A fascinating podcast sheds light on the Braves’ John Coppolella

John Coppolella, shown here not venting. (AJC file photo)

John Coppolella at work. (AJC file photo)

For an insight into John Coppolella, man in the news, I highly recommend Jonah Keri’s podcast on Nerdist. Keri worked at the shuttered Grantland and now writes for CBSsports and SI.com. The podcast was recorded at the Embassy Suites near Hartsfield-Jackson around the first week in May.

Granted, one major thing has changed since the recording date. Coppolella and John Hart fired manager Fredi Gonzalez this week. (Fredi G. is mentioned in passing, Coppolella again offering nothing in the way of a vote confidence.) But the fascinating part is hearing the 37-year-old GM talk about himself at GL (great length).

Confession: I’d heard a lot of this stuff before. But not nearly all.

1. While working as $18,000-a-year intern for the Yankees in Tampa, he ate out of trash cans. (Upon hearing this, I messaged him to ask if this was, you know, true. His response: “Yes. Pulled food out of it that wasn’t eaten but had been thrown away.”) It took him eight years with the Yankees to reach $40,000.

2. He drove his mother’s Dodge Caravan from Notre Dame (his college) to the Bronx to Tampa. He did interviews with the team via pay phone — he had no cell phone — en route to Yankee Stadium. He got the job “somewhere in Jersey.”

3. While a Notre Dame freshman, he’d written 150 baseball teams seeking a job. Only eight answered, all via form letters. (He says he spent more in college on postage than food.) His first job in baseball was working as an unpaid intern for the Lake Elsinore Storm in Riverside County, Calif. He commuted from his parents’ Orange County home by driving 90 minutes one-way in the Caravan.

4. George Steinbrenner liked him.

5. He describes a lunch at the now-defunct Dogwater Cafe in Tampa as a life-changer. Damon Oppenheimer, then as now Yankees’ vice president of scouting, said to him: “I don’t know much about analytics. I don’t think you know much about scouting. You help me and I’ll help you.”

6. Coppolella believes the Braves had the best draft of any team last year. (Their No. 1 pick was Kolby Allard.)

7. Coppolella believes the Braves “lost their way a little bit” under Frank Wren by “going with the safe college guy” in the draft. Their first four picks last June were high school guys.

8. Coppolella came to the Braves from the Yankees in 2006. He says he has never gone to spring training with the Braves and thought, “We’re a World Series team.”

9. “I don’t like windows: ‘You’re going to be good for two years and bad for eight years.’ I like waves of prospects coming through to constantly supplement your big-league team.”

10. “We won a lot of games from 2010 through 2013, but if you ask people who work with the Braves or have been with the Braves, it (was) kind of like the iceberg principle. It looks good above the water. If you go down under the water, where 90 percent of the iceberg is, there were a lot of problems.”

11. “I don’t care about winning seasons. I care about championships. We haven’t won a playoff series in 15 years.”

12. There’s no doubt we’re closer to the World Series now than we were a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. We are loaded in the minor leagues. It’s going to be fun to watch these guys come up and change the culture and make an impact.”

13. “We didn’t think we were going to print World Series tickets this year, but we thought we’d be better. If you look at it in terms of a time continuum, the more drastic the changes, the more aggressive the pursuit of young talent, the quicker you get to where you want to go. We could have kept everybody and just do drafting and win 83 or 85 games, but I’d rather lose for a year or two and get back faster.”

14. He doesn’t sleep much.

15. “I wish I could fast-forward. I think we all do.”

16. The first person who called to offer congratulations after the Braves finally won this season was Arizona general manager Dave Stewart, the foil of the Touki Toussaint and Shelby Miller trades.

17. SunTrust Park is “going to be great for us and our fans … We draw from eight or nine states. People can come down on a Friday and spend a whole weekend there.”

18. A possible Braves lineup for next season: Freddie Freeman, 1B; Ozzie Albies/Dansby Swanson, 2B; Albies/Swanson, SS; Rio Ruiz, 3B; Ender Inciarte, LF; Mallex Smith, CF; Nick Markakis, RF. “We’re probably going to need to trade for a catcher.”

19. As for this year: “You have a chance to see some young players make their big-league debuts … If you’re a Braves fan and you’re there and you’re watching Glavine and Smoltz and all these guys in 1989 and 1990 — that’d be pretty cool, knowing what they turned into. We don’t know if these guys are going to turn into Glavine or Smoltz, both Hall of Famers. That’s a really high bar to set. But have a lot of young kids with a lot of talent.”

20. “All this pain we’re going through now, it’s going to make success even sweeter.”

Further reading:

The Braves can now pick a manager who fits.

The Braves fire Fredi Gonzalez, and it had to happen.

Reader Comments 0

Kevin Kitchen
Kevin Kitchen

The Braves will only get close to a World Series if they buy a ticket!


I listened to John Coppolella today on MLB radio. Regarding the sloppy pink note notification to Fredi, I am amazed that both he and John Hart continue to deflect the "non-blame" to the traveling secretary...what a great guy, feels awful about it,etc. The fact that the two men running this organization cannot own up to the fact they are to blame for not notifying Fredi face-to-face before telling anyone else is beyond me. Does character count in running a major league team?What am I missing?


MB, you know you good for a powder puff piece...lmao....

Explore this list and you will see that Coppy is not special and far from the only grinder in MLB:


How much baseball experience, to include the college-level, is on this list? Furthermore, half of these guys have bosses who are the real General Managers, titled "President of Baseball Operations." And guess what? Their baseball experience and networks are almost extant. I'm not agreeing with the "old man" thing here, but baseball is ran by a bunch of statistical and financial nerds....lol.

Hart is the one calling the shots; Coppy is just supplying the numbers.


I hate Coppolella and almost as much


I am hurt and lost confidence in John


Waves of players means all players will

be considered expendable with no

possiibility of having fan/player loyalty for

long term

No power players mentioned for the

future - none to be found in the


Pathetic to have the top 30 prospects nearly

all pitchers- all unproven : just hoping with

sheer numbers some stick

Position players are who fans cling to day to day- players with which you form a bond

through the years: examples are many:

Horner,Murphy,Lemke,Justice,MaGriff and

more recently Simmons,Heyword--even


Coppolella has no feel or affinity or loyalty

for any players

He only sees them as commodities to

play with as pieces to move around

His most damning examples:Simmons,the

cornerstone of all the infield defense,Gold

Glove winner with incredible baseball

intangibles gone to claim pieces that even as a group will never replace what once


In lay mans terms it was worth the ticket

just to see an incredible play that might happen

What I loved the most about the Braves of

the 90's and 2000's were the Regular Season: the 90 to 100 win seasons back to

back to back

I believe Bobby Cox when he said the

post-season was a crap shoot- just look at

the last several years champions to see how that statement is true

The Braves came to Atlanta when I was in

the sixth grade-now I'm 62

I've always loved the Braves through thick

and thin- but no more and I mean it

Coppolella and Hart and with Shurholz

washing his hands of this failure in

attitude,insight,has driven me away

Before I trust and/or believe in the Braves

again Copollela and Hart have to go to

bring a true fan friendly baseball philosofy

back to the Braves

Mark Bradley has so disappointed me with

his betrayal/belief in Coppolella

It appears so unprofessional that he would

communicate with Coppolella like he's a

"best bud" throwing out all objectivity as a


Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Haaahaa...hes still rummaging thru the trash....this time its for cut rate players to fit the budget of his tax dodging, swindler bosses

Lou Harrisn
Lou Harrisn

Simmons trade proved you have no interest in a World Series, it is all about the bucks and nothing else

Steve Lasky
Steve Lasky

Really!!?? This is what happens in baseball nowdays. You hire stat geeks whose closet exposure to really playing the game was looking at boxscores and playing Strat-o-Matic baseball board games. No feel for the game and no understanding of building an organization. Grab your scorebook and pencil Coppy and do what you do best -- score the game and let professionals run it!


Very pleased with what the Braves Management has done over that last 18 months. Think we are right on track. Believe we may play close to .500 ball in the second half of the season.

I guessed we'd 60-64 games this year. Probably won't, but a plethora of reasons for that.

Sorry about the change of managers, but apparently I am in a distinct minority on the point.

Looking down the road, was probably best for everyone, including Freddie.

At 75 year old, I am truly looking forward to watching the Braves for years to come. A tip of the hat to Management.

Steve Knight
Steve Knight

How so? Did they find a good deal on tickets?

Ray Corbin
Ray Corbin

I'll be dead before you reach 50 wins again !

Joe Fincher
Joe Fincher

This guy is dellsional. But as long as he convinces the masses to sit their butts in the seats of that new stadium to watch AA talent he's succeeded....

Jonathan N
Jonathan N

You can't just stock-pile young talent and win a championship.  Look at the Astros this year vs. last.  Boom, last place again.  Has to be a blend of young and experienced and you have to know real talent and not get hog-tied by bad contracts.


So, Mark, do you and Coppy have a gift registry yet? I'm only assuming the engagement is on as you keep writing these beautiful love letters to him. Is it Crate & Barrel or Bed Bath & Beyond?


yeah because people from all over travel to cobb pkwy for a weekend of fun.....notre dame alum says enough, he should be fired.


Still think he reminds me of Curley of the 3 stooges. This article has not changed my mind.

Ennis Del Mar
Ennis Del Mar

So a projected line up of 3 rookies,and an outfield that would be lucky to hit 10 HR between them.Dont see much difference in the final results.


So much confidence for a poor decision maker.  The only addition to the roster for 2017 is a new catcher.  How cheap can you go?


Addressing #18:Get Mike Zunino, show you are committed Coppy, make it happen you have the pieces to pull off a trade with the Mariners.


@ajc I wonder how far is he allowed to keep his job in this grand scheme?


One word describes Cappy....clueless.


@MarkBradleyAJC he's a genius. Just ask him! He thought Norris, Jace, Olivera, Pierzynski, Aybar, O'Flarety, etc would equal more wins! FAIL


@MarkBradleyAJC regarding 10. hopefully we can infer that this is still happening but in reverse.


No podcast necessary.  All you need to know is John Coppolella didn't have the balls to fire Fredi Gonzalez in person, face-to-face, and had to call John Hart to fly to PA to do it....