that baseball trades seldom are, which suggested they were the work of someone who’d majored in, say, business at, say, Notre Dame. Which Coppolella did.
Baseball front offices have gone heavy on layering. The Red Sox just hired Frank Wren, whom the Braves just fired, as a vice president of baseball operations. He’ll work under Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations, and presumably alongside Mike Hazen, who was named GM. Even though the Braves now have two presidents — Schuerholz being the other — and one GM, I’d suggest the heavy lifting, both now and for the future, will be done by Coppolella.
About whom I’ve come to know quite a bit, although he dislikes speaking for the record. He’s driven in a way in a way I’ve seldom seen, and he’s smart as all get-out. When he can’t figure a way to make a proposal work, he’ll go off by himself and, two hours later, come back with Plan B.
Having recommended him for the GM job the day Wren was “terminated,” I’ve believed for a while Coppolella was ready. The Braves have come to believe, too.